Written by By Staff Writer
An old Goofy trick: Hold out your arm and people run toward it.
Anyone who knows their ski scene will appreciate how skiers have this ritual repeated as they make their way up steep mountains of Europe.
Odds are they’re going to be able to do so again when they return home for the Olympics in February — after months of watching skiing at the Winter X Games and waiting for the International Ski Federation World Cup season to start at the beginning of November.
The last Olympic Winter Games were held at St. Moritz, Switzerland, in February 1992, following Canada’s first gold medal by 18-year-old skier Surya Bonaly.
Bonaly’s win marked an end to the “Super Seven” era in ski racing as Europe became the first continent to win seven gold medals on the same day.
Since then women have won five more medals in snow sport at the Olympics: one gold, three silver and one bronze.
But the return of competitive skiing to Europe, with strong views on gender equality, could result in a new golden era with more gold medals to go around.
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First to rise from the ashes of Western Europe’s last gold rush in 1992 — when the multibillion-dollar St. Moritz resort was devastated by fires — Austria’s Super Bowl of Alpine skiing is currently rebuilding the aging alpine town to resemble its shiny new 1950s incarnation
With snowcapped peaks as far as the eye can see, St. Moritz and its 35 kilometers of ski runs are still primarily a summer playground with a winter skiing tradition born back in the 1950s, when St. Moritz first held a women’s World Cup skiing event.
By the time Bonaly won her first gold medal in December 1992, women’s ski racing in Switzerland had already won 11 medals in the World Cup.
And it was still four years before the first women’s ski race on the International Ski Federation calendar took place in 1954, at Kleine Scheidegg, Germany.
For Austria the Alps are a massive business and, even after so many years out of the sun, St. Moritz is still the tourism hub of the Alps.
The area welcomed 2.5 million visitors in 2016 and helped offset a 5% decrease in the number of visitors to Austria last year.
St. Moritz has seven kilometers of gondola-served runs, 97% of which are arranged for beginners or intermediate skiers, while the resort offers both downhill and cross-country courses.
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“The Ingemar Stenmark Trophy has given back all these years of hard work,” said Markus Topp, chief executive of Alpine St. Moritz, of the 1950s when Stenmark beat the boys to become ski racing’s first million-dollar star.
“When it started 20 years ago many thought this would never happen again.”
“This is my goal, to give back to the world what the Stenmark Trophy did for us 20 years ago,” Topp told CNN Sport.
Still, while women may be making up the majority of skiers, they don’t have the advantage of the big guns in the ranks of speed racers.
The new generation of young skiers has been introduced to skiing by the World Cup and the sport has lifted them out of poverty or has given them an education, yet women race on an uneven playing field, especially in the younger grades.
With tracksuits potentially worn by the skiers at their schools, may equality be on the horizon?
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Girls have successfully tackled alpine skiing “in their own way,” Topp says, whether it’s by riding a ski lift for an hour or competing at their own age group.
“The value of female skiing is unprecedented with the support of the world tour events,” Topp said.
“There is a lack of money. But we support our women’s ski team as we don’t want women skiing to disappear.
“In Europe we see the school is a great platform for the girls to attend a ski school and then enter the international circuit.
“We support each individual girl with a passport, a timetable, school sports, a uniform and medals.
“I am really happy to see the girls have come back from the winter world championships and now here they are, competing again.
“We may see the birth of a new golden era because of this.
“I want to be able to continue supporting the (women’s) team.
“What has been done in the past, what we have done in the past and what we hope will do in the future is to push the next generation