Today was the Mens downhill from the World Ski Championship here in Chamonix – well, Les Houches, to be precise…
This event is named after Lord Roberts of Kandahar – a Victorian general who famously lifted a siege of the Afghanistan town of Kandahar – who gave out medals at the first ski competitions back in the 1900’s!
Apparently in 1911, Henry Lunn the travel agent (Lunn Poly!) organised a downhill ski race in Montana, Switzerland and Lord Roberts donated a magnificent trophy. This race was known as the Roberts of Kandahar challenge. There was no piste or trail, and the first descent of 5000 feet took 61 minutes!
Later, in 1928, his son, Sir Arnold Lunn, teamed together with Hannes Schneider, to create a combined downhill/slalom contest, which was known as the Arlberg Kandahar. This took place in St. Anton and was held annually until the start of World War II in 1940, and resumed in 1949.
The sites of the A-K expanded to include Chamonix, Sestrières in Italy, and Garmisch in Germany.
Today, there was a fantastic atmosphere – it was AMAZING to see these top-class skiers flying down the route that we know so well (and ski so badly in comparison!). Somewhere between 20 and 40 thousand spectators lined the route and the finishing line.
Helen and I got to see the jumps at the Cassure – the first jump where they drop into the bowl which is normally horrendously moguled… and also le Goulet – the steepest part of the “Verte des Houches” – where they must be jumping 60-90 metres!!