Swiss ski star turns down million-euro lure

Swiss downhill specialist Didier Cuche said on Wednesday a million-euro offer to remain in alpine skiing one more year won't change his plans to retire at the end of the season.

Swiss ski star turns down million-euro lure
Skistar Trysil (File)

Reports from Switzerland claimed on Tuesday that the chief of his ski sponsor Head had offered him one million euros (1.2 million francs, $1.3 million) if he extended his career by a season and won the famed Kitzbühel downhill for a sixth time.

Cuche, however, said the offer, reported in Blick newspaper, would not sway him from retiring in March 2012.

“I’ll be delighted to speak to my boss since he’s my boss, but I never like to talk about these things in the press,” the Swiss told reporters shortly after finishing second in a downhill training run for a World Cup race on Saturday.

“I think there’s are a lot of opportunities to be had working for Head, without necessarily having to continue skiing.”

Asked if the lure of one million euros could change his mind, the Swiss speed event specialist was firm.

“No. I’ve skied until this late in my career and money has never been the motivating factor for me,” added Cuche, a three time winner of the World Cup downhill title.

“When you’re successful, it’s logical to earn a good salary but it (money) has never been the motivating factor for me.

“Everyone says they want me to continue, then if I go through a (lean) period, like in December, everyone starts asking me whether I’m making a mistake by continuing.

“It’s the same people who want me to continue this year who, next year, will ask me whether I haven’t made a mistake by prolonging my career.

“So, it’s not even an issue for me.”

Cuche has never won an Olympic or world championship gold medal in his favoured event, but is among the favorites Saturday when the men race a downhill on the Rosa Khutor course which will be used at the 2014 Sochi Olympic Games.

The World Cup weekend concludes with a super-combined on Sunday.


Switzerland heavily criticised for welcoming foreign skiers

Italy has hit out at Switzerland for failing to prevent foreign skiers from hitting the slopes. Some have gone so far as to blame Switzerland for the spread of virus mutations across Europe.

Switzerland heavily criticised for welcoming foreign skiers
The mighty Matterhorn lies on the border with Italy. Photo by AFP
Italy's government last week blocked ski resorts from reopening, the day before skiing was due to be allowed for the first time this winter season due to coronavirus restrictions.
There is also a ban on non-essential travel until February 25th.

“It's a disaster. For a week now, we have been readying the slopes for the opening and preparing the health protocol,” said Denis Trabucchi, an Italian ski instructor. 

But the ban has not stopped Italian snow enthusiasts from hitting the slopes on the Swiss side of the border, as Switzerland has kept its ski infrastructure open despite the pandemic.

Many Swiss and Italian pistes lie close to each other so it is an easy commute from one resort to another.

The mayors of Italian border towns are annoyed that local skiers are ‘emigrating’ to Swiss ski slopes, according to the Provincio di Como newspaper.

“Cross-border skiers are not as numerous as cross-border workers, of course, but ski traffic has increased,” said Massimiliano Tam, mayor of Villa di Chiavenna, a town in Lombardy.

He said that despite bans on such border hopping, many Italians rent apartments on the Swiss side of the frontier so they can ski.

Roberto Galli, the mayor of Livigno, a ski resort in the Italian Alps, is also livid at the “cross-border ski mobility”.

“Customs controls are really limited” he said, calling for more rigorous checks “especially for Italian cars with ski racks and snow on the roof”.

Italian authorities even went as far as blaming Switzerland for the spread of the pandemic across Europe. 

Walter Ricciardi, the head of the Italian government's coronavirus task force, said Switzerland's decision to keep ski slopes open throughout winter, while neighbouring countries shut down theirs, allowed the British strain of coronavirus to arrive on the continent.

READ MORE: Is Switzerland to blame for Europe’s third wave of coronavirus?

A similar situation occurred in December, when French skiers tried to sneak into Switzerland to ski.

France’s authorities quickly announced that French residents heading abroad to ski would have to self-isolate for seven days on return and that border checks would be stepped up in certain areas. 

READ MORE: EXPLAINED: What are the Covid-19 rules for skiing in Switzerland this winter?