It's finally that time again – the FIS Alpine Ski World Championships have started and the battle for the coveted medals in the Slalom, Giant Slalom, Downhill, Super-G and Alpine combined disciplines has begun. Until 17th February we´re keeping our fingers crossed for the Austrian ski stars because, as ski legend Hans Knauß says, we have “both an extremely strong ladies and mens team." We talked to him about the highlights of the World Championships in Sweden.
This is how Hans Knauß more or less lovingly describes the winter sports resort in the far north. Yet, that is more than compensated for by the heartfelt warmth of the people living there. For centuries, visitors from all over the world have been attracted to the venue of this year's World Championships, especially ski enthusiasts. Despite its geographical location in sparsely populated Jämtland, Åre has become a ski centre for the whole of Scandinavia, where locals and visitors find first-class skiing conditions. Actually, the village has only 1,400 inhabitants. But during the World Ski Championships, it feels like you're in one of Sweden's big cities – vibrant, cosmopolitan and full of movement.
The 1400-m-high Åreskutan towers over Åre, its peak covered with snow from November to May. Majestically, the lonely peak shapes not only the people who live in its shadow. It also influences the weather, which is extremely changeable and unpredictable – as event organisers, athletes and audience are currently experiencing live. Heavy snowstorms and wind speeds of up to 20 metres per second (the wind record for the Åreskutan summit is 48 metres per second = 173 km/h) are not uncommon.
The alpine ski world championships have already taken place in Åre in 1954 and 2007. More than 45 lifts, including a funicular from 1910, aerial tramways and gondola lifts, serve one of the oldest and most important ski resorts in Sweden, generally known for winter sports. In total Åre offers more than 100 km of slopes and the longest ski run is 6.5 km long. "The slope gradients are not too difficult, but there are many bumps. And the snow is very cold and unwieldy, so you need a huge amount of feeling. In addition, in the upper section, the wind often blows a gale," relates Hans Knauß from his experience.
Åre is back in action until February 17, when a total of 33 medals in 11 competitions are contested. Hans Knauß believes that Austria has a very strong team at the World Championships: "No one should be able to beat Austria in the national ranking." His medal favourites in any case are Marcel Hirscher, but also Paris, Svindal and Feuz and the ÖSV speed team in general for both men and women. A certain home advantage for the Swedes cannot be denied, according to Hans Knauß. "Of course, the Swedes train a lot up there, they know the peculiarities of this snow and the terrain better. But: they don´t have the concentration of top skiers that we do!" Asked about his insider tips in terms of medal contenders, Hans Knauß names – in addition to the Austrians, of course – the Swedes Matts Olsson in the giant slalom and Andre Myhrer in the slalom. "But Austria will win four world championship titles, of that I´m sure!” Hans Knauß enthuses optimistically. In any case, excitement is guaranteed at the Alpine Ski World Championships in Åre.
Hans Knauß, Kitzbühel winner 1999 and three-time medallist at World Championships and Olympic Games, is considered one of Austria´s best ski racers. He has been analysing and commenting on ski races since 2005 – also live directly from the piste. His legendary camera runs have long been a fixture of the exciting alpine speed competition broadcasts. That takes a lot of training, all year round, and not just in the ski season itself. "As soon as the snow conditions allow, I'm on my skis almost every day. In addition, there's endurance training and stabilisation training in the weight room," reports Hans Knauß, providing insights into his targeted preparation program for his camera runs. Should anyone have ever wondered what´s on Hans Knauß´ mind in the process: "There's no time to think. 100% concentration is required when you´re skiing, filming and even commenting simultaneously on the course!" The biggest challenge is to find a good line and filter out the key points – that´s what makes for a really good camera run à la Hans Knauß.
There is only one thing left to do: be excited about the World Ski Championships – let's see if Hans Knauß is correct with his insider tips!