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Like virtually all other Europeans I’ve met, Daniel thinks he’s god’s gift to driving. Racing up to Solden in a KTM X-Bow (a watered down Formula 1 racecar that’s only available in Europe), I’m so puckered I’m on the verge of tears. There are no lines on the road (nor guardrails), but if there were I’m sure they’d be double yellow. With only Daniel’s reflexes preventing us from a several thousand foot vehicular tomahawk to the valley, at times I just close my eyes.
We’re headed up to watch the kick off of the 2009/2010 World Cup season at Solden. If you’re looking for a recap of the races, you won’t find it here. Although I’m a racing fan, the matter’s been covered ad nauseam. Instead, I’ll focus on the second (debatably) most important aspect of this Austrian mainstay: the party.
We arrive at the glacier and it’s nothing short of pandemonium. Fueled by beer and schnapps, the crowd of thousands is approaching mob mentality, particularly when Austrians are on course. The flag waving, smoke bomb bearing, air horn blasting fans make every other skiing event I’ve witnessed seem like a Michele Bolton concert. It’s refreshing to see people with such unbridled passion for skiing.
After another heart-pounding ride back from the glacier, I was eager to see how the relatively small town of Solden was going to handle the tens of thousands of fans that were about to descend on it. Apparently this wasn’t Solden’s first rodeo. Between the live concerts, beer gardens, clubs, bars, and strip clubs (yes, plural) there was no shortage of entertainment options. The Europeans were combatively drinking- attacking their beer, schnapps, and red bull vodkas with the same enthusiasm that they spectated with. Needless to say I was a bit out gunned, although I like to think I held my own.
Surprisingly, throughout the evening I rarely met anyone that was only there for the party. Like an annoying Red Sox fan, the more they partied, the more they wanted to talk about their team. Who knew skiing could have such fans?
My advice: regardless of how big a fan of ski racing you are, should you ever have the opportunity to watch World Cup in a country that treats their ski racers like national heroes, I suggest you take it- if for no other reason than to be around a group of people that truly love skiing.