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50 years fis
ski world cup

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50 years fis ski world cup
A truly exceptional winter
Competitive alpine skiing is ready for an exceptional and indeed historic winter! The ski world is celebrating the 50th anniversary of the Alpine Ski World Cup, which, since 1967, has crowned the best athletes over the course of a season, thanks to a points system that rewards the top finishers at each official race. The World Cup was launched in the middle of summer, in August 1966, during the Alpine World Ski Championships in Portillo, Chile. It was the brainchild of a group of experts and racers, and was met with the favourable consideration of the FIS president of the time, Marc Hodler. It is considered to be the first true international circuit in individual sports, coming before the PGA Tour, which got its start in December 1968, and before the ATP Tour, which began in 1972. Since 5 January 1967 and the men’s slalom at Berchtesgaden in Bavaria, thousands of point competitions have taken place all over the world, allowing an increasing number of racers to make a living from their athletic pursuits. At the same time, ski resorts are pulling out all the stops to try to get these skiers on their slopes. Whereas the first edition saw 34 competitions for men and women organised in a handful of countries, there were more than 80 events last winter, spread out over 15 countries in the Northern Hemisphere, including South Korea. The FIS (International Ski Federation) has been preparing for a fitting celebration of this 50th anniversary, the exact date of which coincidated with the races in Zagreb, Croatia. This is also the case for a number of other ski resorts that featured on the calendar of that initial year of 1967, particularly Sestriere and Madonna di Campiglio in Italy, Adelboden and Wengen in the Bernese Oberland and Kitzbühel in the Austrian Tyrol.
“The FIS has always been a dynamic federation capable of changing with the times and adapting its disciplines and rules to the modern world,” says its president Gian-Franco Kasper. The World Cup, initiated in 1966 by our friend Serge Lang, clearly revolutionised competitive alpine skiing, as well as other snow sports. Afterwards, it provided momentum for a large number of other sports which were to create their own World Cup circuits, including, it seems to me, equestrian sports. Little by little, a more rational system was implemented in our disciplines, with the creation of continental and regional circuits, which attracted thousands of young athletes, and at the same time national federations became very professional organisations. The numbers speak for themselves. All you have to do is compare the number of international races organised around the world today, or the number of racers on the FIS points lists, to the figures from the ’60s to realise the extent to which winter sports have developed since the creation of the World Cup. Our organisation itself has acquired real importance, notably from the fact that dozens of people are responsible for the smooth operation of World Cup circuits in the different disciplines controlled by the FIS. The influence of winter sports also made it possible for the Olympic Winter Games to increase in importance, as can be seen by the fact that they began to be organised independently from the Summer Games starting in 1994. The Alpine Ski World Cup is the backbone of this discipline for the FIS, which is happy to have thousands of people – racers, organising committees, officials from national federations, members of the international press – involved in this important event.
Honoré Bonnet, French team manager between 1959 and 1968, was part of the working group at the root of the creation of the World Cup.
a partnership designed for precision
In a sport as cutting-edge as alpine skiing, where victory often comes down to a hundredth of a second, ­Longines has an essential role to play as Official Partner and Official Timekeeper of the FIS. Armed with its many years of expertise in timing alpine skiing competitions – going all the way back to 1933 – the winged hourglass brand became the Official Timekeeper of all the World Cup trials in 2007. As part of this fruitful collaboration, ­Longines also intends to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the Alpine Skiing World Cup alongside the FIS, by releasing an exclusive watch that will commemorate this jubilee.
an ever expanding world
The FIS Alpine Skiing World Cup circuit now occurs over five months, from the start of the season in Sölden, Austria, in late October to the final, which takes place in March. In 1967, there were only 34 competitions that made up the first, as yet ’unofficial’ World Cup, which at the time was held over less than three months at some 15 resorts in six countries (Germany, Switzerland, Austria, France, Italy and the USA). However, this winter, 86 trials will be organised at 31 resorts in 13 different nations (Austria, Finland, Canada, USA, France, Italy, Switzerland, Slovenia, Germany, Croatia, Norway, South Korea and Sweden). This expansion is comparable to the increase in competitors figuring in the final overall rankings. By way of an example, on the men’s side, there were only 45 competitors in 1967, compared to 162 last season. As a result of this, the World Cup has considerably broadened the horizons of competitive alpine skiing, much to the excitement of an ever growing number of supporters around the world. Since the World Cup began, more than 2000 races have taken place in some 25 countries on four of the five continents, including events in Argentina (Las Leñas), New Zealand (Mount Hutt) and Australia (Thredbo). Japan joined the circuit in 1973, followed by South Korea in 1998. These countries were joined by the more recent additions of Croatia in 2005, Bulgaria in 2009, and Russia and the Principality of Andorra in 2012.
