Proposals first revealed in May 2020 for Zermatt and Cervinia to host a new joint downhill course have moved forward.
The race would become the longest on the World Cup circuit, be the first to traverse two countries and entirely reshape the FIS World Cup calendar.
Highest World Cup start at 3900m
The possible route would be almost three miles long, starting at the very top of the ski area at Gobba di Rollin near Klein Matterhorn at 3899m (marked on the map below).
It would start in the Zermatt ski area in Switzerland and then drop down towards Laghi Cime Bianche at 2814m in Cervinia, Italy.
The course is being designed by the Swiss skier, Didier Defago, winner of the 2010 Winter Olympic downhill, and experienced race director Bernhard Russi.
No trees would need to be felled, nor would any major structural changes be required. And of course there would be guaranteed snow!
First European Downhill of the season
Current developments suggest that the 5km course could be ready for its debut race as early as October or November 2022, with men’s and women’s races held on consectutive weekends.
At present there are no European downhill races before December, but the glacier in Zermatt could mean that allow an earlier start to the season, without affecting other existing races on the calendar.
The resort has made it clear they don’t see a new race conflicting with Switzerland’s iconic men’s downhill run at Wengen in January.
Wengen Downhill at risk
The famous ‘Lauberhorn’ downhill race in Wengen is currently the longest on the World Cup circuit. It usually takes about 2½ minutes for the world’s best racers to cover the 4.4km course – that’s 30-45 seconds longer than it takes for most races.
Wengen has been a fixture on World Cup calendar with races taking place since 1930. However, the future of the race is unclear as there is currently a financial dispute between the organisers and the Swiss ski federation.
“We want these races…”
Heinz Julen, President of Zermatt Bergbahnen, is clear about their ambitions:
“The organization of a Ski World Cup underlines our forward strategy – we want these races and we will do everything we can to do so.”
Races must be proposed by a national ski body and approved by the International Ski Federation so time will tell if we see what will undoubtedly be a spectacular event.
Swiss Ski president Url Lehmann believes that a Europa Cup race in the first season could be followed by the World Cup the following winter:
“With this project, we would start the season earlier, taking pressure off the World Cup schedule and allowing longer stays in North America, or maybe we even come back in March.”