Letter from Austria The Wild Carnival at the Heart of Skiing’s Most Dangerous Race ~ The New Yorker


The punishing Hahnenkamm downhill brings street-party revelry to a medieval town in the Tyrolean Alps.


The first time Wiley Maple encountered the Streif, the world’s most fearsome downhill, he was twenty-one years old. Typically, downhill racers take a couple of training runs in the days leading up to the event. Before each one, they inspect the course, which entails side-slipping down while visualizing the line that will deliver them to the finish in the least amount of time. As a member of the U.S. Ski Team, Maple had side-slipped, and then skied, most of the World Cup’s other majestic, gnarly downhills, but this track—which descends an unremarkable and not particularly tall forested alp called the Hahnenkamm, in Kitzbühel, Austria—seemed to represent a whole new level of inhospitable. The thought of hurling himself down the narrow, steep, snaking flume of ice and shadow made him queasy. He wasn’t the first previously undaunted young buck to doubt himself when confronted by the Streif’s proportions and demands—no other course has inspired such fear and respect among the craft’s practitioners, or likely sent as many of them into (or over) the protective fencing and then to the hospital—but none of those predecessors had been him, here, now.

A couple of hours later, he was in the starting hut for his first training run, peering down past the first two turns toward the precipice called the Mausefalle, or mousetrap, a two-hundred-foot jump over which the previous racer had just vanished. Word reached the start, via radio, that the guy had crashed. Course hold: time to wait. Twenty minutes passed. You don’t get far in this line of work unless you have some control over your nerves, and so Maple calmed himself. Eventually, he got the alles ist klar and, in a self-imposed daze, nudged into the start. Ski poles over wand, beep-beep-beep-beep-beeeeep, two pushes, two strides, and schuss. A half-dozen seconds later, airborne over the Mausefalle at sixty-five miles an hour, he thought, Holy shit, I’m in Kitzbühel. He snapped to, and tried to bear down. Initiating the infamous hard-right turn at the bottom of a wall of ice called the Steilhang, he crossed the tips of his skis, lost the line, and careered into the fence. This was where, years before, the Canadian Brian Stemmle, off his line, had caught a ski in the netting. That crash, which came to be known as the Wishbone, split Stemmle’s pelvis open and put him in a coma. But Maple got away clean. After a moment, he crawled under the netting, put his skis back on, and reëntered the course a little farther down to have a look at the rest of it. On race day, he came in fifty-third. This was in 2012.

My own “Holy shit, I’m in Kitzbühel” moment came on a Tuesday in January, earlier this year, after I stepped off the train at the base of the Hahnenkamm gondola. It was dusk. The town was still relatively quiet, in the absence of the eighty or so thousand fans who were expected to invade that weekend for the annual series of Alpine races and debauches. I glanced up and saw for the first time, shadow-blue and telephoto close, the final section of the Streif, where the racers, after soaring off a jump, come hauling across a steep, bumpy, fallaway traverse—legs burning, skis thrashing—and into the final plunge, the Zielschuss, reaching speeds of almost ninety miles an hour. I had been watching the race on television for decades, whenever and wherever I could find it, with a heart-in-throat intensity of devotion that embarrasses me, and this last hellbent stretch was always the emotional climax, the site of either life-threatening crackups or ecstatic finishes, amid the drunken, swaying throngs. And here it was, the empty stage, the star of the show. The course was marked off with blue food dye, which, in flat light, helps the skiers see the contours in the snow. Viewed in person, from below, the traverse looked narrower and steeper than it did on TV. From the angle of the course workers’ stance, as they tended to the slope in crampons, you’d have guessed that they were ice climbing. I walked up on the snow to the finish area. If the Streif was an idol, I was close enough to ask for an autograph.

