Comeback Time for Hirscher, Braathen

Marcel Hirscher

The World Cup Finals come to Sun Valley in March—and should host some astounding races. 

The World Cup returns to Sun Valley this spring for the first time since the final Harriman Cup was held there in 1977. In 1937, Dick Durrance (above) won the inaugural Harriman Cup, the first international ski race staged in North America. Right: Marcel Hirscher, the eight-time overall World Cup champion from Austria, recently announced he’ll return to the World Cup this season to race for the Netherlands, his mother’s native land.

Photo top: Marcel Hirscher is back, racing for the Netherlands. Salzburgerland photo.

On April 24, four years after retiring from ski racing, 35-year-old Marcel Hirscher announced his return to the World Cup circuit. The eight-time overall champ (with 12 discipline titles) will ski not for Austria, but for the Netherlands, his mother’s homeland. And if his points put him in the top 25 in any discipline, we’ll see him race at the World Cup Finals in Sun Valley, beginning March 22, 2025. (See “Is He the Greatest?”, November-December 2019).

It will be the first World Cup race at Sun Valley since the final running of the Harriman Cup in March 1977, when Phil Mahre won the slalom ahead of Ingemar Stenmark and Steve Mahre, and Stenmark won the GS ahead of Swiss brothers Christian and Heini Hemmi (Perrine Pelen won the women’s slalom, and Lise-Marie Morerod won the GS ahead of North Americans Kathy Kreiner and Abbi Fisher.)

Hirscher, who has kept busy as a television commentator, Red Bull athlete and creator of Van Deer/Red Bull skis (Hirsch is German for "deer"), said he missed the thrills and spills of slalom and GS. And he’ll ski for the Dutch team because he doesn’t want to deprive a young Austrian of a World Cup berth.

The winner in 67 single World Cup races, with nine gold medals, and tied with Lindsey Vonn with a total of 20 overall and specialty globes, Hirscher has put together a strong support team, financed by Red Bull. Over the summer he’ll race in New Zealand with the goal of securing enough FIS points to get a start in the World Cup. While he’s never stopped training, he’s cautious about his prospects. “I’m a busy man with my two companies and my kids,” he says. “My main goals in the coming winter will be to have fun and enjoy the moment. The results by themselves are not the key issues this time, what will mostly matter are the emotions I’ll feel.”

Only a handful of former stars have made successful comebacks after a layoff of more than one year. Hermann Maier did it in January 2003, 16 months after nearly losing a leg in a motorcycle accident. Annemarie Moser-Proell gave up racing in 1975 to stay with her dying father, skipping the high-pressure experience of the 1976 Olympics at Innsbruck. She came back in December 1976 to win on the World Cup tour and score several gold medals in 1978 and 1980.

Lucas Braathen,
Lucas Braathen, Brazilian star. Red Bull Media House photo.

Meanwhile, Norwegian Lucas Braathen, the 2023 World Cup slalom champion, has announced his own comeback after a year away from skiing. At Soelden, in October 2023, the 24-year-old suddenly informed the media that he would be ending his career after tense discussions with his federation, which refused to allow him to choose his own supplier in matters of dress and uniform. He said he wanted to follow his passions for fashion design, music and freedom. Braathen hit the fashion circuit in Paris, London and Milan, often modeling on stage for J.Lindeberg, where designer Neil Lewty noted he was the “perfect guy to close the show. He’s got the energy; he’s got the vibe. He’s transitioning over to the fashion world, and he’s got an amazing history and heritage in sports. He’s our guy.”

Braathen seemed a happy man traveling around the globe until returning to see his friends at Kitzbühel, scene of his first top result four years ago, when he finished fourth in slalom after leading the first leg. He realized he really missed ski racing and his comrades. A few weeks later, with the support of Red Bull, he organized a press conference at Salzburg to share his decision to get back on his Atomic skis and achieve another great dream: competing for his mother’s native Brazil. Born in Oslo, Braathen spent some of his younger years in Brazil before joining his father, Bjoern in Norway. Over the years, he’s returned to Brazil frequently. Braathen will have a strong group around him, coordinated by his father. British racer Charlie Raposo, who retired last winter at age 28, is on board to help with marketing.

