Aside from the fact that not wearing a fanny pack or a fluorescent one-piece will make you stick out like a Storm Trooper at a Lord of the Rings convention, another challenge of skiing in Europe is the bars. They have the science of the disco perfected down to the last strobe light, but when it comes to an establishment we westerners might call a bar—beer in a pitcher, dingy wooden bar, an absence of leather pants—the Euros are still learning. With one exception. Enter the Londoner Pub, in Kitzbühel, Austria. Opened in 1976 by British expat Rik Gunnell, this bar and its post-race parties are a firmly entrenched institution among certain members of the World Cup downhill circuit. Every year after the Hahnenkamm downhill, which takes place in January, racers gather at the Londoner to throw what could reasonably be called a rager.
We asked Daron Rahlves, winner of the 2003 downhill and 2004 super G, what he thinks of the Londoner. “It's a celebration of the best DH race in the world and a celebration of making it down still standing, ” Rahlves says “If the downhill doesn’t kill you, the Londoner will. I watched Norwegian skier Kjetil Aamodt scoop up the liquid off the floor behind the bar and serve it up as shots. On the floor it's three inches deep of beer, a variety of hard alcohol, sweat, and piss.” Racers who successfully complete the downhill man the bar, serving drinks to the patrons and keeping the party going well into the morning. With air-horn flame throwers, partiers soaked in vodka, and, due to anonymity concerns, the unverifiable rumor of naked bar laps for free drinks, it’s no wonder the Londoner and its after-race parties have achieved such a cult status. As one reviewer put it, “Should be on your list of 50 things to do before you die.” If you find yourself about to enter this maelstrom, Rahlves offers this piece of advice: “You need to walk in there with clothes that go in the trash. I've tried washing a pair of jeans three times, but [they] couldn't survive.”
Here’s some links for you: Get a brief glimpse of the party by clicking this link and selecting the ‘Rahlves DH Season’ video (And watch Rahlves go really, really fast). Then peruse the Londoner’s Website for pics, upcoming events, and cleavage.