Austria isn’t known for football, soccer, baseball, or really any sports other than skiing. So they do skiing big. Ski competitions and races are a huge deal. This month I’ve been lucky enough to go to two ‘big deal’ competitions in Tyrol. The first one was at the Bergisel ski jump in Innsbruck. I went with a few of my class mates and we had a blast. It is so crazy seeing the guys literally fly through the air. This competition was a part of the “Four Hills Tournament” in which the Bergisel was the third hill. Reinhard and I watched the first two competitions on the TV to prepare me for the event. I really liked listening to the Austrian commentators. It’s really cool to watch it on TV, but even more impressive in person because the jumpers look like they’re just falling out of the sky! We didn’t have the best of “seats” (in quotes because they were just standing sections), so the view that we got was the guys flying out of no where – we couldn’t see their take-offs.
The girls and I had fun. We painted our faces with little Austrian flags and one girl brought a bunch of flags to wave. There was one American guy, so I cheered extra loud for him. But I definitely waved the Austrian flag most of the time. There were plenty of German flags being waved too. I was told that there’s quite some competition between the Germans and Austrians… The fans went crazy when their favorite Austrian jumpers had their turn. They lit bright torches (the security checks at sporting events are a bit different here…) and blew their noise makers. Unfortunately the Austrians (or American) didn’t win, but we were still pretty impressed.
The second big competition I attended was in my favorite town, Kitzbühel. Reini and I went with his sister Kathrin and her boyfriend Thomas. With Reini’s excellent local connections, we ended up getting free admission, beer, and wursts! (A funny side note about beer: I think beer is really gross when it gets warm, but at an outdoor skiing competition, it stays frosty until the very last drop!) It was really cold that day and most of the spectators were snuggled up in their ski attire, too. I was happy to have warm boots, but my toes even got cold toward the end. The layout of the competition is pretty cool. They have two big slopes near each other. The first one is for the downhill ski race and the other is for slalom. The downhill competition happened the day before we got there. Arnold Schwarzenegger got lots of camera close up facial reaction time for that race (Kitzbühel is a town that attracts lots of celebrities). Then next to the downhill slope is the slope for the slalom competition. We climbed up along the downhill slope to get to where we could see the slalom race. It was funny watching all the people who had a bit too much of that frosty beer try to climb and descend the slippery, steep slope. The smart people packed little plastic saucers to slide down the slope after the event! But we eventually got to our viewing position and had fun watching with the crowd. Lots of cheers and flags for sure! The Americans were a bit better at the slalom, cracking the top 10.