The Kaiser and Me

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The Kaiser and Me – veteran travel writer Arnie Wilson takes a run with Franz Klammer

It felt utterly exhilarating to ride in the icy tracks of downhill legend Franz Klammer, “The Kaiser” himself—even though it’s been 43 years since he stormed his way down the run at Patscherkofel (one of nine ski areas near Innsbruck) to win Olympic gold. The 66-year-old’s time for the 2.8-km descent: 1 min 45.73 sec, averaging around 103 kph. My time? Ahem. A bit slower.

Arnie (left) with his BFF Franz Klammer

“It was narrower and bumpier back in 1976,” Klammer told me with a twinkle in his eye. “I liked it better that way.”

It evidently brought out the fearless skier in him. “It’s a good run,” said Klammer, “quite steep, but anyone can ski it if they want to.”

Had it been as wide and smooth back in 1976, Klammer, whose record of 25 World Cup triumphs has never been equalled, might not have been able to use his almost reckless daring to hurtle his way to victory—arms akimbo a trademark style of The Kaiser—by just .33 of a second.

But had it been as bumpy and narrow when I skied it in 2019, I probably wouldn’t even have had the guts to try.

from Winter 2020 issue

Arnie Wilson
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