Off the piste: Highs and lows of Cafe’s dangerous sport


The last two weeks have been all about icy snow, bumpy skiing and tough competition.

We are in Germany’s southern most province (sometimes called Austria) where ski racers are more famous than All Blacks are in New Zealand. It’s a commonly used analogy when explaining the ski racing world to New Zealanders, but honestly, I think Austrians are more fanatic about ski racing than New Zealanders are about rugby.

The skiing World Cup races are televised live and are featured regularly on radio updates (amongst heated discussions about whether the mandatory time in the army for young Austrian men is still relevant in today’s society!)

We’ve had two weeks of training since arriving here. The first week was fantastic. We got the opportunity to train speed with the Swiss ski team. It’s great to compare yourself to some of the best skiers in the world.

Sadly one of the Swiss skiers Patrick Kueng, ranked 13th in the world, had a crash and hit his head. He was helicoptered to a local hospital for inspection but should be OK after a few days’ rest.

In the few days before that on the same training run, one American ruptured her knee and one Canadian compound-fractured her lower leg. Nonetheless it was great training. The local newspaper even ran a story about the Swiss and NZ teams using Saalbach for training!

We competed in our first European Cup last week (one tier down from World Cup) in Kirchberg, following three days of heavy rain. Needless to say, the conditions were icy and very bumpy. Both Ben and I skied well in sections but were unable to post results in these conditions. We have another European Cup tomorrow.

Today was the start of the gnarliest week on the World Cup – Kitzbuhel. This downhill features massive 50-60m jumps, 150kmh speeds with intense sidehills and turns. I have never raced it, thankfully. During the official training run today, one of the Austrians, Hans Grugger, crashed off the Mausefalle (mouse trap) jump only seven seconds into the race and is currently undergoing brain surgery in Innsbruck. It is unknown whether he will ever make a full recovery at this stage. Check out for the footage.

All in all, it’s a reality check. We compete in a dangerous sport, where perfection and speed are always fighting danger and plain stupidity for the top spot. Every time you stand at the top of a course, though, the adrenaline and hunger for perfection take over, and that’s when real ski racing happens.

Until next time!

Queenstown’s Tim Cafe ( is a member of the NZ Alpine Ski Racing team, competed at Vancouver 2010 Olympics and is sponsored by Jack’s Point and Browns Ski Shop