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Tuesday, 6 January 2015

Photo Of The Day: FIS World Cup Alpine Skiing In Zagreb

Well, it's that time of year again, that holy and blessed time of year when the ski gods descend once again to the slopes of Sljeme on Medvednica mountain, just outside the capital city of Zagreb. The ceremony culminates with the ritual of the men's alpine slalom races taking place tomorrow. This is the holiest ski day of the year on the Croatian calendar. There is an abundance of eating, drinking, music, merriment and of course thanksgiving for the peace of this most holy time of year. Many thousands of the faithful make their way to the slopes of Medvenica, coming even from many other lands, all make the journey in unison to show thanksgiving for the awesome and eternal winter solstice ski mysteries, bringing ski relics from the past, flags, poles, ski boots and various appropriate footwear, afterwards they partake in various joyous communions of stuffed cabbages, beans, sausages, cider, cheeses, beers and wines. The ski solstice king and queen bequeath glad tidings to the multitudes until the coming of the next pilgrimage. An annual holy pilgrimage that is also an epiphany. For the multitudes of faithful it is a passing through the symbolic slalom solstice gates of this earthly life, and so also a symbolic affirmation of the eternal ski slope mysteries, the ski gods look down and proclaim the good news of the next glorious and eternal alpine ski event....

...Just quickly throwing in a few pics from the Men's and Women's FIS Alpine Ski World Cup slalom races taking place in Zagreb even as I'm writing this. I'm a skier (just not currently), so I like seeing the festive and exciting atmosphere of a professional World Cup ski event taking in Croatia. All the festivities actually start the week before the races even begin, but even if I'm not there it's still interesting.

World Cup Champion Janica Kostelić (after whom the event was renamed in 2006) hasn't been on the ski circuit for years since retiring, and former Overall World Cup Champion Ivica Kostelić is probably skiing his last season because of health issues, but there are other Croatian skiers to root for, and this 3 day world class Alpine skiing event is broadcast live to 25 countries and getting more popular every year.

This is actually the event which officially closes out the Advent in Zagreb festivities that start at the beginning of December. Just a really fun and festive professional sporting event to kick of the new year. This year there was plenty of snow before the new year so the slopes are in prime condition. I'll make a synopsis post after all the races are finished with more images and video footage. More info and images at the links.



Interestingly, I should quickly note since on the topic, that although Croatia is not a very mountainous alpine nation with lots of ski slopes like some countries, but there actually is a skiing and cross-country/nordic skiing tradition along with a number of various ski clubs and schools. Even along the coastal areas when snow falls, it's not uncommon for people to pull out their skis and snowboards any chance they get (example). There are about 13 official ski resorts and centers operating annually in the country, including this Sljeme-Medvenica Ski Resort there is also BjelolasicaPetehovac DelniceLička Velebno skijalištaRudnik-TršćeČelimbaša skijalište and others, as well as the locally popular and little known about scenic Platak Ski Resort, but skiers can be found pretty well anywhere there are hills and after the snow falls including cross country skiing and snowboarders also. Probably surprising to many, Platak ski resort is located just above the city of Rijeka along the coast, basically decent places to at least start off on an illustrious alpine skiing career. Also every winter over 200,000 Croats pack their bags and hop on trains, planes, buses or drive on skiing holidays to one of the other European ski resorts and slopes, nicknamed as the "wave of Croatian ski migrants" because various holiday special ski packages during the first week in January especially are popular, also informally called "Croatian Ski Week" since the ski resorts in Austria, Italy, Slovenia and even into Switzerland are full of Croatian families with children. As for the local ski slopes mentioned, when snow falls every ski season they regularly operate at full capacity with 10's of thousands of ski passes sold, and the good news is that the numbers of skiers on the slopes is growing every year.

*(Here's another interesting Croatian skiing trivia fact of the day also: (courtesy of first official ski club in Croatia was formed in Rijeka and founded in 1885, which is actually almost 10 years before even one was formed in more snowier Zagreb in 1894. And the first official skiing competition race was held at a ski slope on the Učka mountain range just outside the town of Opatija in 1897, (yep, that Opatija), the first locally manufactured skis were made in 1911 as well as the first official Croatian ski camp and school was held at Mrkopalj in 1913).

