Watch the Race from helmet cams on the competitors
The “must-do” of any ski event in Australia, the iconic Top To Bottom downhill race was held on the weekend (August 8) with Swedish National ski team member Nikla Rainer taking the overall win.
This year’s race was blessed with perfect conditions – clear skies, light winds and a dry, firm snow cover. After 12 centimetres of fresh snow fell the previous day, the snowmakers added to the cover and the groomers helped create the best conditions for the past five year’s.
It is an exhilarating race, enabling competitors to reach speeds that are not possible when the lifts are open. The race starts at 7.30am and al the categories are finished by 8.15, well in time for the lifts to open to the public at 8.30am. Competitors load the chair at 6.30am for a course inspection, given them a rare opportunity to experience a sunrise from the top of the mountain. Yesterday was one of those magic mornings, with the moon setting over the Ramshead range as the sun rose down towards Jindabyne.
The annual Top To Bottom downhill race in Thredbo is one of the country’s iconic ski and snowboard events. The longest vertical race in the country at 537 vertical metres and 3.7 kilometres – starting behind Eagles Nest at 1937 metres and finishing in the village at 1365metres – the Top To Bottom has a “Le Mans” start, competitors sprinting 50-metres uphill before getting into their bindings and racing through the gates set up on World Cup and the Supertrail all the way to the bottom.
The course starts with an almost straight drop down Little Merritts, before hard right and a straight-line to Kareela Hut, and the first big turn. Competitors hit this gate with speed, before swinging quickly on to World Cup, and then there was a hard left back on to the Supertrail. The leaders are usually well clear of the pack by Bunnywalk and then the speed comes into it through middle slopes, with the fastest racers reaching speeds of 110 kms/hr.
Since the first race was held in 1991 the event attracts up to 300 skiers and snowboarders, competing in one of six divisions – open men’s ski (made up of “professionals – racers, ski instructors); amateur men’s ski, veterans ski, men’s snowboard, women’s snowboard and women’s ski. The race always attracts some of the country’s best skiers and snowboarders and has been won by a number of Olympians – Jenny Owens (women’s ski), Alice Jones (women’s ski). AJ Bear (men’s ski) Craig Branch (men’s ski) and Zeke Steggall (men’s snowboard) while former world snowboard speed record holder Darren Powel has one the event five times.
For The Love Of It
While there is prize money, Thredbo seasons passes and Rossignol skis and snowboards for those who make the podium, for most who enter, the race is all about just doing it. They know they won’t win, but it is an incredible experience, allows them to challenge their comfort zone and attracts people back year after year. There were a number of racers this year who have raced in all 19 events, and for them the Thredbo Top to Bottom is the highlight of the year.
It is one of those events that has a special place on the annual calendar and one that should continue for a long time – it has become part of Thredbo’s heritage. It is an open event and if you have never entered, it is a snow event you should put on your list of must-do’s in the mountains.
Top 3 Results
Open Men’s Ski
1 Rainer, Niklas 2:22.18
2 Kneller, Scott 2:23.50
3 Weeks, Chris 2:25.31
Open Women’s Ski
1 Kennedy, Sami 2:44.50
2 Merry, Chloe 2:52.79
3 Tidmarsh, Farrah 3:00.65
Open Men’s Snowboard
1 Powell, Darren 3:08.00
2 Wholohan, Brendan 3:13.31
3 McPherson, Brett 3:19.15
Open Women’s Snowboard
1 Williams, Laura 3:38.11
2 Leando, Melanie 3:43.03
3 Wagner, Melissa 3:56.81