When was first downhill race?

Seth Masia

Crans-Montana, Kitzbühel dispute first downhill race

In early April 2011, a commemorative race was held on the ski slopes of Crans-Montana, Switzerland, to mark the 100th anniversary of the first Roberts of Kandahar downhill. Some 260 participants, organized into 60 teams, descended eight miles from the Plaine-Morte to Montana-Violettes, most of them wearing vintage skis and clothing, including retro glacier glasses. In the promotional flyer, event organizers said the race also marked the centennial of the “first official alpine ski race in history.”

This claim is contested by ski historians in Kitzbühel, who produced documents from the Kitzbühel Winter Sports Club, which held a “Ski Race for the Club Master Title” on the Hahnenkamm in April 1906. The timed downhill race covered three kilometers (1.86 miles) with a vertical drop of 624 meters (2,047 feet). It was won by Sebastian Monitzer in eight minutes, one second. “The quoted difference in altitude and route are almost identical to [the course] used for the ladies downhill in the 1940s and 1950s, as well as the Super G of today,” says the club’s letter of rebuttal. “Further ‘pure downhill’ races were held in subsequent years,” including a team downhill in February 1910. –John Fry