the greatest champions
A total of 28 women and 23 men have won the big crystal globe since the World Cup first began, while hundreds of athletes from some 15 different countries have had the joy and satisfaction of coming out on top at least once in a trial counting towards the points-based world championship. The Austrian skier Annemarie Moser-Pröll holds the overall rankings record for the ladies with six victories, while Marcel Hirscher and Marc Girardelli jointly hold the men’s record with five triumphs apiece. The Swedish skier Ingemar Stenmark and the American Lindsey Vonn (before this current season) have amassed the most World Cup victories, with 86 and 76 wins respectively. The Slovenian champion Tina Maze recorded a remarkable achievement in 2013 by obtaining the incredible total of 2414 points, which was 1300 points more than her closest rival, the German skier Maria ­Höfl-Riesch, thanks to 11 victories in the five alpine disciplines during what was a most impressive season. Meanwhile, the men’s record was set in March 2000 by the Austrian Hermann Maier who had 2000 points. With her 14 wins over the winter of 1988/1989, the Swiss ski racer Vreni Schneider is the woman who dominated the most over the course of a single season, while Ingemar Stenmark, in 1979, and Hermann Maier, in 2001, each won 13 times in the space of a few months.
The Alpine Ski World Cup is the backbone of this discipline for the FIS, which is happy to have thousands of people – racers, organising committees, officials from national federations, members of the international press – involved in this important event.
Starting gate in Chamonix
achievements and victories
Originally created to single out the male and female champions of each season at a time when the athletes took part in almost all the races on the international calendar, the World Cup would go on to play a very active role in attempting to limit excessive specialisation, which rapidly dominated the international circuit in the following years. Proven specialists in their field – such as slalom racers Ingemar ­Stenmark from 1978 to 1986 and Alberto Tomba in 1995, or French downhill racer Luc Aphand in 1997 – were able to defeat the overall skiers by amassing a string of victories and achievements in just two specialities. Despite this, sometimes the rules did not work to their advantage, such as in 1979 when Stenmark was only able to muster up a fifth place finish in the overall rankings despite 13 victories, as he vehemently refused to participate in any downhill races, and therefore did not compete in the alpine combined trials counting towards the overall rankings. But there have also been numerous competitors who have been able to use their versatility to their advantage to win the big crystal globe, starting with the Italian skier Gustavo Thoeni, who narrowly beat ­Stenmark in 1975 following the memorable parallel slalom at the final in Val Gardena. In a truly monumental feat, Thoeni had finished second in the Kitzbühel downhill in January, just 1/100th of a second behind the legendary Franz Klammer! Marcel Hirscher, world champion in slalom in 2013 and in Alpine combined in 2015, achieved an equally remarkable string of victories. He impressed everyone – himself included – by outdistancing all his rivals in the Super-G in December 2015 at Beaver Creek, before distinguishing himself in slalom and giant slalom.
