Organisers estimate 100,000 spectators will pack Kitzbuhel in the heart of the Austrian alps this weekend (January 25-27) for the Alpine Ski World Cup, the pinnacle of the FIS racing calendar each year.
Universally feared by competitors, Hahnenkamm ski races are the toughest, best attended and most talked about in the world.
Günter Hujara, chief race director for the Alpine Skiing World Cup men's race said:
"It's one of the classical traditional sights in alpine ski racing, it's the Streif, this famous race course, one of the most challenging race course in the world. Then it's the atmosphere around it, the organisers were able to create this cult status here in Kitzbuehel and everybody must be here."
Racers launch themselves from the starting gate to accelerate from 0 to 80 km/h in less than 3 seconds then plummet down a course that seems as slick as an ice-rink.
"We push hard out of the starts, but probably there is no need to because you accelerate really quick," said twice overall World Cup winner Aksel Lund Svindal on Wednesday (January 23).
"The start here is very nerve-racking because you have no time to get into the rhythm. You have to nail it right away because one of the toughest section is actually just out of the start the first 15 seconds," continued the Norwegian who had earlier skied the famous Streif to inspect the slopes.
Svindal has yet to win one of the Kitzbuehel races, his best result was in 2009, taking second place in SuperG.
The Norwegian is currently second in the standings, 188 points behind Marcel Hirscher of Austria.
"I crashed in Wengen, and Marcel Hirscher who is leading now he seems to be perfect. What he is doing now, hasn't been done as long as I can remember, probably since Stenmark or someone like that. To be on the podium in every single slalom and GS. I'm going to do my thing, he is going to do his thing and at the end we are going to see who gets the most points, but I think it's the biggest thing you can win so for sure I would like to try and win it again," said Svindal.
The 73th Hahnenkamm event opens up with Super G on Friday (January 25), followed by famous downhill on Saturday (January 26) and slalom on Sunday. The added results of downhill and slalom also counts as a combined race.