Rumbling, Bumbling, Stumbling: Foot Race Down, Then Up, World-Famous Ski Hill

Competitors scamper down, and then struggle up, the notorious Streif slope at Austria’s Kitzbühel in the 2021 inov-8 Descent Race+.

Remember that childhood feeling of running as fast as you can down a hill? Fighting to keep up with your hammering legs as you accelerate, arms flailing wildly — all to do whatever you can to stay on your feet. 

Each year, competitors recapture that at inov-8’s Descent Race, where they streak down Kitzbühel’s Streif ski slope on foot in pursuit of the fastest time. This year, the race adds a team component and finishes with an intimidating uphill leg. 

The relay (of sorts), now called the Descent Race+, will total 700 m. Like the slope it tackles, it promises to punish all who dare. Entries for the race, which will take place on October 2, opened today.

Descent Race Finish
Photo courtesy: inov-8

World Cup Downhill Running: Kitzbühel

Kitzbühel is world-famous for its top-echelon skiing. The Streif in particular has a reputation. Some regard it as the World Cup ski circuit’s toughest. Red Bull’s 1-hour, 55-minute feature on The Streif (below) is called “One Hell of a Ride.”

So, what better place for an all-out foot race? Sections of the course reach hair-raising grades up to 80%. It’s common for runners to lose it, going fully airborne or crumpling into a (rapidly) rolling ball.

To make things even more interesting, the Descent course is usually a slalom, forcing runners to weave between gates without losing all control.

In years past, it was a competition for solo runners. But for this year’s Descent Race+, each downhill competitor will have an uphill-bound teammate. Times recorded by downhill runners will be placed on a leaderboard to determine when their teammates leave the line.

As inov-8 puts it, the new format sets up a “frantic scramble,” one that stretches 350 m back uphill to the finish line.

Descent Race+ Uphill
Photo courtesy: inov-8

Gearing Up for the inov-8 Descent Race+

The stage is set; the rules are simple. Whichever duo runs down and up the world’s most notorious ski slope the fastest wins.

Style doesn’t matter, but footwear choice might. That and a solid recovery method (we recommend many cold beverages) — and a willingness to fling oneself into the void.

For obvious reasons, the event regularly attracts a solid spectator contingent.

If you’re interested in such adventures, hurtle at breakneck speed to the signup page. Prize for the winner of the Descent Race+? 200 euros. I’ve fallen down hills for a lot less.

 

Sam Anderson
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Sam has roamed the American continent to follow adventures, explore natural wonders, and find good stories. After going to college to be a writer, he got distracted (or saved) by rock climbing and spent most of the next decade on the road, supporting himself with trade work. He's had addresses in the Adirondack Mountains, Las Vegas, and somehow Kansas, but his heart belongs in the Texas hill country.