Bente Bjørnsen Sherlock
To date, two FIS World Cup racers have announced signing with Marcel Hirscher’s Van Deer ski brand. Now, to the dismay of the ÖSV, the Austrian Ski Federation, renowned ski technicians, and sports science experts have also joined the new program.
Haugen Added to Athlete Stable
Britain’s Charlie Raposo was the first World Cup racer to officially sign with Van Deer, as previously reported by Ski Racing Media on April 16. Raposo recorded three top 30 finishes in World Cup races last season.
Recently, Norwegian national team member Timon Haugan also signed with Van Deer. “Beyond stoked to be part of this team. Let’s get it!!” Haugan posted on social media on May 5. Already on May 2, Norwegian Fri Flyt published an interview with Haugan, who told the magazine: “It feels very good to get that recognition from the best SL and GS athlete of all time. But at the same time, Hirscher and Van Deer are lucky to get me. I cannot think of it in any other way, and I’m guessing they are happy to have signed a racer who is ranked top 20 in slalom.” Haugan has shown his potential by finishing second in a 2020 World Cup slalom in Chamonix, France. Last season, Haugan recorded eight top 30 World Cup SL and GS results, including a fifth and sixth in SL.
Top Ski Technicians Hired
Several noteworthy equipment experts have also shifted to Van Deer. Most recently, ÖSV has lost two of its top ski technicians to Hirscher’s new company. Raphael Hudler, who has helped Austrian Katharina Liensberger win Olympic and World Championship gold medals, the World Cup slalom globe and 11 podiums in the past two World Cup seasons, has recently announced his move to Van Deer, according to Austrian Kronen Zeitung. In addition, Bernhard Arnitz, the ski technician of Austrian speed star and 2017 super-G World Champion Nicole Schmidhofer, announced his transfer to Van Deer, the Kronen Zeitung reported on May 9.
Van Deer Hires Some of the Most Knowledgable in the Business
Already this spring, Toni Giger, who until recently held the position of the ÖSV sports director, left the Austrian Ski Federation after more than three decades and joined Red Bull, where he is responsible for Hirscher’s ski projects. According to Austrian media, Edi Unterberger, who recently worked for the ÖSV research team, has also joined Hirscher’s Van Deer team. Unterberger is a crucial addition. He is an experienced and respected equipment guru. Unterberger has helped design, test, and prepare skis for stars including Hermann Maier, Michael Walchhofer, Markus Wasmeier, Aksel Lund Svindal, and Marcel Hirscher.
ÖSV Comments on Staff Members Leaving
According to Kronen Zeitung, as many as seven specialists from the ÖSV research department have transferred to Van Deer. In addition, several top coaches left the Austrian federation this spring to join other national teams. As Unterberger left the ÖSV, Christian Greber – who has been with the ÖSV since 2016 – moved into Unterberger’s position in the research team.
“I have never experienced anything like this,” Greber said about all the staff changes, according to the Kronen Zeitung on May 9. “Whenever I thought that was it, the next announcement came in.”
Greber, a former World Cup speed-discipline racer with three World Cup podiums, including a 2001 Bormio downhill victory, told the Kronen Zeitung that lessons had been learned over the past weeks. Lessons they need to apply to how the ÖSV works in the future: “We want to train good employees who want to stay with us long-term.” That includes adjusting the pay, according to Greber. Currently, there is a job listing on the ÖSV website searching for a service technician under the Race Service and Technology Department.
The sudden, recent losses of ski technicians and research staff mean that new ski technicians have to be found as soon as possible. “Replacing such top people one-to-one is impossible. They don’t even exist in the free market,” Austrian Alpine Director Herbert Mandl said to Kronen Zeitung recently. Though the situation seems desperate, the head of the ÖSV women’s team, Thomas Trinker, said to Kronen Zeitung: “Every change also offers opportunities. In this way, projects can also be tackled that were not possible under the previous leadership.”
No Austrian ski team members will be racing on Van Deer this upcoming season, as Van Deer has not signed a ski pool agreement with the Austrian Federation. “There was a negotiated contract that had to be signed by March 16,” said Patrick Ortlieb, deputy chairman of the Austrian Ski Pool, according to the Kronen Zeitung on May 7. Van Deer Managing Director Dominic Tritscher also confirmed to the Austrian newspaper that no agreement had been signed.