It’s a typical Crans Montana morning: dazzling. The confident forecast is hard and fast racing conditions for the early starters in the Momentum City Ski Championships slalom; slush for the après midi skier and serious sunburn for those who forget to cream up. Arnold Lunn somewhere described the view as one of the six best panoramas in the Alps – a typically meticulous and annoying assertion which immediately makes one want to know the other five … and in what order did he rank them?*
Lunn spent several winters in Montana working as a resort rep for his father’s tour operation, the Public Schools Alpine Sports Club, and organised a milestone downhill race for club members in January 1911, over a long course from the Wildstrubel hut to the resort, via a long tramp across the Plaine Morte glacier and the slopes now occupied by the superb Plaine Morte piste. The winner Cecil Hopkinson’s time of an hour would stand up well today I suspect; if anyone could be bothered to start from the Wildstrubel Hut. The glacier must have sunk quite a bit in the last century, so that would make the course tougher. Lord Roberts of Kandahar presented the cup and asked that it should in future continue to be held at Montana.
I came to Crans Montana four years ago for the unveiling of a commemorative centennial stone on which the Roberts of Kandahar race is confidently described as the first downhill race in the history of skiing. Many would question this claim. Ignoring his patron’s request, Arnold Lunn took the Kandahar race to Murren in 1912 but Crans Montana has kept up its racing tradition, with World Cup races, World Championships and popular racing festivals such as today’s Momentum City Ski and an allcomers Super-G the Trophée du Mont Lachaux next weekend (March 20 -22) over a 6km course from Bella Lui (2600m) to the resort. Much fun in prospect.
* PS (April 5). I am endebted to Elisabeth Hussey’s new biography of Sir Arnold Lunn for making good my research failings. Lunn went to Crans in September 1946, she writes, and in the British Ski Year Book for that year “he nostalgically listed his favourite views: the Wetterhorn from Grindelwald, the Jungfrau from Interlaken, the Matterhorn from Riffelalp, Mont Blanc from the Brevent, the Valaisan Alps from Montana, the Alpine range from Weissenstein, and Maggiore from San Romigio.” Presumably in that order.