Franz Klammer Chasing the Line
14th June 2022 | Jane Peel, Chief Reporter
Last modified on June 17th, 2022
The Kaiser is a legend in ski racing with 26 World Cup wins. The greatest moment of his career was gold at the 1976 Innsbruck Winter Olympics in front of a home crowd. A film on his victory had its UK premiere this week. Klammer was there and so was PlanetSKI. We also report from the resort of Patscherkofel where the race took place.
Anyone who watched it will never forget it.
Franz Klammer, a 22-year-old Austrian ski superstar, who had won every one of his races the previous season, clinched Olympic downhill gold.
The defending champion, Bernhard Russi of Switzerland, had set an astonishingly fast time and led by more than half a second when Klammer entered the start gates.
Few then believed he could do it, but he did, cementing his place in ski racing history.
The race and the tense week-long build-up, when things did not go well for the Austrian, are the focus of the feature film, Klammer Chasing the Line.
It had its UK premiere in central London on Monday, hosted by the Austrian National Tourist Office.
Klammer and his then girlfriend – now wife – Eva are played by Julian Waldner and Valerie Huber.
Klammer’s skiing is courtesy of the American former alpine racer, Daron Rahlves.
The great man, now 68, joined invited guests and media for the showing of the dubbed English-language version of the film.
Among the audience were British former ski racers and Olympians Graham Bell, Konrad Bartelski and Chemmy Alcott, who also was the presenter for the event.
Klammer said it was strange to be a spectator at a film about him but he was happy with the way it had turned out.
“I think the movie is very well done. First of all, Eva, she likes it. That’s very important,” he said after the screening.
“It shows exactly my emotions through the whole week. It is just one week in my life but it was the most important week in my life.”
Klammer said the title of the film was well chosen as he had been chasing the right line all week in training ahead of the big day.
“I never did post the fastest time so I was really struggling and every day I was getting slower and slower and slower. …Emotions up and down… but when I got into the starting gate, I knew, I’m going to win and I think the film shows it quite well.”
He famously decided “on the spot” that he had to do something different and chose to ride the net rather than take a tight racing line as he would usually do.
It became known as the Klammer style and he is credited with being the first racer to carve the top of the turn to the bottom of the turn.
“I’m very proud about that and I’m proud that I could inspire many, many young kids to take up racing,” he said.
“They’re looking up to me and I’m the idol and I’m very proud that I could inspire many, many people going skiing.”
One of those he inspired was at the London screening.
Benni Raich is another Austrian ski racing legend with 36 World Cup wins and 14 Olympic & World Championships medals.
“I saw him – not in this race, it was ’76 and I was born in ’78 – but I remember ’84 in Kitzbühel,” Raich said.
“It was a big victory for Franz – your last one – I remember that race very well and Franz was kind of an idol of mine, I would say. He inspired me.”
But it’s the 1976 Innsbruck Olympics that will remain forever in the minds of those who witnessed it.
Whether you did or not, here’s another chance to see Franz Klammer’s winning run.
There has been some reaction over on the PlanetSKI facebook page from those that have seen the film, skied with the man himself or been inspired by him.
Jonathan Page-Swan – I’ve seen the film in Austria, in fact in the outskirts of Innsbruck, with a direct view of Patscherkofel, after skiing there during the day. Highly recommend the film!
Ian Colton – Watched him win in Kitzbuhel, also had the pleasure to skin with him…lol
Mark Cocker – Great man, great skier. I was lucky enough to spend an afternoon skiing with him back in 1987.
Tim Cook – The man is a legend and sparked the skier in me!
Klammer’s triumph took place on the slopes of the small resort of Patscherkofel above Innsbruck.
PlanetSKI editor, James Cove, skied there often when he lived in Innsbruck for 3-months in the season of 2018-19.
If you are interested in the skiing for us mere mortals then read on…
Resort Report – Patscherkofel
The resort is a 20-minute or so drive from the city centre of Innsbruck.
It has 6 lifts, but there is only one that really counts.
The utra-modern 10-seater Patscherkopfelbahn that was built in 2017.
It’s the long one with a chink in it to the left.
And what a lift it is from its base station.
To its mid-station.
And then at the top a restaurant complex worthy of any of the main and big name resorts you could care to mention.
In a strange way it reminded me of some of my favourite small resorts in Canada (Kicking Horse, Revelstoke, Red) where a couple of lifts offer countless routes down.
Let’s be clear, the mentioned resorts in Canada offer far, far more extensive skiing, but the ski vibe is similar.
And I like ski vibes.
After all it doesn’t matter how many times you ride the same lift – what matters are the routes off it.
At the top, like Canada, there is the option to boot up or skin up another 300 vertical metres to get fresh tracks.
And the whole area is set in the trees so on a powder day this is a place I am going to head straight to.
It is also good place to illustrate just how many resorts are close to Innsbruck.
And as I am primarily here to avoid the crowds I can report that by the afternoon the people had pretty much vanished.
On the Blue runs:
The red runs:
And the black runs.
If you are a nervous beginner, who doesn’t like skiers whizzing past you at high-speed as you practise your snowploughs then these are the nursery slopes to learn on:
The resort also has some great facilities from modern restaurants to some excellent shops.
There is a main Intersport store at the base station with all the latest kit.
One to rival any of those in the big name resorts.
Just without the queues and any hard-sell (and good window reflections too)
And guess where the busiest place was all day?
The après ski bar just above the final descent.
It is Austria after all.
There are many other small resorts around Innsbruck worthy of a visit – Axamer-Lizum, Nordkette, Muttereralm and Glungezer.