Braathen should have less trouble returning to form than Hirscher—he’s younger and hasn’t been away from racing as long. He continued to train last winter, and even to test skis for Atomic. In March he trained hard at Hafjell, near Lillehammer, on the slopes of the 1994 Winter Olympics. Like Hirscher, he’ll race in New Zealand this summer—his mother now lives there.

Braathen has already written Hirscher to express admiration. “I have analyzed your performance throughout my career and tried to integrate some of it into my movement,” he posted on social media. “I’ve always said that it’s a big wish of mine to have the chance to race against you. I can’t wait to race against you. See you soon.” 

Snapshots in Time

1926 Dress for Success

When one goes into the heights in America, one leaves behind the fittings of the lower plains. Not so in the Alps. You may have visions of spending your days scrambling over the jagged field of a glacier or shooting down the mountainside—almost flying—on a pair of skis. But if you make the blunder of forgetting your tuxedo, you will spend your evenings as a social outcast. — “Ski and Fashion Vie in the Alps” (New York Times, February 21, 1926)

Robert Redford
Robert Redford in Downhill Racer

1969 Best Sports Movie—Ever

Some of the best moments in “Downhill Racer” are moments during which nothing special seems to be happening. They’re moments devoted to capturing the angle of a glance, the curve of a smile, an embarrassed silence. Together they form a portrait of a man that is so complete, and so tragic, that Downhill Racer becomes the best movie ever made about sports—without really being about sports at all. — Roger Ebert, “Downhill Racer” (Chicago Sun-Times, December 22, 1969)

1981 Short, Balding Swingers

I enjoyed your article “The Ski Bum Lives.’” However, I am a dentist, when not acting the ski bum role, and would like to remind your readers that most of us are short, balding, bespectacled family men in little white coats. If I see any more remarks about dentists charging exorbitant fees and having swinging lifestyles I am going to drop my subscription to SKI and subscribe to Golf instead! — Ken Clemons, DDS,
Mercer Island, Washington, “Bum Rap” (Letters, SKI Magazine, September 1981)

1990 One for the Road

Utah, long known for dry snow and drier liquor laws, is finally getting wet. This winter, you’ll be able to order a mixed drink in a restaurant—and you won’t have to join a club, order an airline mini-bottle or bring your own liquor to do it. The system was so confusing that it drove some vacationers to abstinence and others clear to Colorado. Not anymore. — Rob Lovitt, “Utah on the Rocks” (Skiing Magazine, October 1990)

2016 Climate Change Cools Cold-Gear Sales

Last year, a member of Stephen Sullivan’s design team at Jackson, Wyoming, outdoor-apparel brand Stio approached him about producing a heavy winter jacket. Sullivan stopped her. “I said, ‘It doesn’t get that cold anymore. And when it does, it doesn’t stay cold very long,’” says Sullivan. “‘We need to concentrate on midweight jackets.’” What Sullivan meant is that global warming has forced Stio to adjust its business strategy. To that end, the company has gone from producing lots of gear designed to be used in extremely cold situations to garments built for milder conditions, a move that reflects consumer demand for multi-season apparel. — Gordy Megroz, “Global Warming Is Radically Changing Winter
Jacket Design” (Outside Magazine, November 2016)

2024 Fast Company

Skiing power couple Mikaela Shiffrin and Aleksander Aamodt Kilde have announced they’re engaged to be married. Shiffrin, a two-time Olympic champion, has won a record 97 World Cup races. Aamodt Kilde is a former overall World Cup champion and two-time Olympic medalist. They’ve been dating for several years. — Associated Press, “Mikaela Shiffrin and Aleksander Aamodt Kilde announce their engagement” (Denver Post, April 5, 2024)