Chasing Legends: Skiing Behind Franz Klammer, the Alpine Icon, at 70
Skiing in the wake of Franz Klammer, the iconic Austrian figure in alpine sports, is a privilege that leaves an indelible mark on those fortunate enough to share a slope with him. Revered as one of the greatest downhill racers in history, Klammer's realm is the top spot, and attempting to overtake him is akin to surpassing legends like Emerson Fittipaldi or James Hunt. However, that's precisely what happened during an adrenaline-fueled escapade, not by design, but in the pursuit of excitement and survival.
Skiing enthusiasts, regardless of age, find themselves in awe of Klammer's prowess. In the company of this maestro, concentration is paramount, even for those who, like me, reminisce about the 1970s when Klammer dominated the snowy landscapes. The era may be a distant decade for some, but the memories linger vividly.
As Klammer celebrated his milestone 70th birthday in his hometown resort of Badkleinkirchheim, nestled close to the Slovenian frontier, he shared a timeless sentiment: "You can't beat the clock of life, but at my age, I can still enjoy skiing as much as ever." This serves as an inspiring endorsement for those gracefully skiing into their 70s and beyond.
Reflecting on Klammer's illustrious career, where he fiercely competed and triumphed in the challenging terrains of the 1970s, adds depth to his legacy. Winning Olympic Gold in Innsbruck in 1976 and conquering the notorious Streif course on the Hahnenkamm in Kitzbühel, Klammer left an indelible mark. His philosophy, shared while watching racers defy gravity on the Mausfalle jump, reinforces the camaraderie of skiing: "There is no single winner on the Streif. Each and every competitor who gets to the finish in one piece is the winner.
The allure of skiing with Klammer drew enthusiasts from across generations to Badkleinkirchheim for the Race of Legends. An assembly of 40 downhill legends, spanning ages from 33 to 75, united to honor the Archduke of Austrian skiing. It was an invitation none could refuse, a celebration of skiing's timeless spirit, and a tribute to a living legend on the slopes.
Legends on the Slopes: Franz Klammer's 70th Birthday Celebration Draws Ski Icons
In the recent celebration of Franz Klammer's 70th birthday in Badkleinkirchheim, skiing legends gathered to honor the iconic downhill racer. Among them was Konrad Bartelski, Britain's most successful downhiller, who vividly recalls his historic run against Franz in 1981. Bartelski's remarkable fifth-place finish at Val Gardena, missing gold by a mere 0.11 seconds, remains Britain's best-ever downhill result.
Reflecting on their enduring friendship, Bartelski shares, "Mostly, I finished behind him – as I have, by a few months, in the race to reach 70. But I can tell you that after Val Gardena Franz wasn't happy about being beaten by an Englishman!" The Race of Legends brought together former rivals, now united by camaraderie and shared memories, with the finish line conversations revolving around the number of grandchildren rather than past victories.
In a unique race format designed by Klammer himself, participants aimed to come as close as possible to his time, challenging themselves to ski either faster or slower. Patrick Ortlieb, the 56-year-old gold medallist from the 1992 Albertville Olympics, came within eight-hundredths of a second of Klammer's time.
At 70, Franz Klammer's enthusiasm for skiing remains undiminished. He expressed the joy of leading a happy life surrounded by his grandchildren, yet emphasized the thrill that comes back when he navigates the gates once again. Expert skiers can join Klammer on Badkleinkirchheim's Ski Before 9 am program on selected dates this winter, experiencing the slopes alongside the legendary racer.
For those seeking luxury accommodation, the five-star Das Ronacher Therme & Spa Resort in Badkleinkirchheim offers a lavish retreat with indoor and outdoor swimming pools, a saltwater pool with underwater music, meditation areas, and a sauna pool. Double rooms at the resort start from £499 per night, including half board. With convenient access from airports like Klagenfurt, Ljubljana, and Salzburg, this alpine haven invites skiing enthusiasts to experience the timeless allure of the slopes and celebrate the enduring legacy of Franz Klammer.
In conclusion, the celebration of Franz Klammer's 70th birthday in Badkleinkirchheim stands as a testament to the enduring legacy of a skiing icon. The gathering of legends, including Konrad Bartelski, reflects not only on past victories but on the camaraderie forged over decades of competition. As participants engaged in a unique race format designed by Klammer himself, the event showcased the timeless thrill of skiing and the challenge of coming close to the maestro's legendary times.
The conversations at the finish line, shifting from victories to the number of grandchildren, underscored the warmth and shared experiences among former rivals. Franz Klammer's continued enthusiasm for skiing at 70 serves as an inspiration, with expert skiers invited to join him on the slopes through Badkleinkirchheim's Ski Before 9 am program.
For those seeking a luxurious alpine retreat, the Das Ronacher Therme & Spa Resort offers a haven with state-of-the-art amenities. As the skiing community converges in this picturesque setting, the celebration becomes not only a tribute to Franz Klammer's illustrious career but also a reaffirmation of the enduring joy and camaraderie found on the slopes. In the heart of Badkleinkirchheim, the legacy of Franz Klammer continues to illuminate the passion and excitement of skiing for enthusiasts of all ages.