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  • Writer's pictureRaúl Revuelta

Matterhorn Cervino Speed Opening (Zermatt-Cervinia)

Updated: Nov 19, 2023

Zermatt-Cervinia, Matterhorn Peak, Skiing in Zermatt
Matterhorn / Cervino. Picture: Ski Paradise

The Matterhorn Cervino Speed Opening will launch the Alpine Ski World Cup season for the speed athletes.

The World Cup races in Zermatt-Cervinia will take place on 11-12 November and 18-19 November 2023. On the program for the first weekend are two Men's Downhill races and on the second weekend the two Women's Downhill races.

The Downhill races are planned to take place after the World Cup opening in Sölden to give speed athletes the opportunity to start the season a month earlier than before.

With this new stop in the World Cup calendar, FIS wants to fill a gap in the race calendar, strengthen the speed disciplines, and round off the season. The event will give speed athletes an earlier start to the season and the Alpine World Cup a season without interruptions thanks to the two additional race weekends.

Gran Becca. Alpine Ski World Cup Downhill Racecourse. Zermatt-Cervinia
Matterhorn Cervino Speed Opening. Gran Becca Racecourse. Zermatt-Cervinia.

The Matterhorn Cervino Speed Opening, the first cross-border race in the history of the Alpine Ski World Cup, will be held on the "Gran Becca" course with the start located on Gobba di Rollin above Zermatt in Switzerland and the finish line in Laghi Cime Bianche above Cervinia in Italy.

The course is embedded in the unique scenery around the iconic Matterhorn-Cervino. The name of the racecourse comes from the local dialect. In Valtournenche-Cervinia and in the whole Valle d'Aosta region, on the Italian side, the Matterhorn is often referred to as "Gran Becca" – the big peak. The shape of the "Gran Becca" will be visible on the entire race course. The name of the new race course is a reminder of the affection the residents of Valtournenche have developed for the Matterhorn over the decades.

With the new 3S cable car from Testa Grigia to the Klein Matterhorn, which connects Cervinia and Zermatt all year round, completed in spring 2023, the race will be able to start from the highest point.

The "Gran Becca" has the first solar-powered start house. It was designed by the architects from Ingenhoven Associates. The Zermatt Starthaus was inspired by igloos, which nestle into the surroundings and can withstand extreme weather conditions.

This has an integrated photovoltaic system with an area of approx. 60 m2. It consists of two parts: a small front part, which houses the starting area, and a larger rear part, which serves as a heated shelter for the athletes. The entire start house consists of a lightweight pneumatic shell that is manufactured without petroleum. It can be assembled and dismantled in a very short time and complies with FIS guidelines.

The race track was designed by Didier Défago, the 2010 Olympic downhill champion. Covering 935 meters of altitude over four kilometers, with skiers reaching a maximum speed of around 135 km/h. Racers will deal with three jumps called "Matterhorn", "Furggen", and "Cime Bianche". Other key locations of the "Gran Becca" are "Sérac Traverse" towards the border, "Muro Ventina", "Spalla di Rollin" and the "Plateau Rosa Schuss".

The most spectacular and at the same time most demanding passage is the Matterhorn jump and the subsequent compression. At this point we expect to see jumps of around 70 meters.

Men and Women will tackle the same piste, with a lowered start line for the Women. That makes the Matterhorn Cervino Speed Opening not only the highest Downhill race in the World Cup calendar but also the first ever Alpine Ski World Cup on a glacier.

"At 3800m of altitude, embedded in a majestic panorama, La Gran Becca has the highest start of all world cup races. The course is drawn on the Swiss and Italian territories, mostly on glacier. Between crevasses and stunning rocks, the downhill is complete, composed of pure gliding parts, big and fast downhill curves, and more technical parts with high speed and varied jumps. Its 935m difference of altitude, the altitude itself, its 4km of length, the combination of natural and artificial snow - this all will bring additional challenges to the athletes", Didier Defago.

The Gran Becca (3.7 kilometres), is the second longest Downhill on the Alpine Ski World Cup circuit, surpassed only by the Lauberhorn in Wengen with 4.5 kilometres. The maximum expected speed that the skiers will reach during the Downhill will be about 135 km/h.

The Grand Becca will join, together with The Streif in Kitzbühel, the Lauberhorn in Wengen, and the Stelvio in Bormio, the group of legendary Downhill courses in the Alpine Ski World Cup.

The organizers of the Matterhorn Cervino Speed Opening will distribute a total of 200,000 Swiss francs in prizes per race. The total prize money up for grabs is 800,000 Swiss francs. The winners will each receive 60,000 Swiss francs. If a skier wins both races in one weekend, an additional 50,000 Swiss francs will be added.

