Crans-Montana to mark race centenary

11th October 2010, by Chris Gill

Looking back

Looking back

This winter Crans-Montana will celebrate the centenary of one of the earliest recorded Alpine downhill races, the Roberts of Kandahar Challenge Cup.

The Roberts of Kandahar Challenge Cup took place in Crans-Montana on 7 January 1911, arranged by winter tourism pioneers Sir Henry Lunn and his son Arnold. Back then, the competitors didn’t use ski lifts; they took a six-hour hike up the mountain to the Wildstrubel hut, from where they made their collective descent – following a route from the Plaine-Morte glacier, to a point below Montana. It took them an hour to complete the run, which today’s confident skiers and boarders might finish in a fraction of the time.

The Challenge took its name from the British victory at the Battle of Kandahar, in Afganistan in 1880 – led by Lord Roberts, the commander in charge of the army. And today, the ‘Kandahar’ name lends itself to several key Alpine races.

On the 2-3 April 2011, Crans-Montana will relive the ‘good ole’ days’ of long, wooden skis and true Alpine mountaineering, with a reconstruction of the Challenge Cup from the Plaine-Morte glacier to the Nationale piste – home to the resort’s modern racing events. It won’t actually be a race, but teams of five are invited to take part. There are categories for professional and amateur groups, with additional prizes for the team sporting the best nostalgic ski wear from 1911! And several ski legends are expected to take part, such as Pirmin Zubriggan – champion at the 1987 Crans-Montana World Championships.

The 2011 descent will follow an almost direct line from the glacier to a point just above Barzettes-Violettes, to the east of the Montana base, snow conditions permitting by then. As in 1911 the competitors will make their way up to the Wildstrubel hut the night before the race, and they’ll be a party on the finish line the next day.

Crans-Montana sits on the sunny side of the Rhône valley in Switzerland’s Valais region. It’s a super area of long, intermediate red runs above four main lift stations. The last couple of seasons have witnessed new investment in lifts, pistes, swanky lodging and on-mountain dining – last year it was the Chetzeron restauarant, and this winter a new fast quad is replacing an old draglift at Cry d’Er. The resort regularly hosts World Cup racing and is a popular freestyle venue too. Check out our resort guide.

Plaine-Morte. Where it all began … begins.

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