Here's some bonus info: As mentioned the first official ski club was formed in Zagreb in 1894, and seen below later the local HAŠK ("Hrvatski akademski športski klub" which means "Croatian Academic Sports Club") created a skiing section with the first official alpine skiing races and nordic skiing competitions starting at Sljeme Medvenica mountain in 1909. Then in 1911 the Croatian Sports Association established the ski section as one of the official national professional athletic alliances. Image credit: Croatian Cultural Society of Switzerland.

Members of the Zagreb HAŠK founded skiing club at Sljeme Medvenica mountain, when not skiing obviously. Images:

Here's a very rare photo for those gotta know Croatian skiing history buffs, a moment captured after Franjo Bučar (more about him below and his important role in skiing) at the annual assembly of the 1st Croatian Skating Society on November 12th, 1894. Bučar introduced skis and a new "ski section" with its own separate subcommittee, and interestingly with the first ski seminar being held for the Croatian Physical Education Professionals and teachers (hence the suits and ties). From that year on the Zagreb Skiing Club was born with new members joining annually.

At the summit of Sljeme on Medvenica mountain in the 1890's. (at the site where the concrete 169-metre Zagreb TV/Telecommunications Observation Tower now stands)

Skiing the Medevenica mountain trails around 1900.

should also briefly mention dr. Franjo Bučar since on the topic of skiing because of his extremely important role and influence for the sport of skiing in Croatia. Born in Zagreb in 1866, he was a writer, senior historian and a sportsman and sports writer, as well as publisher of sports manuals and rules guidelines. He studied in Zagreb, Vienna and Stockholm and completed the Classical Grammar School in Zagreb in 1886, he also graduated from the Faculty of Philosophy, History and Geography in Zagreb and from the Faculty of History in 1897 in Graz Austria. He started out working on a study of Croatian literature as well as Scandinavian literature and translating various works as well as writing prefaces and publishing works of important Croatian politicians of the Croatian crown lands within the Habsburg empire. He also is known for establishing numerous clubs and professional associations and played a prominent role in expanding the Hrvatski Sokol (Croatian Falcon) gymnastics and cultural organization. However he is best remembered today for popularizing and introducing many sports and sport disciplines in Croatia (and actively participating in them) such as gymnastics, cycling, football/soccer, handball, (as well as introducing the Croatian term "rukomet" for handball still used today and many other sport terminologies), volleyball, fencing, shooting, swimming, mountain climbing, tennis, skating, ice hockey and other sports but especially for popularizing of course.....skiing. As mentioned he greatly popularized skiing when he introduced the new sporting discipline after coming back to Zagreb in 1894 with skis and then founding the local ski club on the nearby Medvenica mountain, his first ski seminar being for the Croatian Physical Education Professionals. And not only that, incredibly just 2 years later he won a downhill skiing second place at the first Kingdom of Bohemia skiing championships competition held by the Czech Ski Club in Prague in 1896 which popularized skiing even more back home. (which could be considered the very first Croatian podium finish at a major skiing competition), soon there were ski clubs and skiers in Rijeka, Karlovac, Osijek, Vukovar, Opatija, near Split, Gorski Kotar and Lika region, locations along the Velebit mountains range and elsewhere. Later in 1909 he founded the official Croatian Sports Association and promoted olympism, founded a number of men's and women's sport clubs and still while president of the CSA he established the ski section as one of the official national professional athletic alliances. He also corresponded with major figures of European culture and sport, was awarded numerous domestic and foreign acknowledgments, diplomas, medals, awards, plaques and prizes and was editor of a number of sport magazine publications while creating a library of several thousand volumes. For this reason in 1991 the "Franjo Bučar State Award for Sport", the highest award for exceptional achievements and the meritorious development of sport, was established in Croatia and is awarded annually. But like I said his early influence in the 19th century and important role in promoting and popularizing skiing in Croatia is without equal. (basically he was one crazy traveling skiing sports dude)

Excerpt from a documentary commemorating over 120 years of skiing in Croatia, Zagreb at Sljeme and Medvenica mountain, some rare brief footage from the Zagreb HAŠK founded skiing section in 1909 and the earliest official skiing races and competitions, sort of like the origins of today's Snow Queen Trophy. (Yep, the skis were still wooden and skiing didn't become an official Olympic sport until 1936)

Some behind the scenes from 2012

Previous posts: zagreb-snow-queen-trophy-at-sljeme-2011




After doing this post I decided I think I've already explained enough, so the reader should know what the heck the "VIP Snow Queen Trophy" is all about. I added a few more pics and this below short personal behind the scenes footage I came across of what took place on the slopes of Sljeme should be good enough. Hit the links above if you need more information or just Google around.

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