STREIF - One Hell of a Ride

Long Synopsis

It’s January 2014, and a charismatic Canadian skier named Erik Guay is one of the absolute favorites to win the Hahnenkamm downhill after coming in second the previous year. Now, he’s determined to make “the dream every ski racer lives for come true” with a victory on the Streif, the world’s most difficult and dangerous downhill track. It’s the moment he’s been training for all his life, and with over three decades since the last Canadian win here, the motivation couldn’t be higher. But Guay’s dream is shattered less than 48 hours before the race, when a prior knee injury flares up, forcing him to miss training and withdraw from competition. The disappointment is crushing, but Guay knows the odds: “Ninety-five percent just isn't good enough for the Streif,” he says. “You’ve got to be able to give it your all if you want to make it down in one piece.”  


The poignant story of Erik Guay is one of many dramas that unfold in “STREIF – One Hell of a Ride.” Over the course of a full year, the documentary follows four of the planet’s best ski racers –Aksel Lund Svindal, Erik Guay, Max Franz and Hannes Reichelt – giving us a window into the special mindset of top athletes and immersing us in their world as this highlight of the winter season approaches. A victory on the Streif means much more than any other World Cup win, or even an Olympic medal. Olympic gold medalist and two-time World Cup overall winner Aksel Lund Svindal explains: “There, you might see someone winning by sheer luck. On the Streif, on the other hand, only the best win.” But again in 2014, even the consummate skill of this likeable athlete can’t produce a race-winning time at the Streif’s finish line…  


The film also captures the passion with which the young Belarussian Yuri Danilochkin pursues his own dream of a great career, despite being a rank outsider in the World Cup circus. Additionally, the story pulls back the curtains to reveal how much effort, energy and enthusiasm the race organizers invest nearly 365 days a year – and how they cope with the unthinkable threat of the event’s cancellation due to a prolonged winter thaw. Further, the narrative shares the inspirational story of  Austria’s Hans Grugger, who had a dramatic crash on the Streif and endured a long, hard road to recovery.


These individual stories are interspersed with anecdotes from the eventful past of the Hahnenkamm Races. Two Streif winners from this century, Daron Rahlves and Didier Cuche, narrate the film, commenting as only they can on extensive archival material from the 1950s, when the sport of ski racing was dominated by local hero Toni Sailer and the “Kitzbühel dream team.” Franz Klammer and Hermann Maier, two Austrian ski champions, open up about their experiences. And of course, Rahlves describes his dramatic duels with the great Stephan Eberharter, while Cuche sheds light on why, even though he was dubbed the “King of the Streif” after five wins, he was “grateful every time he left Kitzbühel in one piece.”


Cutting-edge camera technology gives viewers a previously unimaginable perspective on the skills of the racers and the physical stresses their bodies endure, while the narration by Rahlves and Cuche provides a fresh take on athletes who – with just two minutes to show what they can do on one of the world’s most impressive natural stages – are willing to risk it all for success.


 “STREIF – One Hell of a Ride” follows its protagonists for twelve emotionally charged months in which everything revolves around the supreme discipline of ski racing, the downhill, and its most notorious, most glorious course. The passion and suspense build, and the outcome – whether victory, defeat or a crash – is uncertain to the very end. The intense activity is interrupted only by the nearly unbearable moment of silence before each racer dives into his run. According to the athletes, no starting hut is as quiet as the one on the Streif…