Rise and Fall of Racing Nations

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The rise and fall of the top alpine ski racing nations is visible in this unique new chart, created by former French coach and resort analyst Alain Lazard, longtime northern California resident and ISHA member. Lazard has mined masses of data since World War II. The colored trend lines in the chart have been smoothed by using five-year moving averages. For the period 1948–1966, before the creation of the World Cup, Lazard used results of the Winter Olympics and the FIS World Alpine Ski Championships. After 1967, the charted lines are based on Nations Cup points—the number of World Cup points aggregated by individual racers of a national team. The World Cup point formula has been revised five times since 1967, so Lazard has used percentages rather than total points to chart the lines. 

Only three countries have won the overall Nations Cup: Austria (37 times), Switzerland (7) and France (5). The early years were dominated by the French, as reflected in their Nations Cup wins in five of the first six seasons. The Austrian team took over beginning in 1973, followed by Swiss superiority during most of the 1980s. A resurgent Austria charged back to the top in 1988; it has never lost since, in a long streak of 28 consecutive Nations Cup triumphs. Austria’s team dominance of alpine ski racing reached its zenith in the late 1990s and 2000s, when its Nations Cup point total was regularly double that of the second place finisher.

The U.S. ski team’s best Nations Cup performances occurred in the winters of 2005 and 2006 when it placed second, and 1982–84 when it placed third three seasons in a row. Its best performance season, arguably, was 1982 when the U.S. won the women’s Nations Cup.

The highest relative score was registered in 1967, the first year of the World Cup, when France accounted for 44.8 percent of the points awarded. Jean-Claude Killy’s dominance was reflected in his capturing 16.2 percent of the points scored by all men from all nations. The next best was in 1974 by Annemarie Moser-Proell with 14.7 percent of women’s points, and Nancy Greene with 12.4 percent in 1967. In 1977, Ingemar Stenmark captured 10.8 percent of all total men’s points during the season.

The idea for the Nations Cup of Alpine Skiing was conceived by ISHA chairman John Fry in 1966.

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