the origins of the world cup
During the FIS World Championships, held in Portillo (Chile) in August 1966, the idea of a World Cup based on points accumulated through the season, similarly to the Formula 1 system, was mulled over by some of the top competitors, including Jean-Claude Killy, Guy Périllat, Karl Schranz and Léo Lacroix, who were all extremely enthusiastic. This concept had already been discussed from 1966 by a group of friends consisting of the American Bob Beattie, the French team manager Honoré Bonnet, the director of Alpine skiing in Austria Sepp Sulzberger and the French journalist Serge Lang. The latter drew up a regulation and a calendar for the 1967 season and showed them to Maître Marc Hodler, the president of the FIS from 1951 to 1998. Hodler gave the plan his support immediately and presented it on August 11th 1966 at an international press conference in the hall of the only hotel in Portillo. The first edition of the new competition enjoyed the support of L’équipe and the company Evian. The competition comprised a total of 34 trials. It started at the beginning of January in Bavaria and finished at the end of March in Jackson Hole in the US state of Wyoming. The Canadian skier Nancy Greene and the French champion Jean-Claude Killy, victors at the end of a thrilling season of competitive skiing, helped to make this first test an essential part of the competitive Alpine skiing calendar. Marc Hodler subsequently managed to convince his colleagues at the FIS of the value of this new idea when they met for their congress in Beyrouth in June 1967, and thanks to him the World Cup was given official approval by the FIS, and soon revolutionised competitive Alpine skiing.
Finish area in the famous ski resort of Kitzbühel in 1977.
determining the winner
Alpine skiing trials are individual timed races and so timekeeping has evidently always played an essential role in determining the rankings.The cutting-edge timekeeping equipment currently used is capable of recording a time to the nearest 10,000th of a second, but only the times to the nearest 1/100th of a second are communicated, except for parallel races. For this reason, there have been numerous draws across all disciplines. In one particular instance, there was even a three-way draw in a women’s super-G held in Norway, where the American Lindsey Vonn, the Austrian Michaela Dorfmeister and the Swiss Nadia Styger all shared victory. Those responsible for timekeeping have also played a key role in improving the sport for spectators by introducing what were then innovative new features. For decades, each run of the slalom and later the giant slalom – when the speciality also began to be contested over two different runs in 1966 – was timed independently of each other. The total time was then calculated after the skier’s finish at the end of the second run. This enormously complicated spectators’ understanding of the race – for commentators, TV viewers and supporters watching from the side of the slope – all the more so because at the time, the first 30 competitors did not start the second run in reverse rankings order. "For the second stage, why not simply start the clock from the time of the first run, which would make the race more spectacular and easy to follow?" This was the suggestion made by the head of international timekeeping, Daniel Baumat, one day to the then president of the World Cup Committee, his great friend Serge Lang. The president immediately took to the suggestion, which was introduced to the World Cup circuit in the early eighties, following an initial convincing test at the finals in Arosa in March 1978. This innovation later served as inspiration for a number of other sports.
safety first
The most spectacular development in alpine skiing competitions is undoubtedly the safety of the participants, which is one of the primary concerns of the organisers and the various FIS coordinators overseeing the trials. The slopes are now prepared in a radically different manner than they were in the sixties, when it was still very uncommon to systematically use snow cannons and snow groomers to pack the routes. As the surfaces became increasingly harder, such that they were completely frozen in some areas, the equipment used by the competitors became more and more aggressive, causing dangerous falls and sometimes very serious accidents. For many years, the organisers employed modest and even rudimentary means to protect the most dangerous parts of the courses, in particular by placing bales of straw and hazel wood barriers along the route. Ever increasingly concerned with safety, the heads of the World Cup and the FIS authorities were led to intervene and to look for new solutions. Subsequently, specialists developed safety nets supported by a kind of metal bracket that was permanently driven into the ground and which constituted a definite improvement. However the rising average speeds of competitors forced them to continue their search for improvements, and to also develop smoother tarpaulins that did not catch the tips of skis and which were more resistant to the very sharp ski edges. The organisers now have several different categories of safety nets known as ’A-nets’ and ’B-nets’, which are much more effective at cushioning the blow when skiers are thrown off the slope at great speed. The nets from the first category are very high and are hung between posts permanently installed along the slopes, while those belonging to the second group are arranged in parallel rows in other areas of the course, gradually slowing the momentum of skiers who hit them by giving way one after the other. The bales of straw, which tended to harden over cold nights and eventually lose their capacity to absorb impact, were also replaced by large inflatable crash mats, pulled by the snow groomers along the slope, and placed in the finish area. An electrical pump continuously supplies them with air. This modern equipment has greatly contributed to improving competitors’ safety on the slopes. They have also helped to increase today’s spectators’ enjoyment of alpine skiing.