The Toughest Public-Entry Ski Races in the Alps for 2019/2020

Ski racing is always exciting, regardless of where you end up in the rankings. 

The rush of competition and a chance to test your physical condition and skill.

If you consider yourself an advanced amateur skier and like the idea, why not enter one or more of the public-entry ski races scheduled for the alps next season? 

It will make a refreshing change and encourage you to sharpen your skills, meet fellow snow-sports enthusiasts, make new friends and visit places you have never skied before.

Public-entry races are open to all ardent skiers, even those without club membership or special alpine race training. 

Several Alpine resorts host events of this kind in an effort to boost the number of visitors during the low season, and their success and growing number of participants have made them very popular.

The following list includes the toughest public-entry ski events for the the 2019/20 ski season. 

The White Ring

The annual White Ring race in Lech Zürs boasts an international cult status, attracting the world’s best non-professional skiers and thousands of winter sports enthusiasts from all around the world. Indicative of the race’s popularity is the average number of 1,000 skiers taking part each year.

The race has a history of more than five decades, combining the wonderful Alpine landscape around Leck, Zürs, Zug and Oberlech with impeccable organisation. Linking the two renowned Arlberg resorts, it starts at the top of the Rüfikopf cable-car, at 7,750 feet, and finishes down in Lech (4,757 feet). In total, it spans for 13.7 miles of track, with at least 5,500 metres of altitude difference between its highest and lowest point. Viewers use two platforms properly landscaped along the route, one at Rüfikopf and another at Madloch.

The circuit includes five different downhill runs, five ropeways, an exhaustive ascent and a tough ski run. Groups of around twenty skiers set off every 100 seconds from the Omeshorn mountain, heading to Zug through the famed Schüttbodenlift, Trittalpbahn and Madloch ski runs. Next, using a chairlift, they resume their skiing in Balmengrat and dash down to Lech.

Crossing the finish line requires stamina and technical perfection, but its inherent difficulty is what makes it all the more exciting to ambitious skiers.

Note that before the “White Ring” main event, all racers are invited to join a speed race, usually scheduled a couple of days before the circuit.

The speed race involves a 1.25-mile and 18,044-foot descent between Lech and Zürs, around the Omeshorn mountain. Again, racers go out in groups of 20 every 100 seconds. The 100 fastest skiers are awarded for their agility and downhill tuck technique.

Witches’ Downhill (Hexenabfahrt)

A strange mix of carnival, Halloween costumes and ski race, the Witches’ Downhill is far tougher than it may seem at first glance. But first, let’s explain its bizarre witch costume tradition.

According to a local legend, a witch held sway over Belalp’s snowy slopes, and locals, who seemed to like rather than fear her, organized a ski race every January in her honour.

Set up in the Swiss Alps in a panoramic sun terrace, the race requires all participants to wear a witch outfit, with scary masks, rugged long dresses and all!

The area covered by the race stretches quite close to Brig, in south-central Switzerland – an area barely known to foreign skiers in the past. Still, the annual downhill race and its peculiar flavour of carnival celebration have been attracting more and more visitors during the last decades, especially families, who wish to participate in both the senior and junior skiing event.

The whole course runs for 7,5 miles. Starting from Hohstock, at a height of around 10,170 feet, the run passes through Kühmatte and then takes skiers down to the valley, through Tschuggen, all the way to the charming slopes around Blatten (4,265 feet). Sometimes, the race finishes instead at Belalp (6,725 feet), since the course between Belalp and Blatten runs through dense forest and is full of hairpins.

You shouldn’t be fooled by the playful nature of the event. You will need skill and experience if you wish to finish it at a respectable time! 

The Inferno

The first Inferno race was held in 1928 and has ever since been by far the most popular public-entry ski race, and always ends up oversubscribed; if you plan to take part, make sure to submit your application before mid-September.

The race is relatively easy for seasoned skiers in conditions of good visibility and, combined with Mürren’s beautiful landscape, explains the mass participation and popularity of the Inferno event.  Its long course, fine skiing conditions, and famed after-party attract a little less than 2,000 racers every year, of varying age, skill and experience. Sometimes, however, poor snow and weather conditions may not allow the skiers to complete the whole course.

The race sets off just below the Kleines Schilthorn (9,744 feet) and finishes at Lauterbrunnen (2,625 feet), with a difference altitude of around 7,120 feet. The course runs continues through the Engetal and the Schilthorn Hut, and then passes below the Muttlerenhorn and through the challenging Kanonenrohr run. Next, climbing into woodland, racers must cross the Maulerhubel Skilift path, slightly ascending and passing over the Winteregg Bridge, before joining the forest trail towards Lauterbrunnen and reaching the finish line.

An advanced amateur skier can easily complete the race in less than 45 minutes, while winners often cross the finish line in just a quarter of an hour!

The main event is preceded by a cross-country race of around 3.7 miles through the Mürren village

Peak to Creek

Closing our list, we have the renowned ‘Peak to Creek’ even in Bormio, Italy. Known as a ‘frenetic’ 5-mile course from Cime Bianche (9,882 feet high) to Bormio (4,019 feet), the Peak to Creek race features several challenging steep sections, with a 5,862-foot vertical drop and a maximum gradient of 60%! Another interesting fact is the admission of snowboarders.

The race demands technical perfection, with fastest racers catching speeds of more than 60 mph and completing the whole course in less than five minutes! 

Note: that the sooner you apply, the lower the fee entry. 

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