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Olivier Gires (left) and Stefan Risch @ Almabtrieb © Patrick Labitzke

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Almabtrieb: The Organiser’s View with Olivier Gires

"That cool dad", a good friend of ours and the Almabtrieb attaché - Olivier Gires dropped in few words and thoughts about the event from his point of view.

Almabtrieb is coming back next year. This time it will be organised on a new track in Austria and in collaboration with the BigMountainSkate crew. It’s not official yet but it should happen in the midd of July, before the first KnK week and it might be an IDF WC… or WQS race. We’ll find out soon enough.

Organising events can be a stressful work but at the end it always leaves a positive effect, not only on the organisers, but on everyone else as well. “That cool dad”, a good friend of ours and the Almabtrieb attaché – Olivier Gires dropped in few words and thoughts about the event from his point of view. Fire away, Olivier!


~ Almabtrieb: The Organiser’s View by Olivier Gires ~

Olivier Gires (left) and Stephan Risch @ Almabtrieb © Patrick Labitzke

Olivier Gires [left] and Stephan Risch © Patrick Labitzke

Almabtrieb. At the sound of this word every downhill skater gets shaky legs, centers itself again and looks forward to an intense race with the best of the world. It was pretty much with the same almost reverential feeling that I listened to stories about Almabtrieb in 2008, when I started skating.

In 2009, when my speed on a board started to exceed walking pace, I was looking forward to join at least as a spectator. But, deception came and Almabtrieb was cancelled that year.

One year later Stephan Risch and Andi Gniadek organised a reissue of the legendary race on a totally new track. In 2010 it was already held on the long and fast track in the Bavarian backcountry, which would be the scene in the following years too. Top speed was 104km/h in the finals in 2013 just before the sharp left hairpin called Risch curve.

I came in 2010 with my son Lenny, he would race in juniors, I would be spectator. But wait, no, as a course marshal (spontaneous recruitment hasn’t changed too much over the years). “Eimer, there are two deer in the s-bend, they run around nervously…” …”get rid of them, no matter how!”. The deer managed the situation themselves without any collision.

Three years later, 2013, at the tenth jubilee of the race, I joined the organisation team with Stephan Risch and Andi Gniadek for the first time and could get to experience such an international DH event from a different perspective. And it didn’t prevent me to be part of the game again a year later. The orga team developed into tight friendships. Or was this the other way round? Who knows…

But now a couple of facts: organising Almabtrieb for me equals to take 7 holidays, having no real rest for at least 10 days but also not being alone for that time frame, together with Stephan being mum and dad for an equivalent of ten kindergarten, the systematic loss of my voice around day 2-3 in exchange with the win of a robust cold in the middle of summer, 3-5 hours of sleep per night, countless discussions, a couple of which with neighbours, who are less positive and send the police as often as they can, dealing with pyromaniacs (not my area of expertise until recently), worries if it will all run smooth, riders would be happy and no one gets seriously injured, looking at the weather forecast weeks ahead (makes no sense…still did it and discovered agrarian weather forecasts as a robust source), adrenaline peaks sufficient for the remaining of the year, tight friendships, very tight friendships, heaps of laughters and sometimes… goose bumps.

Almabtrieb 2014 © Marcus Knoblechner

Almabtrieb 2014 © Markus Knoblechner

For example when I finally manage to stand in the well-known Risch corner on Saturday and watch the semis and finals. Everyone laughs, yells, cheers, parties and enjoys the event. Commonly, a huge positive tension falls off along with the end of the finals and a big smile takes over. It all ran well, now it´s only about the party in the evening and… fuck… REMOVAL.

But wait, before all that happens, Almabtrieb means building up and securing more than 3km of the track with a horde of the best guys I know (yep…here again…playing dad… confiscate fireworks… laugh… shaking heads…grumble…inwardly smile and truly rely on each other. THANKS guys!).

It also means unloading hay balls, secure corners, set poles, tighten ropes and driving the track up and down countless times in the truck (it feels like I could do this while sleeping, eyes shut and backwards after two days). In the evening talking with the local residents calls for excellent language skills (please keep in mind: Bavarian tongue is not the easiest after 6 beers… and 6 beers is not talking about me drinking them). Thanks to you all!

As it should be for this international format race, approx. 180 riders from all over the world usually attend the Almabtrieb. The riders´ list covers everyone from race beginner to top riders, who all deserve to be looked after and take care of. Some expect less, others more.

Almabtrieb 2014 © Marcus Knoblechner

Almabtrieb 2014 © Markus Knoblechner

And all that obviously happens to be in a mixture of languages, such that I am not sure about which language I actually talk after a couple of days. However, before the riders´ list eventually grows, we ask hundredfold the very same questions: will they come? Will it run smooth? Will it be a success? Will all the numerous hours of work, which Stephan primarily puts into pre-event orga, pay out?

According to the majority of riders, who would give us a feedback, then yes it is absolutely worth it and pays out. At the Saturday party some riders would come to us and show how stoked they are (even if I dislike this word, but stoke simply describes it best). And then…almost like a miracle… it may even happen that Eimer, the race director from outer space, hugs me and later picks up the mic as the MC, while hardcore shouter Jimmy Riha roughs up the crowd from up the stage! Well, this is a goose bumps moment too. Rock on!!!

Thanks to all, I mean really all!


Words by Olivier Gires
Photos by Markus Knoblechner
Additional photos by Patrick Labitzke

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