Up to the formation of the modern Ski World Cup, the Parsenn Derby was even one of the most important races in international downhill racing but today the exhausting downhill competition attracts ambitious amateur racers and former professionals from around the world.
The world's first t-bar tow became operational at Christmas in 1934 at the foot of the Jakobshorn in Davos and yet 10 years earlier the Parsenn Derby was held, the ski race with the richest tradition in Switzerland. The history began in 1924 with a race for men and woman from Parsennfurka to Küblis. At the suggestion of the English spa guest, Fred W. Edlin, it was organised by both Davos ski clubs: the Ski Club Davos and the Davos English Ski Club. Edlin himself was a member of the Ski Club of Great Britain, had been coming for years as a visitor to Davos and discovered the suitability of the Parsenn region for Alpine skiing.
The winner of the first Derby completed the run in 22 minutes and 27 seconds, while the fastest woman needed 35 minutes and 27 seconds. The race was a complete success and was to be held annually from then on, although the second Derby could only be held three years later because of unfavourable weather conditions. Since then it has been held every year with few interruptions.
Before the Parsenn cable car was completed, participants first had to climb to Parsennfurka via the Wolfgang Pass. The starting point was moved several times throughout the course of the race's history - until ultimately in 1933 the men's and women's races were started from the summit of the Weissfluh and the general category was started from the Wasserscheide (watershed) underneath the Weissfluhjoch. You met the women at the finish: their ski safari finished at the Conterser Schwendi , while the men had to continue on to Küblis.
Participants were able to choose their own route up to 1942, but when Edy Rominger achieved a time of under 14 minutes by taking a detour of the summit, two compulsory gates were called for at the Wasserscheide, or watershed, and in the Schwendi. In comparison, there are now 35 gates positioned over half of the route. There was no actual ski slope, as such, there at the time and each participant chose his own approximately 13 km long route. Things stayed that way until the invention of the piste machine.
Since the launch of the Ski World Cup in 1967, the Parsenn Derby has lost some of its international kudos and today is it regarded more as a public race in which amateur ski racers and prominent former professional racers can taken part. The winner's board carries names like Nando Pajarola, Jos Minsch, Walter Vesti, Urs Lehmann, Martina Accola or Kristian Ghedina, who was the first Italian to win the Derby in 2002. The route has recently been shortened for organisational and weather-related reasons and the finish line has been at Erezäss since 1998. A team event was also inaugurated in 2000, with each team consisting of four men or women skiers. More information on the Parsenn Derby can be found on the Ski Club of Davos website at: www.scdavos.ch.