Facts Race Course:

  • Altitude at the start: 3,720 m (3,485 m Women)

  • Altitude at the finish line: 2,835 m

  • Vertical drop: 885 m

  • Length of race track: 3700 m

  • Steepest section: 60%

  • Max. Ski racing speed: 135 km/h

Zermatt, the village at the foot of the Matterhorn, probably the world's most famous mountain and the most photographed mountain in the world, is a municipality in the district of Visp in the German-speaking section of the canton of Valais in Switzerland.

The Swiss ski resort can be included in the selected group of international destination resorts that attract skiers from all over the world. For them, Zermatt epitomizes their image of Switzerland: high-alpine, awe-inspiring and original.

Zermatt is a car-free resort and mountain village surrounded by an incredible landscape of mountains and glaciers. Almost one-third of the 4,000-metre mountains in the Alps are grouped around this world-famous health resort, which has been visited by mountaineers from all around the world since the first successful ascent of the Matterhorn in 1865.

At an altitude of around 3883 meters between Zermatt and Breuil-Cervinia lies the highest ski area in Europe, the Matterhorn Ski Paradise.

The ski domain is made up of six interconnected areas: Rothornparadise (3,103m), Gornergrat (3,089m), Matterhorn glacier paradise (Klein Matterhorn) (3,883m), and Schwarzseeparadise (2,583m) on the Swiss side, joined by Breuil -Cervinia and Valtournenche on the Italian side. All together they represent a ski area of 313 kilometers of marked slopes and 38 kilometers of ski itineraries, with a vertical descent of 2,260 meters and a piste that reaches 22 kilometers in length.

Zermatt has a whopping 21 km of summer skiing on its Theodul Glacier accessed by the Klein Matterhorn cable car. Zermatt is Switzerland’s only year-round ski resort and one of the two remaining glaciers in the Alps to open 365 days a year. The summer ski area is shared with Cervinia in Italy, so you can ski over the border for lunch.

Since the creation of the Alpine Ski World Cup in 1967, 513 World Cup races have been held in Switzerland, spread across 26 venues. Zermatt is the 27th venue World Cup venue in Swiss land.

Update October 28, 2023

The Alpine Ski World Cup races in Zermatt-Cervinia (SUI/ITA) are confirmed following the official snow control from today 28th October 2023. As scheduled, the Men races will take place on 11th-12th November 2023.

"Today is an important step. The positive snow control makes me especially happy for all the people in the team who work with so much heart and soul for these races every day. We will all work together to put on a top event. We are proud to bring the Ski World Cup back to Breuil-Cervinia after 46 years and in Zermatt we even had to wait 56 years for the world's best ski cracks to come back to the foot of the Matterhorn", said Franz Julen, President of the Local Organising Committee (LOC).

Update November 4, 2023

The Women Alpine Ski World Cup races in Zermatt-Cervinia (SUI/ITA) were also confirmed following the official snow control on November 4th. As scheduled, the races will take place on 18th-19th November 2023. The snowfall of the last two weeks and the low temperatures have made the "Gran Becca" racecourse present completely winter conditions.

Update November 11, 2023

The first of the two Men's Downhill Alpine Ski World Cup races in Zermatt-Cervinia has been canceled due to the heavy snowfall from last night and the strong gusts of wind.

Difficult weather conditions are also expected for Sunday. Monday, which was originally scheduled as a “reserve day,” is also virtually ruled out. For that to happen, the forecast will have to change a lot in the next few hours. According to current weather forecasts, even more snow will fall on Sunday night than last night.

Update November 12, 2023

Sadly, the second Downhill was canceled for the sames reasons than yesterday, heavy snowfall and wind. Unfortunately, this year the constant snowfall has prevented the races to take place in Zermatt-Cervinia.

Last year, the two Downhills, the first cross-border races in the history of the Alpine Skiing World Cup starting in Switzerland and finishing in Italy, could not be held due to lack of snow in the lower part of the slope.

Update November 15, 2023

The first of the three Women's Downhill Alpine Ski World Cup trainings in Zermatt-Cervinia has been canceled due to the strong gusts of wind.

Update November 17, 2023

The third Women's Downhill Alpine Ski World Cup training in Zermatt-Cervinia has been canceled due to the snowfall and strong gusts of wind.

Update November 18, 2023

The first Downhill has been canceled due to the strong wind and the unfavourable forecast.

Update November 19, 2023

The second Women's Downhill Alpine Ski World Cup in Zermatt-Cervinia has been canceled due to the strong wind gusts.

The Downhill had to be cancelled due to safety concerns after the "Gran Becca" racecourse was once again hit by persistently strong winds.

It completes a difficult two weeks for the Alpine Ski World Cup speed skiers, with adverse weather conditions forcing all four Men’s and Women’s season-opening World Cup Downhill events to be cancelled.


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