When skis learned how to walk
The first ski hikers traversing the Seefeld plateau were considered a curiosity, as well as a little crazy. Today, it’s almost impossible to think of Seefeld without cross-country skiers.
It’s hard to imagine a picture of the snow-covered Seefeld plateau without cross-country skiers. In the past, alpine skiing enthusiasts deemed it almost beneath their dignity to move on level terrain with skis on their feet. A lot has changed since then and numerous large sport events played a part in that change. The Olympic Winter Games of 1964, for example, when Seefeld was chosen to host the Nordic competitions, i.e. cross-country skiing, biathlon, and ski jumping, because of its perfect geographical situation. The plateau had to get ready for the event. And it was. “No other village in the Alps understood how to turn cross-country skiing into a cult within a few years – on the Seefeld plateau people with unmistakable tourist-friendly understatement talk about ski walking –and to do great business into the bargain,” wrote sports journalist Karl Morgenstern for the German weekly Die Zeit on January 17, 1975. At the time, Seefeld and Innsbruck were getting ready for the 1976 Olympic Winter Games and, in the eleven years since the first Games, quite a lot had changed. “We started the ski walking thing. It was not easy, but it worked. It took almost until the second Olympic Games for it to take hold,” says Walter Frenes, director of the local tourist board for many years.
While the Olympic Winter Games of 1964 are regarded as the initial spark for the establishment of the best cross-country skiing centre in the world, the Games of 1976 brought the real breakthrough. The years in between were filled by the pioneering spirit represented by Walter Frenes himself. As with the later promotion of the plateau as a golf destination, he had the right instinct at the right time, an instinct for the opportunities offered by the mountain landscape of the plateau at 1,200 metres above sea level. Whereas, in the middle of the Seventies, and with favourable snow conditions, the resort boasted a perfectly-groomed network of tracks extending across some 80 kilometres, the 256 kilometres currently available give a fair indication of how the cross-country skiing story has developed. Today, Nordic athletes can choose from all levels of difficulty. And large events have repeatedly provided highlights with which the development has been pushed forward. In 1985, Seefeld was the venue for the FIS World Nordic Ski Championships, and the Olympiaregion Seefeld has hosted the World Cup Nordic Combined Triple every year since 2004. In 2012, it once again displayed the colours of the Olympic rings, when the Nordic competitions of the Youth Olympic Games were held here. And with the 2019 World Nordic Ski Championships, the next big event is already in the offing.
Eco.Nova/Tom Bause, Olympiaregion Seefeld
Alexandra Keller for the guest magazin of the Olympiaregion Seefeld zeit.los (time.less)