Peter Runggaldier invites you on the legendary “Saslong”

Let’ s talk about the “Saslong”.  I love this slope,  if  for nothing else because its part of my hometown.  It starts at the top of Ciampinoi at 2249m and then immediately heads off diagonally for 150m where you are forced to quickly analyse the turns.

Immediately after, you come to an “S” that leads you to a small, yet challenging jump, followed by a sizable bend to the left where precision is essential to prepare you for the next obstacle, the “Moro Jump”, the first of the some of the most spectacular spots on Saslong.  The next 400 meters of run way is a sort of basin whose outer edge goes slightly uphill  making the perfect take off for the “Looping Jump”.  Next stop (figuratively speaking) is the Muri di Sochers (Walls of Sochers) and this is where you get some “flight time”.

Progressively the walls have about a 60% inclination which spurs a 40-50 meter jump, followed by the Camel Humps, Saslong’s signature route like the Steilhang to Streif and the Hundschopf to Lauberhorn.  The difficulty of the Humps (a series of three “humps”) which are taken on at about 120 kph, was once strongly gauged by the abundance or lack of snow and its consistency.  They can be either lethal when the snow is icy and thin likewise more docile when it” s fresh.  Thanks to modern technology  (advanced snow-makers and ploughs),the standards of  slope preparation have helped to even out the difficulties with the “Humps” although they should always be approached with extreme caution, concentration and timing.  The first racer to skip the third hump was Austria’ s Uli Spiess ( 2 World Cup victories) who on 14 December 1980, took off over the second hump resulting in a 50/60 meter jump which today is considered commonplace.  On 16 December 1989, Italian skier Giorgio Piantanida from Busto Arsizio,  had a frightening accident at the same spot that almost cost him his life.  The trick to conquering the Humps is to adhere as much as possible to the ground over the first.  This gives you a slight thrust on the second, thereby helping you fly over the third. 

Speeds here reach up to approx. 120 kph and rapidly increase due to the inclination of 50% and then levels out again for about 200m before reaching the entrance to Prati di Ciaslat, another crucial point of the Saslong.  This point is made up of four continuous curves ( the first to the left and the last to the right) down a moderate slope that has to be approached at high speed.  It is extremely challenging to take on these four  rough and bumpy turns at 80 kph after entering the Ciaslat gorge at 100!  This is by far the most demanding passageway of the slope and control is what really counts here, in fact sometimes the outcome of the race can be determined by performances here. 

After this you go through another gorge with only slight variations in gradient  followed by the Curva di Nucia, where more emphasis put  on the gradient of the slope rather than the curve itself.  While coming down that last strip of radically vertical piste, you have to do all you can to acquire as much speed as possible to cross the finish line becasue it is slightly uphill .  The first winner , Jean Daniel Daetwyler back in 1969 clocked in at 2.07:75 giving him an average speed of 97,108 kph and last year” s winner, Antoine Deneriaz was timed at 1.52:99 making his speed 109,793 kph.