This January marked 75 years of the Hahnenkamm ski races, held since 1931 in the Kitzbühel Alps of Austria. The most prestigious date in the international skiing circuit – comparisons are usually made to Wimbledon, Monte Carlo, the Indy 500 or the Super Bowl – the five-day event see up to 90,000 spectators pack around the 5,617′ (1,712m) mountain to witness skiers plunge down the steepest ski slope in the world, the near-vertical Streif, at over 85mph.
Since 2002, sound reinforcement for the five-day event has been provided by Tyrol-based production company Murdock Event & Media Group, which for the 75th Hahnenkamm races fielded an Electro-Voice (EV) set-up incorporating XLD- and XLC-series line arrays, CP3000-series amplifiers and Dx46 controllers.
The main system – hung either side of the finish line – comprised two towers equipped with eight XLC 80s, 12 XLC 120s, three subs, three CP3000 amps and Dx46 controllers, while, for the stands, two smaller trusses were each outfitted with three XLDs. Two smaller systems comprising four XLD line-array elements, one XLC 215 subwoofer, one CP3000 amp rack and one Dx46 processor flanked the track on both sides.
“The system needed to be robust, able to deal with snow and easy to handle,” comments Stefan Gieringer, CEO of Murdock Event & Media, which also specified Electro-Voice microphones and an EV NetMax N8000 digital matrix. “Additionally, from [only a] few acoustic points the greatest possible distance and a large area needed to be covered.”
As Gieringer emphasises, throw and portability are the key concerns when considering how to cover the vast alpine terrain of a location like the Hahnenkamm. “[Our biggest challenge is] to be able to fly a functional line array on the steep slopes,” he explains. “There is little space for the constructions, and, with snow and sub-zero temperatures, the equipment [must be] transported using snow groomers.”
Murdock’s relationship with EV dates back to its first Hahnenkamm races, in 2002. “At the time, Electro-Voice’s line array system was groundbreaking,” Gieringer recalls. “It was the only line array which […] was as suitable for outdoor use for sporting events as for concert sound.” However, he emphasises that “after more than 10 years, the system hasn’t lost a bit of its quality”.
In those 14 years since 2002’s first Electro-Voice-supported races, has the event changed noticeably? “Yes, completely!” says Gieringer. “Each year, the requirements change – they grow more complex and, through the change of the order of events, more difficult. These include alterations between the races, radio/TV and live presenters, live music acts, awards ceremonies, fan TV, fireworks, the Red Bull air show…”
However, Gieringer maintains that it’s still a “unique [experience]” being part of “the world’s greatest and most spectacular race”. “It’s the Super Bowl for the international alpine ski circus,” he concludes. “One hell of a ride!”
Baptism of ice for K-Array Firenze
For the slalom race on 24 January, the main Electro-Voice system was complemented by K-array’s new Firenze-series line array.
Comprising six KH8 units and three KS8 subs (with four KH15s for side fill) the Firenze arrays – set up in the finishing area – functioned as an extreme-weather test for the Italian manufacturer’s new touring system, launched in October 2014. PSNEurope first saw the Firenze series in action in London earlier this year (see Ultra-slim K-array Firenze line array makes UK debut at Barbican, London).
An all-EV system continued to be used in the upper part of the track and along the slopes, as well as in all areas during the downhill and super-G races.
“The system was ultra-reliable, even during the blizzards we encountered at the event,” says Stefan Gieringer. “With the steering of the new Firenze series we can keep the audio system out of sight, making more room for the fans. We loved the KH15s used for side fill – [they] supported the Firenze system to give it more than we have ever heard before at this event.”