Austrian skiing icon Franz Klammer brings film of legendary 1976 race to Aspen
One of the very first events to kick off Aspen’s World Cup weekend was an Austrian extravaganza to celebrate the release of legendary alpine ski racer Franz Klammer’s movie, “Chasing the Line.”
The event was so popular — sold out in a day — that another screen needed to be added for the showing last week at ISIS Theatre.
Klammer is a four-time alpine ski champion who won four consecutive World Cup (1975–78) titles and was the gold medalist at the 1976 Winter Olympics in Innsbruck, the backdrop to his film.
The movie has only been shown a couple times stateside, and it was kismet to show it in Aspen, as the town was eager to celebrate the return of the World Cup. Aspen also was the location of Klammer’s last ski race.
“Klammer’s longtime friend and ski icon in his own right, Franz Weber, said, “Aspen is the great love of skiing in North America. What would be a more appropriate fit and in combination with the culture for all these years, it’s going to be a celebration of ski racing in this race love story.”
The movie is about Klammer as he finds himself at center stage when he arrives for the men’s downhill competition at the 1976 Winter Olympic Games in Innsbruck. The charismatic newcomer has won every race in the previous season and the entire world watches him. This is the most important race in which he skis a line that nobody even thought possible, making him a legend in the sport of downhill skiing.
“It was awesome. It was a great partnership with the film and the tourism board, it really evolved into a coordinated effort,” said Erin McVoy, Aspen Film’s operations and production director. “Greg Lewis was the most wonderful moderator and the one-on-one time with Franz and the questions that led to the skiing stories and variety of tidbits were memorable.”
For her, and many of the sold-out crowd, one of the most charming and endearing moments of the evening came when Klammer was asked about the real meaning of the movie.
He sheepishly replied that it was indeed a love story to his wife, Eva, who was in attendance.
Other attendees of the event were charmed by the comradery between local Aspen skiing icon Addy Mill and the Franz duo. It reiterated the cross-cultural respect and admiration of these long-time athletes.
The question-and-answer session following the movie premiere allowed Klammer, Weber and Mill to explain his love of the alpine winter sport and his personal trajectory.
“It was really well done,” said Marsa Kindl-Omuse, of the Austrian Tourism Department. “The moderator just made this an excellent experience. I loved his questions that showcased Klemmer as a humble man. He has good stories tell and is just such a legend, idol and hero in Austria.”
Kindl-Omuse added, “It was nice touch to have Andy Mill who was also in that 1976 race of the film because he is an Aspen local and a longtime friend of Klammer, and partner. It was great to have them together.”
Kindl-Omuse, a native of Austria, often had the loudest laugh in the crowd, as she was privy to Austrian jokes and colloquialisms.
“My favorite part was when Klammer said he never focused on winning, but on skiing.,” she said. “This is also one of my favorite parts of the movie, when he says to Eva in the end that he only always wanted to ski. This passion of skiing is so true to Austria’s deeply rooted ski culture and ski history. Skiing is a way of life in Austria.”
The earlier potion of the celebration was held at Aspen’s French Alpine Bistro. Attendees were given a taste of Austria with authentic cuisine and drink and the presence of Klammer. Bistro owner Karin Derly helped host the evening and enjoyed the European delegation, especially since she is Austrian herself.
“The exciting part of the event was to work together with the Austrian National Tourist Office and to be able to serve some of my beloved food from my country. I made the Käsespätzle myself actually!” she said. “It was also a pleasure to show our American guests how we après ski in Austria and I was excited to also show that the French Alpine Bistro has a truly Austrian touch and feel to it. Ideally some of the guests got excited to travel there as it is a wonderful country to visit.”