Jean Claude Killy’s retirement after the 1967-68 season meant there was no favorite to win the overall World Cup the following season. Would some of the young French racers rise to the occasion? Or maybe some of the young Austrians? Certainly it would not be the old man of the Austrian team, Karl Schranz. He had been racing since 1957 and most people felt his best days were behind him. This opinion was reinforced by the fact that Schranz almost didn’t make the Austrian team for the 1968-69 season!
The Austrian coach had devised a physical fitness requirement consisting of 16 tests. At the fall training camp skiers had to pass at least 6 of them to make the Austrian team. Thirty year old Karl Schranz failed. He requested a second chance, but the bar would be raised and he would have to pass at least 12 of the tests. Schranz passed all 16!
Schranz would dominate the downhills during the World Cup season since no young contenders in that event would emerge. He also would dominate the Giant Slalom events. And even though there were a lot of young slalom contenders, Schranz would collect enough points in that discipline to assure him of the overall World Cup.
The World Cup season in 1969 finished at Waterville Valley New Hampshire. I was fortunate enough to be a gate keeper for those races and see World Cup action up close and personal! One of the other gatekeepers was Glen Findholt now of Underhill who answered last week’s trivia question. Glen had an up close and personal encounter with Schranz! Glen says:
“Karl’s teammate Alfred Matt hooked a tip in one of my gates, went down hard and broke his leg badly. I called uphill for them to stop the race but Schranzi had already been started. When he reached my gate and skied out of the course he was pissed and showing no concern for his teammate who was writhing in pain, he took out his anger on me, yelling in German into my astounded face. Ski patrol and race officials arrived and got the situation under control but Karl insisted on a rerun even though he already held a commanding lead for the overall title. We were on the hill until dusk so he could take his last run of the season.”
Karl Schranz would go on to win the overall World Cup again in 1970. In 1972 Schranz ran afoul of Olympic officials and retired from World Cup competition. All of the top skiers were receiving money from their sponsors under the table and the Olympic Committee sort of took a “don’t ask, don’t tell” approach. But Schranz blatantly advertised his paid sponsorships, and the IOC banned him from the “amateur” competition.
Today Karl Schranz is 76 and runs a hotel in St Anton, Austria.
One of the reasons for writing about Karl Schranz’s 1969 World Cup is that the actual trophy is now on loan to the Vermont Ski and Snowboard Museum. The trophy ended up in the possession of the Depot family of Hinesburg and Darrel Depot has loaned it to the Museum. How Schranz’s trophy ended up in Vermont is a story for a future column.