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It’s Hard to Blame 37-year-old Hermann Maier For Retiring

He won two Olympic gold medals, experienced one of the most horrific crashes in racing history, and nearly lost a leg in a motorcycle accident. The Austrian bricklayer turned ski legend won 54 World Cup races and four overall World Cup titles. In October, Hermann Maier announced his retirement. Here are six takes on what his career meant to skiers.

“I remember him at the Beaver Creek Birds of Prey in 1998 or 1997. He went from the 30s to the podium and no one really knew him. He was a little high on himself and it took a few years for him to say hi by name. I’d say, ‘Hey, Hermann,’ and he’d give me a reply of ‘Ugh.’ It wasn’t until I beat him a few times that he said, ‘Hey, Daron.’” —Daron Rahlves, former ski racer

“His impact is indelible. He brought a level of gritty toughness and determination to ski racing that had never been seen. He combined the raw power of a heavyweight boxer with the agility of a karate sensei. This former bricklayer is a hero to the common man in this not-so-common sport.”—Jon Rucker, Head Skis, Maier’s sponsor

“He will always be a legend and remembered as one of the greatest. I love watching him ski. He never stops amazing me.”—Jon Olsson, pro skier

“In 2008 I was in Kitzbühel to photograph the Hahnenkamm races. I was shooting the athletes as they inspected the final jump before the Zielschuss and the 40,000 fans waiting in the finish area. The look in his eye will stick with me for a long time.” —Paul Morrison, photographer

“He opened the eyes of the general public to the power, force, and the unbelievable speed of downhill racing. Maier was strong, powerful, and knew how to lay it all on the line. His spectacular high-speed crash in the Nagano Olympics will be remembered for a long time. What most people don’t realize is he won a gold medal in giant slalom and the super G a few days after that crash.”—Erik Roner, pro skier

“I think he’s proof that with a lot of determination you can do whatever you want. He was definitely the most loved racer of all time. I think a lot of fans of racing will miss him.”—Hugo Harrisson, pro skier