MOUNTAIN OF FATE
The worst day in the history of the Lauberhorn Race...
January 18, 1991. The qualifying training is taking place just like any normal final training. All 15 of the racers in Group 1 easily qualify for the race. The only victim: Patrick Ortlieb, always amongst the fastest in training, falls above the Hundschopf.
The atmosphere at the finish is jovial and the skiers are giving interviews. There are still a few potentially dangerous competitors at the start. Amongst them is Gernot Reinstadler, one of the young Austrians wanting to put pressure on the established racers. The 21 year old son of the ski racer Traudl Eder is regarded as a huge talent.
Then something happens that those watching at the finish of the race will never be able to forget. Reinstadler cuts in with an edge in the Finish-S and flies at full speed into the safety net. Then something occurs that no one in their worst dream would ever have imagined. The tip of Reinstadler’s ski gets caught in the net and his whole abdomen is torn open. He leaves a wide trail of blood behind him before coming to rest.
The shock is enormous. Hardly anyone dares look up. Soon after Bruno Durrer, the race doctor experienced in mountain rescue, arrives at the casualty. The injured is immediately flown to the hospital in Interlaken. By 8pm news arrives that he has lost 35 litres of blood.
Shortly before 1am Fredy Fuchs receives the call from Professor Paul Günter from Interlaken that he was dreading so much. After a six-hour operation Gernot Reinstadler dies at 12.43pm as a result of heavy bleeding in the pelvic region.
Discussions ensued about how to continue. Should the race be called off, yes or no? At 4.30am the decision is made to call off the race. It is a decision that is supported by all those not involved in the decision, but bearing the responsibility. The FIS, SSV and the Lauberhorn Organising Committee declare the cancellation in a joint announcement and express their sincere condolences to Reinstadler’s family and the Austrian team.
At the Lauberhorn Race in 1992 the Director of the Austrian Ski Association, Leitner, presents those in Wengen with a crystal – as a sign of gratitude that the race was called off in honour of Gernot Reinstaldler and his family. In addition, the mourning relatives never for one moment criticised the organisers. Members of the family visit Wengen, and Viktor Gertsch visits Reinstadler’s family in the Pitztal every year and places flowers on the grave.
Since 1992 a memorial plaque at the finish house reminds of the tragic incident. The Reinstadler family, a delegation from their village and the priest from Pitztal attended the inauguration.