Good post, and I think it shows that what makes the Classics, er, classics, is that they're Euro courses. As Songfta points, the Classics are Beyond Category, as they say about the hardest climbs in the Tour de France. It's ironic that, at a time when the FIS is all lathered up about fostering improved racer safety by tinkering with the GS regs, without a lot of data to prove its conclusions, the FIS still allows the Classics to proceed. I love watching the Classics...as long as nobody gets killed or seriously injured...but they scare me silly, to whit:
- In the Lauberhorn, right after the aforementioned Hundschopf, the racers get to go under a cog railway via a hole in the stone wall that supports the railway. Next, there's a long schuss through what's basically a goat path where one of the Italians hit 97 mph, or something ridiculous like that, a couple of years back. There is the length, 2 minutes and 30 seconds, and there is, of course, the final right-left sequence over what looks like a waterfall...where one of the young Austrians got killed in 1989 before somebody figured out that slide pads are a much better idea than B-netting for that kind of terrain feature.
- The Mausfalle is terrifying, for sure, but so is the bottom of the next big right/left around the Karosell/Steilhang, where Bode Miller skimmed the slide pads a couple of years ago...and back when it was nothing more than a fence, Brian Stemmle basically got torn in half and ended his career there. The Hausberg, left footed traverse that follows it, and the Zeilschuss are about the scariest things I've ever seen in ski racing. And instead of get a bulldozer and shaving down the last bump, it looks like they keep making it bigger...so all the drunks in the crowd are guaranteed a good crash or two. Which is exactly what happened to Scott McCartney and Dani Albrecht, and they both ended up in a coma. Scott's career is over, and Albrecht's might as well be.
You're never going to defang DH racing, or make it as safe as shuffleboard. But my take, these days, is that you can have the classics. I'd much rather watch any race at Beaver Creek, because I know the hill is going to be immaculately prepared, well fenced, and set to challenge, not destroy, the racers...
Originally Posted by songfta
One thing to note about courses like the Lauberhorn and Hahnenkamm is that they wouldn't likely pass muster under modern safety guidelines. Things like the Mausefalle ("Mousetrap") in Kitz, or the Hundshopf (the jump between the rock outcroppings) or the passage under the train tracks at Wengen, would likely render these courses "beyond safety guidelines" under modern FIS rules and regulations. The same could likely be said of the women's speed courses at Cortina (the most challenging DH they run all season - at least until the new Beaver Creek course is unveiled), with its threading between rock walls.
I'm not sure that Bormio would be considered as much of a classic as Kitz, Wengen or Val Gardena. But it's still up there with the big venues: Val d'Isere, Whistler and the like. One thing is for sure: like the other continental European venues, Bormio attracts HUGE crowds, lining the course from top to bottom.
Modern courses are on more open pistes, designed from the get-go with modern safety features considered (e.g. permanently installed A-netting and judicious tree removal), though it doesn't mean they're without challenges. Beaver Creek has some killer fall-aways and big jumps. The Grizzly course at Snowbasin (sadly disused after the 2002 Olympics) had tons of terrain that had even the Austrians grumbling at its technical challenge. Both are Bernard Russi designs - as mentioned earlier, he's the standard-bearer for designing modern speed courses.