Lindsey Vonn Became the First Woman to Ski the Kitzbühel Streif. She Did It at Night.
The American alpine skiing legend descended the notorious downhill course on Tuesday evening
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American skiing great Lindsey Vonn won everything there is to win in alpine skiing before retirement in 2019 (Olympic gold, 82 World Cups, and multiple World Championships), but one last dream goal eluded her in her illustrious career: the notorious Streif downhill in Kitzbühel, Austria. The treacherous downhill course—immortalized by the 2014 film Streif: One Hell of a Ride—hosts a stop on the men’s World Cup each year, however women race on different courses.
Now, four years after Vonn’s final downhill race, she strapped back into her skis, pushed out of the start gate, and entered the notorious Mausefalle (Mousetrap), with an 85-percent gradient, becoming the first woman to ever ski the men’s downhill course. She made her historic run on Tuesday, and to add to the intrigue, Vonn did it at night.
“Only when you ski the Streif are you a real downhiller,” says Vonn. “The Streif is the pinnacle of all downhills, the most difficult course in the world. Nobody believed I could do it. After all my injuries, to now get the once-in-a-lifetime chance to kick out of the starting gate here and fulfill my dream is incredible. I’ve always had respect for the men that raced down the Streif, but I have even more respect now because it’s one thing to go down it and another thing to ski to win; and now I can fully understand what that means. It has given me a greater perspective on how truly amazing these men are.”
Her run was captured in the video below.
The Streif is considered the greatest challenge on the FIS Alpine Ski World Cup, and its list of winners includes some of the biggest names in men’s ski racing: Franz Kallmer, Jean-Claude Killy, Hermann Meier, and Didier Cuche, among others. In 2003 Daron Rahlves became just the second American to win there, behind Buddy Werner in 1959.
For her historic run, Vonn borrowed skis from U.S. skier Ryan Cochran-Siegle and had them prepared by her former serviceman Heinz Hämmerle to hit speeds of more than 60 miles per hour.
“I felt like I was jumping over the edge of the world,” she said.”I don’t think I’ve ever been so nervous before a start in my life. I’m a thrill seeker. I’m an adrenaline junkie, and I love pushing myself to the absolute limit; being on the verge of being scared. I live for a challenge like this.“
Vonn prepared for the occasion with intense training, despite the severe knee injuries suffered in her career. She was coached by Rahlves.
“To see Lindsey finally have a chance to ski on this track in this kind of situation is incredible,” Rahlves said. “I had no doubt she could ski it, but I was questioning if she was going to really ski it with a lot of determination. I was really impressed that she did. This is true downhill, if you make one mistake, you can have some bad outcomes. But the way she just came out to own it was really impressive.”
In an Instagram post on Friday, Vonn shared that she took on the challenge for her mother Linda, who passed away in August. “I knew she was watching me and was there as a guardian angel to help me accomplish this dream. I know she is proud of me. As she always ways.”
The 83rd Hahnenkamm Races begin on Friday, January 20.