Speed skiing is not a popular sport. To be honest, I’m not surprised. According to the Financial Times, the sport has not been featured in the Olympic Games since 1992. Here’s why: It’s really damn dangerous. Speed skiing is literally the fastest a person can go without motor assistance. Think about it—Usain Bolt ran 100 meters in 9.58 seconds. Ivan Origone, the man who broke the fastest ski record, skied the same distance in just 1.41 seconds. That’s bananas.
The most infamous speed skiing death occurred at the 1992 Winter Olympics. Nicolas Bochatay, a Swiss speed skier, was positioned to show up in the games (this was just a demonstration sport in 1992, so there were no medals). The 1991 Swiss Champion, he was among the best speed skiers in the world, having broken numerous speed records over the course of his career.
On February 22, 1992, Bochatay was warming up with a teammate. During a run, he crashed into a snowcat used to groom snow on a public slope. The impact killed him; it was reported that he died of internal injuries immediately after crashing. While the positioning of the snowcat itself is often blamed within the speed skiing community, there’s no arguing with the fact that these speeds are enough to kill.
In a former post, I explained how speed ski competitions work. They occur on a 1km run. The first 300-400 meters are used to gain speed, the next 100 meters are used to measure maximum speed, and the last 500 meters are used for slowing. Any sport that needs to use half the run to slow down is pretty intense in my book.
Since this tragic accident, speed skiing has not been a featured event in the Winter Olympic Games. While most other ski events require rely on speed, they incorporate turns, which slow the pace. I don’t know if I’m upset or happy that this sport isn’t really practiced. Watching something like this at the Olympics would be both thrilling and terrifying—just like the sport itself, I suppose.