Last month, a new world record was set for the fastest ever descent on a pair of skis.
The 35 year old Italian racer, Simone Origone, broke his own world record for a second time, clocking in at 252.632 kilometres per hour (156.978 mph). The event was held on April 3rd on the speed skiing course at the resort of Vars, France. Origone had first broken the record in 2006, then again in 2014, and most recently in 2015, each time increasing his speed by just a fraction of one mph.
Speed skiing is a remarkable activity—not just because it’s amazing how fast people can go on skis, (there are 25 or so speed skiing courses in the world that have gradients of around 99%, allowing racers to accelerate from 0-60mph in a little over three seconds, and 0-120mph in less than eight—beating most racing cars), but it is also reputed to be the fastest speed man can go without mechanical assistance, faster even than freefall. It can be dangerous of course too, and there have been several fatalities over the years when things have gone just slightly wrong.
Interestingly, spring is the usual time that most speed skiing events take place and most records are broken, with contests and events staged from late March through to early May.
How Can I Go That Fast?
Nearly all of us like to push ourselves on the slopes once in a while. Though we probably won’t hit any near 157 mph, there is a huge range of apps that pair with our GPS enabled mobile devices, allowing us to time how fast we are moving around the mountain. We just have to make sure we’re sensible, and don’t endanger others or ourselves by skiing faster than we should where we shouldn’t. Signing up for special racing classes would be the smarter thing to do if you really want to push yourself.
A handful of international resorts even offer special speed skiing sessions. Verbier in Switzerland has an annual, all-comers speed skiing event where amateurs can try out the skin-tight suits and long skis. A few resorts also operate speed skiing clubs. One of the main players in North America is based in Sun Peaks, Canada, and hosts a few annual speed skiing world cup events.
Different Types of Speed
Speed on snow isn’t just about the fastest speed that’s humanly possible. There are LOADS of speed-on-snow world records for different types of people, sliding on different types of devices, in different types of ski resorts.
There are, for example, men’s and women’s records, and then there are special speed skis, regular skis, snowboards and most other things you can slide on. There are several records for people with disabilities, and the growth of indoor snow centres around the world means there are indoor versions of many of these. You can even add power if you like – a snowboarder last year set a record whizzing across the horizontal surface of the frozen Lake St Moritz holding a mini jet engine. (He also set another record doing the same thing towed behind a car.)
So it’s a long (and growing) list and if you can think of something no one else has slid fast on yet, you may be able to set a new world record yourself!
Other Records Achieved
1. Fastest Skier Indoors
German Klaus Schrottshammer managed to hit 104.440 km/h (64.896 mph) on the 550m (1800 foot long) slope at Landgraaf in the Netherlands in 2011. British speed skier Jan Farrell has announced his intention to beat that record this spring.
2. Fastest Blind Skier on Indoor Snow
Set in 2006 by another Brit, Kevin Alderton reached 90.7 km/h (56.3mph) on the same slope in May 2006. Kevin had set the outdoor record a month earlier at les Arcs in France, reaching 162.447 km/h (100.94mph).
3. Speedriding Record
Speedriding is a sport you may not be familiar with. It involves descending steep slopes wearing skis and a small parasail, so you are partially airborne. It’s popular in France and Frenchman François Bon held the speedriding world record speed of 146.46 Km/h (91.006 mph) for nearly a decade when he set it at Les Arcs in France in April 2006.
But the record was broken earlier this year in March, when young Italian skier Armin Senoner from Val Gardena was officially clocked at 152.9 km/h. He skied down the 3859m high Königspitze mountain in Solda in the Ortler Alps (95mph).
4. Fastest Speed on a Snowboard
That’s 201.907 km/h (125.46mph) set by Australian Darren Powell at Les Arcs again in France in May 2009.
5. Fastest Woman on Skis
The record remains with Swede Sanna Tidstrand, who hit 242.590 km/h (150.74 mph) at Les Arcs nine years ago on April 2006.
6. Fastest One-Legged Skier
Australian Michael Milton reached 213.650 km/h (132.76 mph) in Les Arcs on April 2006.
7. Fastest Cyclist on Snow
You don’t have to slide over to snow to set records, you can roll over it too. The fastest cyclist on snow is one of the longest standing records: 222.222 km/h (138 mph) set by Éric Barone in Les Arcs in 2000.
So what record do you want to set?