Last weekend while New Englanders were slathering on sunscreen, pond skimming and enjoying spring snow at their leisure, speed skiers in Verbier Switzerland were donning tight suits and trying to ski faster than 156mph.
Verbier hosts the annual Speed Skiing World Championships - where European daredevils wear lycra race suits and bullet shaped helmets attempting to break the world record for fastest skiing. The vertical venue is the steep face of Mont Fort's 10,925' glacier. I skied Verbier a week ago and can attest to the crazy sick steepness of this run and mountain. I made many turns - no tuck.
This year, in hot pursuit of the French speed record set at Les Arcs of 156 mph, the crazy Swiss constructed a 110-foot long plastic ramp with a 60-degree pitch above the speed ski track in an attempt to gain more speed. Unfortunately it didn't work.
The fastest ski time at the FIS XSpeedSki Cup was Simone Origone from Italy at 134.84 mph, he is the world record holder and Verbier record holder at 140.31. His younger brother Ivan Origone was 2 mph behind for 2nd - talk about sibling rivalry.
The fastest woman was Swede Sanna Tidstrand skiing the course at 128 mph. Tracie Sachs was the fastest US woman participating, 118 mph for lucky 13th. There were no US men placing.
So the French race track at Les Arcs continues to be the fastest, where Simone Origone clocked his 156.2 mph and Sanna Tidstrand skied 150.74 mph, both in April 2006. The fastest snowboard time of 125 mph also belongs to Les Arcs and Australian Darren Powell. A new British snowboard record was set at Verbier last week, 94.26 mph for Jamie Barrow. He's 20 and told the crowd how difficult it is to keep a snowboard straight at that speed. I bet that's very true at almost 100mph, thanks for that tip Jamie.
Blame it on Verbier's amazing scenery, I took my time and skied Mont Fort much more slowly, maybe 25 mph tops. Having also witnessed Verbier's wild après ski scene on my visit, I can guarantee that even though this season's ski speeding event was not off the charts, the parties were likely off the hook.
Verbier Switzerland photos by Greg Burke
Eric Wilbur is a lifelong recreational skier who spends most of his winter and spring in the mountains of New England. He does not ski in jeans. You can read more of Eric's work here.
Heather Burke is an award winning ski journalist with over a decade of ski news coverage. As a former ski instructor and a ski parent, she knows the ski biz from the inside out. She and her family visit New England ski resorts, as well as the West and Canada, to report on the latest trends and their best family finds. Her husband Greg takes all the accompanying photos, and their work can be seen at www.familyskitrips.com and www.luxuryskitrips.com.