Ski Sunday presenter Graham Bell, and ex-Olympic downhill ski racer, knows a great run when he skis one.
That’s why Telegraph Ski and Snowboard asked him to pick stand-out runs from around the world and talk us down each one – all the while filming himself navigating them on skis.
From much-loved pistes to infamous off-piste routes, Bell selected only the finest runs for this video series. So far he’s tackled a number of French favourites including the Grand Couloir run in Courchevel and the Face de Bellevarde (La Face) black run in Val d’Isère as well as Austria’s steepest piste the Harakiri in Mayrhofen, his favourite run in Kitzbühel and one of the most scenic route in Italy the Lagazuoi piste in Cortina d’Ampezzo. He’s also took us heli-skiing in Alagna and revealed the secret side to the Austrian party hot spot Ischgl.
For his latest installment the Ski Sunday presenter is back in Austria, this time in Saalbach in the country’s Salzburgerland province. With almost 270km of pistes to explore the resort is part of the succinctly named Skicircus Saalbach Hinterglemm Leogang Fieberbrunn ski area and is popular with intermediate British skiers and snowboarders keen to spend a week cruising the slopes.
But the purpose of Graham’s visit isn’t to clock up the miles, he’s there to share a glimpse at the run that the resort hopes will win it the hosting rights for the 2025 World Championships.
The last time the resort hosted the World Championships was 1991 when both Graham and his brother Martin raced, representing Great Britain.
Since then it has transformed in numerous ways including the opening of a new gondola up the Zwölferkogel mountain to 1,984m and where the race previously started. It is now bidding to host the World Championships again and the course will take a new route on the same mountain, which Graham traces in his run from the top of the new gondola and down the number 15 black piste.
“Saalbach as a resort has really expanded since we raced here in 1991 at the World Championships,” explains Graham. “The most recent link is over to Fieberbrunn, which was actually the resort that I first came to when I went skiing for the first time in the Alps when I was five years old.”
“They’re going to have the women’s and men’s course beginning down the same run,” explains Bell as he sets off, before pointing out spots where each course will deviate in different directions, before joining again in a shared finish area at the bottom of the run.
He speeds down the number 15 black piste, which runs beneath the upper section of the Zwölferkogelbahn gondola.
Filmed in late January the snow conditions on the piste look pristine. “It’s really nice snow,” exclaims Graham. “Snow conditions are great, we’ve had a little bit of fresh [snow], but the man made [snow] underneath is absolutely perfect.” He later explains this is because the slope is north-facing meaning the snow is kept out the sun and in good condition.
Despite only having hosted the World Championships once, the resort has hosted numerous World Cup events over the years. “I raced here again in 1995 in the downhill,” says Graham as he speeds past leisurely holidaymakers on the slope.
As Graham weaves between the middle gondola station and a restaurant, he joins the number 12 red piste and the route of the women’s course, where the terrain turns steep with lots of rollers acting as obstacles.
As the piste gets busy, in a demonstration of his sporting prowess (and guts), rather than maneuvering round his fellow skiers and snowboarders, the five-time Winter Olympian straight lines it down the run effortlessly to the base station, before wishing the best of luck to the resort in its bid, without a single gasp for breath – now that, ladies and gentlemen, is how to make skiing look easy.