Fresh off a win at the World Cup speed opener last weekend in Lake Louise, Swiss ski racer Didier Cuche is one of the fastest men on the planet. Back in Europe, he’s royalty—his image adorns hotels, billboards, and Ovomaltine ads throughout Switzerland. He’s got a collection of over 100,000 Facebook fans. But here in the States few folks even know his name.
A former butcher hailing from the tiny Swiss village of Le Paquier, Cuche is on track to challenge Franz Klammer, Herman Maier, and Bode Miller as one of the best speed skiers in history. In 18 seasons on the World Cup, Cuche has snagged an Olympic medal, four World Championship medals, four World Cup downhill globes, one super-G globe, one GS globe, 18 World Cup victories, and 62 World Cup podiums. He’s also won the Hahnenkamm, the gnarliest ski race on earth, four times—a record that ties him with Klammer. (To put that in perspective, only two Americans have won the Hahnenkamm: Buddy Werner in 1959 and Daron Rahlves in 2003). And at 37 years and four months old, he’s also the oldest person ever to notch a World Cup victory. But as the last few seasons have proven, this racer gets better with age.
SKI spoke with Cuche last week about the new FIS regulations, his park-rat alter ego Jibier Cuche, and this week’s Birds of Prey races in Beaver Creek, one of the only races he’s never won. But watch out, this guy wants a Birds of Prey gold—bad. And, things are looking good for Cuche—he won yesterday’s training run in Beaver Creek, leaving the young bucks quaking in his wake.
SKI: What’s the most difficult race for you?
DC: It’s hard to be fast in all the races. In some of them, you need to be smooth and glide well. Some are more difficult because you need courage and engagement because they’re steep like Kitzbuhel and Beaver Creek—I love this race. I would really like to win in Beaver Creek, so I’m going to push hard this year.
SKI: What about your win last year in Kitzbuhel? That run was insane.
DC: It’s never insane enough when you win. I would lie if I didn’t say Kitzbuhel is my favorite race. It’s always fun to win and be fast but you know, you always have to be happy just to make it down that amazing hill—it’s really frickin’ dangerous.
SKI: So the X-Games and the Hahnenkamm are the same weekend—which are you going to go to? Don’t you have a freeskiing alter ego—Jibier Cuche?
DC: I think we should bring Kitzbuhel to the X-Games. But no reverse or backside on the jumps. (Laughs.)
SKI: What do you think of the new FIS regulations?
DC: I don’t think it’s the best way to get young guys into the sport. They will have to jump up 15 centimeters in ski length. That’s going to be hard for them, especially the ones who don’t weigh a lot. It’s hard to turn the skis. They’re might be more injuries because of that. There’s more to address than just skis when it comes to safety. But I don’t think it will change the World Cup rank list. Everyone will have the same disadvantage. I’ve also heard that FIS wants to introduce a code of conduct regarding what we can say about FIS on social media, Facebook, Twitter, punish guys for what they say.
SKI: What can the athletes do?
DC: We’ve just started a union. It’s called Skier Pro. It will be hard to accomplish anything this year, but long term, it will be good to have something official when we have to work with FIS.
SKI: Are you retiring this year?
DC: I’m starting to thinking about quitting. I think I’ll take it year by year. But I’m really focused and positive, so we’ll see what happens.
Don’t miss the Birds of Prey World Cup races this week with the downhill on Friday, Dec 2, a super-G on Saturday, and the rescheduled GS next Tuesday.