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THE KILOMETRE LANCE ON SKIS - SPEED SKIING Walter Amstutz, SAS Zurich

There can be no question, Heinrich Heine was not a skier, since skiing had not yet reached Central Europe in his day. He was, however, more - a great poet and man of letters. Whenever I think of his touching lines about 'a lone fir, standing on bare northern heights ... dreaming about a palm tree', I link his name with the sport with which this essay is concerned. There on ce stood likewise, though elsewhere, another lone tree (maybe also dreaming about a palm tree) on bare heights near Mürren on the north end of the Allmendhubel, at a place which the British have named 'hog's back'. This lone tree, depicted on the above badge, was a signpost of special significance to British skiers in the early twenties, inviting the young and daring to prove their valour on its easterly slope. Taking it straight and holding the run was a tricky affair, as it could only be negociated with a long high-speed right-hand swoop for lack of a runout at its lower end. As the slope was never pisted and often criss-crossed with upsetting traverse tracks, the challenge was enhanced. Those who took the test successfully were invited to join a fraternity by the name of 'The Lone Tree Club, Mürren', which entitled them to wear a prestigious badge as a proof of their valour and skill. * My English friend Jimmy Riddell, a skier of international racing standard in his day, was a member of this club and was later also a competitor in the Kilometre lance on skis at St. Moritz. Sadly, the Lone Tree landmark at Mürren is no longer there. In the thirties it was burnt down by vandals - why is not known - but the 'corpse' of the sturdy trunk had a worthy and most impressive 'funeral procession through the whole village of Mürren, followed by many Kandahar members dressed in sackcloth and ashes', as Jimmy described it to me. As a downhill skier I had been keenly interested to find out at wh at speed exactly skiers travel. So far it was anybody's guess, for the length of a test track was never accurately measured and precision in timekeeping was lacking. For this purpose I had made some speed tests on the Lone Tree Slope. First with a stopwatch in my pocket, and later with Sir Arnold Lunn as timekeeper, whereas I provided the vile corpus, as he put it. I soon realized that my experiment was a rather amateurish approach. For one thing the slope was not long enough, nor steep enough, for working up high speeds, and for another the error of stopwatch timing can be as much as 10% of the measured time, as Straumann has proved. In short, I did not dispose of the means or the support I needed to tackle the problem in a professional manner. Conditions changed completely after I became Kurdirector of St. Moritz in 1929. In the following winter I was able to per suade the Swiss Academic Ski Club (SAS) and the Ski Club Alpina St. Moritz to become co-organizers of such a speed contest. Achallenge trophy, named 'The Flying Ibex of St. Moritz' was offered by the resort. It was to remain in permanent custody of the organizing clubs, but a replica thereof and a special badge were given annually to the

* I am much indebted co the family Walter and Annalis Stähli-von AHmen of the Hotel Eiger, Mürren, for lending me from their ski badge collection the on ce much coveted symbol of merit in order co reproduce it in this article 87

Nr 34 1986-1990  

Nr 34 1986-1990

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