02 March 2017
It is not a gentlemen sport
Through the story of Sir Arnold Lunn to the first Ski World Cup race
The Skiing World Cup celebrates its 50th anniversary and it’s the right time to recall the forgotten story of this competition. Today many people consider the Skiing World Cup an even more prestigious title than the Olympics Games. Though, only few know that some years later the founder of the Cup had considered to promote an association discouraging skiing.
Since the first slalom race in 1922, ski and winter tourism have been undergoing a relentless development over all Europe and North America.
The original founder of the Skiing World Cup was British
Sir Arnold Lunn was a British eclectic skier, mountaineer and writer. Before Lunn’s arrival on the scene, skiing was considered a horizontal rather than a vertical sport, similar to the cross-country skiing that we know today. The downhill was born in the Nordic countries and it was mostly addressed to those people who were too feeble to do the tougher cross-country skiing that requires more physical strength and resistance. These didn’t include Sir Lunn, who in 1922 in Mürren, Switzerland, had the idea of placing some “gates” on the slope to make downhill funnier. That event is considered today the first slalom in the history of the ski.
The birth of the skiing holiday
Around twelve years earlier, Arnold’s father Sir Henry had persuaded Mürren people to open the railway also in winter to offer to English tourists a seven days package tour during winter season.
The new idea of the winter skiing holiday was born and skiing gradually shifted from being an exclusive sport to be a discipline accessible to all. Later, the British founder of modern skiing would have regretted winter ski tourism, which he described as "the Frankenstein which I have helped to create". In one of his books “What it is like to fall?” he described a ski accident that had left him with one leg seven centimeters shorter than the other. During his last years, he had even considered to promote an association discouraging skiing. But winter tourism took another way.
The first slalom in Germany
The first competition of the Alpine Skiing World Cup officially started almost fifty years later Lunn’s experiment. The project of a season-long series of ski races with a points system to determine the champion came up in the mid-1960s, when Jacques Goddet, the former director of sport paper “L'Équipe”, had the idea of promoting an international competition that would help his readers to better understand ski. The challenge took form when the American national ski coach, Bobbie Beattie, his French counterpart, Honoré Bonnet and the journalist Serge Lang gathered in 1965 in a remote alpine refuge in Kitzbuehel, Austria. Two years later in 1967, at the beginning of January, the first race of the Alpine Skiing World Cup took place in Berchtesgaden, Bavaria.
From sport to winter holidays
Starting from the Sixties, thanks to the Skiing World Cup, ski became a popular sport. The first ski lift was opened in Davos at the beginning of 1930, but at that time winter holidays were still an exclusive affair. Starting from that first race of the Skiing World Cup, everything has changed. Today the Alps represent the world largest ski market hosting the 35% of the ski resorts and attracting annually the 44% of the total amount of ski visitors in the world.
Skiing World Cup goes to East
In these fifty years Skiing World Cup competitions have been hosted in 25 different countries around the world but the number of nations that usually rank first are six up to eight: other sports like tennis or golf have a much wider international turnover. The next two Olympic Games will take place in Asia and they will be a chance to bring ski and winter passion to those Eastern countries where skiing is still considered an exotic sport.
For several years Generali has been supporting the Skiing World Cup that is now at its 51 edition.
Generali, through Generali Austria, will be present also this year in the White Circus sponsoring 32 races in the programme taking part at some of the most important races as the ones in Kitzbuehel and in Kranjska Gora. Generali has always been committed in promoting major events of the annual sport calendar, with the aim to bring across the importance of sport and its values of solidarity and social integration among new generations.