Every year, between January and April, the absolute world elite of speed skiers get together to compete in 3 different disciplines on 50 different qualified slopes throughout Europe and North America. The fastest and most challenging slopes are to be found in Les Arcs (FR, Verbier (CH) and Vars (FR) – all located in Europe. “I’m sure we’ll be seeing a new world record set in Vars“, says speed skiing expert Marc Poncin (GBR) in an interview with our company shortly before the event. Between 29/03 and 05/04 Poncin attended the Speed Masters Competition in Vars, France. The World Record was not broken, however there were various new personal records and a new record for this specific run which were achieved.
Speed skiing is the only sport which can achieve a velocity of over 200 km/h without any aid of mechanical devices (non-motorised and on-land). Besides a steep slope and a pair of skis you also need a huge amount of courage and body control. Speed skiing is therefore solely a competition sport.
British speed skier Marc Poncin, is one of these brave participants. SnowTrex organised the ideal accommodation for the 48-year old in Vars to help him prepare adequately for this major event. Answering the question of our SnowTrex UK staff member Christer Ajaxson, “how it must feel to come down a piste with such speed”, Marc says it is comparable to having the ground ripped away from beneath your feet:
“Imagine you are standing in an elevator on the 50th floor of a skyscraper. Then the trap door opens and it just goes down – and quickly!”
Speed skiing – long tradition since 1930
The first competition in speed skiing took place back in the 1930’s, but has immensely changed since then. Since 1989 the Fédération Internationale du Ski (FIS) is the parent of this exciting sport and the appearance of the skiers has merged into looking like species from another world with their skin-tight suits, aerodynamic helmets and crooked ski poles.
The perfect position on skis is learned and optimised in a wind tunnel, before it is tested for effectiveness on the pistes.
Instead of viewing the piste, the competitors have the possibility to do free training on the slopes to get accustomed to the feel of the run. Through various races and qualification runs the number of competitors is minimised until in the end a Champion is found in the final run. The starting point is pushed higher and higher per run until the highest point of departure has been reached in the final descent. The participants commence in backward order with the quickest racer being the last to compete. Time is tracked only after approx. 200 – 500 metres so the racers have enough time to gather good speed.
SnowTrex expert Marc Poncin started with this particular sport in the 1980’s and is known as one of the most successful British speed skiers. Besides taking part in demonstration competitions, e.g. in the Olympic Games of 1992 in Albertville, Poncin also won the FIS crystal ball twice in his career. His personal record as Britain’s fastest speed skier lies at 245,23 km/h in the category Speed One.
However Marc also told us in our interview with him before the race: “Even though I am feeling better than ever with my 48 years, I really don’t know how long I will be carrying on with this sport.” His wife is highly pregnant (9 months) and is not happy about the risks he is taking on in Vars. However she understands his passion for the sport.
Poncin achieves a new personal record: 196.084 km/h!
The World Record could not be topped in these few days, however Marc Poncin was able to achieve a new person record. Under varying weather conditions, and with his mind on his highly pregnant wife in the UK, he did manage to race down on a new personal record speed of 196.084 km/h in the category Downhill Speed Skiing (DHS).
The SnowTrex team congratulates Marc on this outstanding event, and is of course glad to see that Marc returned home safely to his wife.