Tuesday, January 25, 2011

The Londoner: Crazy Canuck Mecca

Having been treated by CBC Sports this past weekend to a condensed version of the 71st running of the Hahnenkamm classic downhill race on the famous Streif at Kitzbuhel, Austria, I am reminded of an only slightly less auspicious site a couple of blocks from the finish line that I made a pilgrimage to years ago.  Made famous as the Brit-owned watering hole where drinks were "on the house" all night long whenever a Canadian won the biggest race in alpine skiing, The Londoner has perhaps lost some of its panache since the 80's but is still worth a visit.  (It now sports a dizzying array of panties donated by ski bunnies over the intervening years, all hanging from the ceiling of the otherwise typically Austrian hangout - and making the bar seem seedier than it used to be.)  It's not that Britain doesn't have some fine ski racers, but they generally don't run The Downhill - the fastest and most dangerous alpine discipline - so the proprietor sort of "adopted" the Crazy Canucks back in their heyday.  The Hahnenkamm is a "classic" downhill, that is, FIS (Federation Internationale du Ski) safety standards don't strictly apply to it.  The royal and ancient Kitzbuheler Ski Club just makes the course as safe as possible and racers take their chances.  (Safety improved markedly after a successful lawsuit by Canadian racer Brian Stemmle, who nearly died when he crashed there.)  Great beer and schnitzel is on offer, of course, but the real draw is the history of the place.  Too bad about the panties.