The Hahnenkamm, as the event is commonly called, is the most important race on the men’s World Cup calendar, the ultimate prize, owing to its peerless difficulty, danger, and lore. (The women don’t race there; their tour doesn’t pass through the same places, and avoids the more extreme courses.) It’s dogmatic that pretty much every racer on tour would prefer victory on the Streif to Olympic gold. (The money—the winner gets about eighty-five thousand dollars—is almost an afterthought.) The Streif was first run in 1937. Then there was an eight-year hiatus, because of the war. There are now three races in Kitzbühel that weekend. In addition to the downhill (typically on Saturday), there is a slalom race (lots of tight turns) on Sunday, and a Super G (a shorter, turnier version of the downhill) on Friday. But it’s the downhill that really makes reputations, breaks bodies, and draws the vast crowds. Most of the year, Kitzbühel, a medieval town of eight thousand residents, in the province of Tyrol, is a fancy resort, with swank hotels and shops, but the Hahnenkamm-rennen transforms it into a riotous carnival, part Indy 500, part South Padre Island. The bars and the old cobbled streets fill with enthusiasts of all ages, many of them with no place to sleep, enacting the rituals of performative public inebriation, while in lamplit panelled Stuben the upper crust of Middle Europe convene for private self-congratulation over their good fortune at being here, now, at the center of the Alpine universe. The madness has always been an essential component of the experience for the racers, too. They usually stay in hotels in town and walk to the gondola, through the throngs. The revelry often keeps them up at night, occasionally luring them out and sucking them in.

What House Democrats should do now ~

April 21 at 7:00 PM

It may not have been his intention, but special counsel Robert S. Mueller III has forced a momentous choice on the Democrats who control the House of Representatives. How they navigate the next several months will matter not only to politics but, more importantly, to whether the rule of law prevails.

If we lived in a normal time with a normal president, a normal Republican Party and a normal attorney general, none of this would be so difficult. Mueller’s report is devastating. It portrays a lying, lawless president who pressured aides to obstruct the probe and was happy — “Russia, if you’re listening . . . ” — to win office with the help of a hostile foreign power. It also, by the way, shows the president to be weak and hapless. His aides ignored his orders, and he regularly pandered to a Russian dictator.

Mueller’s catalogue of infamy might have led Republicans of another day to say: Enough. But the GOP’s new standard seems to be that a president is great as long as he’s unindicted.

And never mind that the failure to charge Donald Trump stemmed not from his innocence but from a Justice Department legal opinion saying a sitting president can’t be indicted. Mueller explained he had “fairness” concerns — a truly charming qualm in light of the thuggishness described in the rest of the report — because the no-indictment rule meant there could be no trial. The president would lack an “adversarial opportunity for public name-clearing before an impartial adjudicator.”

And perhaps Mueller did not reckon with an attorney general so eager to become the president’s personal lawyer and chief propagandist. William P. Barr sat on the document for 27 days and mischaracterized it in his March 24 letter. He mischaracterized it again just an hour before it was released.

This leaves Democrats furious — and on their own. Unfortunately, it is not news that this party has a nasty habit of dividing into hostile camps. On the one side, the cautious; on the other side, the aggressive. The prudent ones say members of the hit-for-the-fences crowd don’t understand the political constraints. The pugnacious ones say their circumspect colleagues are timid sellouts.

After Mueller report, Democrats weigh impeachment

Sometimes these fights are relatively harmless, but not this time. Holding Trump accountable for behavior that makes Richard M. Nixon look like George Washington matters, for the present and for the future.

Those demanding impeachment are right to say Mueller’s report can’t just be filed away and ignored. But being tough and determined is not enough. The House also needs to be sober and responsible.

This needle needs to be threaded not just for show, or for narrow electoral reasons. Trump and Barr have begun a battle for the minds and hearts of that small number of Americans (roughly 10 percent or a little more) who are not already locked into their positions. Barr’s calculated sloth in making the report public gave the president and his AG sidekick an opportunity to pre-shape how its findings would be received. The uncommitted now need to see the full horror of what Mueller revealed about this president. A resolute but deliberate approach is more likely to persuade them.

When House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) joins her caucus on a conference call Monday, she will reiterate her “one step at a time” strategy. The bottom line is that rushing into impeachment and ruling it out are equally foolish.

This means the House Judiciary, Intelligence, and Oversight and Reform committees should and will begin inquiries immediately. Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerrold Nadler (D-N.Y.) took the first step on Friday by subpoenaing the full, unredacted Mueller report, which the administration immediately resisted. Mueller himself has rightly been asked to appear before both Judiciary and Intelligence.

Nothing is gained by labeling these initial hearings and document requests part of an “impeachment” process. But impeachment should remain on the table. Because Trump and Barr will resist all accountability, preserving the right to take formal steps toward impeachment will strengthen the Democrats’ legal arguments that they have a right to information that Trump would prefer to deep-six.

