The slip crew is not for amateurs
The slip crew at the Hahnenkamm Races is a tight-knit team, which only outstanding skiers are allowed to join. "Some members have been with us for 20 years, " says team leader Andi Ritter. And if you can't grind your own edges, you don't stand a chance.
Being on the Hahnenkamm this morning, one cannot help but think: "Everybody’s listening to Andi's command". It's day one for the members of the slip crew at the Hahnenkamm Races and Andreas Ritter is getting a fresh impression of his 2024 team. Long-time fans of the Streif and Ganslern slopes are as familiar with the men and women in their striking outfits as they are with the key sections of the racecourse: slip crew members of the Rote Teufel ski school are wearing bright red suits, while the ski instructors from element3 are dressed in vivid blue. But what exactly does their job entail? " First and foremost, our task is to refresh the slope in-between the racers, so they all face the same conditions - from the first to the last start number," says Andi Ritter, who has been in charge of the slip crew for no less than 33 years.
Sliding down a slope sounds like it should be easy: "Anyone can do it, as long as they have the necessary skiing skills. But many people overestimate their ability, and the Streif can’t be compared to any other racecourse," says Andi Ritter, before explaining why: "The Streif is treated with water, so that the surface compacts and offers excellent grip. Over the course of the week, the slope surface compacts yet further and hardens even more. The more people ski down it, the less suitable it becomes for amateurs." A large proportion of the 60 or so members of the slip crew are state-certified and qualified ski instructors, regional ski instructors or former active racers. And that's not all. "Ski edges have to be sharpened every day with a diamond grinder. If you can't do this yourself, you have no place in our slip crew. The classic finish provided by a machine from a sports shop is just not enough to keep you in control out there and you'll end up at the bottom of the Streif much faster than intended," says Andi Ritter, speaking from experience.
The great thing about the week-long assignment on the Streif and Ganslern slopes is "the community spirit and good co-operation with Kitzbühel Ski Club. There are crew members who have been with us for 20 years," says Andi Ritter.
Photo © K.S.C./alpinguin