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Hiking the Hahnenkamm - James Cove. Kitzbuhel
Saturday June 28, 2014 - Email this article to a friend

It is the most famous downhill ski race of them all. The Streif course is now a summer attraction too. PlanetSKI pulls on its hiking boots rather than ski boots.

The Hahnenkamm race defines Kitzbuhel in the way the Matterhorn represents Zermatt and the Eiffel Tower is associated with Paris.

The event and the resort are inseparable.

Even in summer there are reminders across the village of that famous week in January where 80,000 race fans come to see the greatest ski race of them all.

And party like it is going out of fashion.

A few years ago one bright spark in the resort had the idea of putting in a solid footpath down the Streif course with information about the race and several video screens at the key points to show walkers what it is all about.

It was an instant tourist success and is now one of the most popular hiking routes in Kitzbuhel.

They are now able to see close-up the legendary Mousetrap, Steilhang and Zielschuss with information about the race on hand.

HahnenkammThe start













HahnenkammLooking less ferocious in summer













The fastest racers do the whole course in a shade under 2 minutes.

I ambled down it watching the videos and stopping for lunch in a more leisurely 2 hours and 53 minutes.

The course is 3.3kms long with a vertical descent of 860m. The first race on the current course was held in 1937.

To some the Hahnenkamm is akin to Holy ground.

For me it is Wimbledon, Twickenham, Lord's and Wembley all rolled into one.

The start is fearsome both on skis and with walking boots on. 















The racers accelerate to 100km/h in 8.5 seconds. 

I hobbled down the wooden steps with a slight feeling of vertigo.

It was fascinating seeing it in the summer having skied it also in the winter.

I was lucky enough to ski in Kitzbuhel last March and posed for the obligatory picture at the top before skiing down.

WinterWinter on the Hahnenkamm












WinterWhat a start











The start schuss is almost too steep to walk down and the path loops off to the side before coming back at the top of the Mausefalle, or Mousetrap. 

It took me a shade over 12 minutes to reach the point on foot that the racers hit within a few seconds.

The Mausefalle is 40 degrees steep and the racers fly up to 80m through the air.

It is a ferocious slope; on skis or on foot.

HahnenkammHelpful information













HahnenkammThe Mousetrap















The next key section is the Steilhang.

I sat in among the alpine flowers and watched the video as memories of winter flooded my head.














The course record is held by the Austrian, Fritz Strobel.

In 1997 he completed the course in 1.51.58.

"I was scared in the Steilhang, I had to pull myself together," he said afterwards.

At this point they reach speeds in excess of 110km/h and it is the iciest section of the course with extreme centrifugal forces.

It was strange to think that all the greatest ski racers had launched themselves down the slope that I was casually sitting in; wanting victory more than at any other time in their life. 

Tony Sailer, Karl Schranz, Jean-Claude Killy, Franz Klammer, Pirmin Zurbriggen, Hermann Maier, Didier Cuche and Bode Miller. 

However unlike the others, Bode Miller has never won the race.

Few remember Olympic gold medal winners - everyone remembers the victors in Hahnenkamm race week; not least as their names adorn the gondolas on the lift from the village up to the start gate.

Skiing imortalitySkiing imortality












Then it is the Brückenschuss and Gschöss which are flat, gliding sections of the course.

"The Hahnenkamm is like an opera. It starts off with the full fury of the orchestra and then there are some quiet and gentle sections where the racers can pause for breath a little," said Claudia Waldbrunner from the Kitzbuhel tourist office.

It was the same walking it and the Brückenschuss and Gschöss gave a welcome relief from the steep gradients. It is only 4 degrees and virtually flat.

And unlike the racers I was able to stop for lunch at the Seidalm mountain restaurant.

It also happens to be the place where, in 1966, the idea was born to have a World Cup of ski racing. 

It was an appropriate lunch stop; steeped in alpine race history.

HahnenkammSeidalm in summer













I skied the route above it last March following the course down.

WinterSeidalm in winter













Next the footpath path went off into the trees.

Not because the racers go that way, but because the grass was being grown for the cows to eat and the local farmer would prefer it if hundreds of pairs of feet don't trample over his animal feed.  Fair enough!

HahnenkammInto the woods













We passed some beautiful Tirolean chalets adorned with bright summer flowers.














We paused to admire the views, gulp at the steepness of the final section of the course and watch the videos.

HahnenkammThe Hahnenkamm













Next is the Hausbergkante and then racers come into view of the crowd at the finish as they traverse the Querfahrt before they hit speeds of 140km/hr on the fastest section of the course.

HahnenkammFinal section













HahnenkammThe Hausberg













In the summer the finish area is a golf course. 

Hard to believe 20,000 people crowd into the arena. 

This year they were able to cheer in an Austrian as Hannes Reichelt sent the crowd wild. It was the first Austrian victory for 8 years.

HahnenkammThe finish area













And in town at the bottom of the lift that the racers take up a statue reminds everyone what the race is all about.














This is obviously the point to show a video of one of the victories but which one?

How about the victory of Didier Cuche in 2012 as he won for a 5th time and thus breaking the record he held jointly with Franz Klammer.

And here is his victory from the previous year - with the Hahnenkamm in its entirety and route I had just walked in race conditions.

After my leisurely hike down there was only one place to head to; The Londoner bar where the racers celebrate.

It was a bit quieter in June than January.Wink

The LondonerThe Londoner













James Cove is doing a series of summer activities in the Alps and has been on an e-bike for the first time. 

He asked the question whether using an electronic mountain bike was cheating; well, is it?

He also signed up for a yoga class with Tania Wimmer, by an alpine lake. More of that later.

YogaLakeside yoga










If you are a skier in the winter then you might want to try seeing a ski resort in the summer - in our opinion at PlanetSKI you won't regret it.

Whether you are hiking the Hahnenkamm in Kitzbuhel or doing any of the other activities elsewhere that we are writing about this summer on PlanetSKI.


James Cove travelled with Thomson Lakes and Mountains (0208 939 0740; It offers 7 nights at the 4* Hotel Jägerwirt in Kitzbűhel, with prices starting from £459 per person on half board, including return flights to Innsbruck and resort transfers.

Regional flights are available from Birmingham (+£39), Manchester (+£19), Glasgow (+£59) and Newcastle (+£51).

For more information about Tirol or on Kitzbuhel visit  

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