For now, it’s useful for Democrats such as Sen. Elizabeth Warren (Mass.) to underscore the outrageousness of the abuses Mueller found by calling for impeachment while Democrats in charge of the inquiries such as Nadler and Rep. Adam B. Schiff (Calif.), chair of the House Intelligence Committee, say, as both did on Sunday, they’ll reserve judgment while they sift through the facts.

Of course, Trump is not the only issue in politics. Democratic presidential candidates are already out there focusing on health care, climate, economic justice and political reform. The House can continue other work while the investigators do their jobs.

In an ideal world, the corruption and deceitfulness Mueller catalogued would already have Trump flying off to one of his golf resorts for good. But we do not live in such a world. Defending democratic values and republican government requires fearlessness. It also takes patience.

Bauhaus at 100

Screen Shot 2019-04-20 at 8.18.34 AM.pngThe school changed everything from furniture to graphic design. But the Bauhaus’s biggest legacy is in architecture. Here’s where that legacy stands in
Argentina, Nigeria, Israel, Australia, Iraq, the United States and India.


The Ariston Club

Designed by Marcel Breuer and others, including Carlos Coire in 1947.

Archives of American Art, Smithsonian Institution


While in the country teaching a seminar at the University of Buenos Aires, Marcel Breuer was asked to help design a social club for a beach resort on Argentina’s Atlantic coast.

Now derelict, the Ariston Club in Mar del Plata, some 250 miles south of Buenos Aires, was once a thriving dance hall. A place for lunch overlooking the sea and fun at night, it once had a revolving dance floor and partiers would throw down talcum powder to get a better grip when barefoot, said Sol Marinucci of Trimarchi, a group that organizes a design festival there.

Hugo Kliczkowski-Juritz, an Argentine architect who lives in Madrid, first saw the building as a child. Its architectural importance only became clear to him in later life, long after the building had been divided and converted into restaurants, then left unoccupied.

“The university invited Breuer to do a seminar, and Carlos Coire — another architect — said to him, ‘Why don’t you do a little building with me to be a magnet to bring people to this area?’,” Mr. Kliczkowski-Juritz said. “They were having lunch, and [Breuer] unfolded his napkin and drew the clover design on it immediately.”

Mr. Kliczkowski-Juritz is now leading an online campaign for the building to be declared a heritage monument and restored. “People write to me and say, ‘Why are you doing this? For money?’ And I say, ‘No, it’s because I think a building like this needs to be rebuilt.’ You shouldn’t destroy history. It’s part of our identity.”


Marcel Breuer Papers, Special Collections Research Center, Syracuse University Libraries.
Marcel Breuer Papers, Special Collections Research Center, Syracuse University Libraries.

Hernan Zenteno for The New York Times


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CDOT warns about undetonated explosives from avalanche mitigation ~ The Durango Herald

If you come across what looks like an explosive device in the San Juan Mountains this summer, don’t touch it.

The Colorado Department of Transportation is getting the word out that some explosives used in avalanche mitigation this past winter were duds. As a result, the potentially explosive bombs still sit somewhere in the mountains.

In CDOT’s southwest and south-central regions, more than 630 explosives were shot or dropped from helicopters to trigger avalanches this winter.

More specifically, about 430 explosives were shot on Red Mountain, Coal Bank and Molas passes, with the majority of that amount on Red Mountain Pass, CDOT spokeswoman Lisa Schwantes said.

Of the 630 explosives, 13 were duds. Schwantes said CDOT does not give out the specific locations of where the explosives were shot for public safety reasons.

Statewide, more than 1,500 explosives, including 22 duds, were shot at avalanche paths.

Schwantes said the numbers are in line with the national average of about 1 percent chance of a bomb not exploding.

She said CDOT knows exactly where every explosive was shot, and crews will attempt to revisit the region and recover duds.

Most of the shots are aimed at rugged and remote terrain, Schwantes said, in areas not accessed by the average hiker.

“It’s not unknown for someone to come across a device that has not detonated, but they are in very rugged terrain,” she said. “We don’t want to scare anyone, but at the same time, we want to advise the public of the best safety instructions.”

Shots from a howitzer look like a huge bullet, Schwantes said, and rounds from CDOT’s “ava-launcher” are shaped more like a torpedo and usually are bright orange or yellow.

People who come across the explosive device are advised not to touch it and immediately report its whereabouts to law enforcement or CDOT.