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Lindsey Vonn Just Became the First Woman to Ski the Kitzbühel Streif—and She Did It At Night

Vonn fulfilled a lifetime dream by becoming the first woman to ski the most notorious downhill course in the world

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Lindsey Vonn won everything there is to win in the sport before retirement in 2019 (that’s Olympic gold, 82 World Cup victories, and multiple World Championships), but one last dream goal eluded her in her illustrious career—the notorious Streif in Kitzbühel, Austria. Now, four years since she’s raced a downhill course, she’s strapped back into her skis, pushed out of the start gate, and entered the notorious Mausefalle (Mousetrap), with an 85% gradient, making her the first woman to ever ski the men’s downhill course—and the first to ever dare to do so at night. 

“Only when you ski the Streif are you a real downhiller,” says Vonn. “The Streif is the pinnacle of all downhills, the most difficult course in the world. Nobody believed I could do it. After all my injuries, to now get the once-in-a-lifetime chance to kick out of the starting gate here and fulfill my dream is incredible. I’ve always had respect for the men that raced down the Streif, but I have even more respect now because it’s one thing to go down it and another thing to ski to win; and now I can fully understand what that means. It has given me a greater perspective on how truly amazing these men are.”

The Streif is considered the greatest challenge on the FIS Alpine Ski World Cup and it’s a race Vonn could never compete in due to only men’s downhill races being held in Kitzbühel. She borrowed skis from US skier Ryan Cochran-Siegle and had them prepared by her former serviceman Heinz Hämmerle to hit speeds of more than 100km/h.

Lindsey Vonn of the United States performs in Kitzbuehel, Austria on January 16, 2023.

“I felt like I was jumping over the edge of the world,” she said.”I don’t think I’ve ever been so nervous before a start in my life. I’m a thrill seeker. I’m an adrenaline junkie, and I love pushing myself to the absolute limit; being on the verge of being scared. I live for a challenge like this. 

Vonn prepared for the occasion with intense training, despite the severe knee injuries suffered in her career. She was coached by her compatriot Daron Rahlves, himself a course winner in 2003.

“To see Lindsey finally have a chance to ski on this track in this kind of situation is incredible,” says Rahlves. “I had no doubt she could ski it, but I was questioning if she was going to really ski it with a lot of determination. I was really impressed that she did. This is true downhill, if you make one mistake, you can have some bad outcomes. But the way she just came out to own it was really impressive.”

In an Instagram post this morning,  Vonn shared that she took on the challenge for her mother Linda, who passed away in August. “I knew she was watching me and was there as a guardian angel to help me accomplish this dream. I know she is proud of me. As she always ways.”

The 83rd Hahnenkamm Races begin on Friday, January 20 at 11.30 am.