Giant Mountains, Czech Republic

06.01.2008 Vítkovice v Krkonoších


    Skiing soon became a popular Czech sport, and very fashionable. Anyone who wanted to be ”in” at the time, bought themselves wooden skis with the leather bindings known as kandahar, loose felt trousers, a warm coat or jacket, learned Telemark technique skiing and how to do the plough position in order to dazzle their partner and other onlookers.

    Skiing skill was a prestigious matter and it is no wonder that as early as 1893 the first ski races were held in Bohemia, in Kozinec near Jilemnice. 1905 saw the first year of a 50-kilometre touring race. But was it really a race? Along the course were pubs where the sportsmen got food and a stamp to show they had been there. Just before start there was heavy snow, and so the competitors covered the first 40 kilometres together, taking turns to make tracks in the show for the others. From today's point of view the resulting winning time was catastrophic - eleven and a half hours, but the experience and skills of the skiers grew as time went by, and the difficulty of the cross-country courses increased proportionately. From time to time, too, Krkonoše sent a clear signal that the range would not be so easily conquered and humbled. A small unobtrusive mound on Golden Hill to this day marks the spot where two great heroes of our northern mountains, the ski racer Bohumil Hanč and his friend Václav Vrbata, froze to death on the 24th of March 1913. It was the day of the eighth year of the 50-kilometre race mentioned above. For the first time competitors were taking part in what was known as the "tough fifty-kilometres", without stops in pubs and other kinds of relief. On the starting line there were not only four Czechs but also two Germans: the famous sportsman Emerich Rath and Oswald Bartel. Both were considered hot favourites, but the Czechs were determined to give them a tough run for their money. It was Bohumil Hanč who had the biggest ambitions in this respect. He was at the height of his powers at the time and before the race he is said to have declared, "I would rather fall than let the prize slip from Czech hands."


    In fact he nearly did not compete. His wife was expecting the birth of a child very soon and perhaps with her women's intuition sensed the danger; Bohumil had to escape from the house. Unfortunately the forebodings of Mrs. Hančová and the predictions of the locals that a gale was approaching proved all too well founded. Within an hour the sunny weather at the start of the race turned into a freezing calamity. One after the other the participants in their inadequate light clothing gave up, until Hanč remained the only one on the track. Around a quarter past one people began to fear that something had happened to him, and so his rivals went out into the wind to try and find him. Emmerich Rath found Hanč on Zlaté návrší - Golden Hill and tried to carry him to safety before realising that this was beyond his strength and going for help. After three Hanč was brought to the Labe Chalet and placed first in a cold and then a warm room. Vain attempts were made to revive him. His friend Vrbata was later found dead in the snow as well. The news of Hanč's death spread through the valleys of the Krkonoše at lightning speed. One of the best skiers had perished, Krkonoše had taken Bohumil Hanč. The euphoria of skiing ended, and the mountain people were gripped by fear. Up to that point it had occurred to no one that recreational skiing might end in tragedy. At Hanč's funeral in Jilemnice, which then had a population of four thousand, twice as many people arrived in mourning dress. That night one of the witnesses to the tragedy wrote a letter, saying that, "The indomitable and peerless Hanč had become a dangerous rival to terrible Krakonoš, prompting him to a passionate resistance that it was not within human power to overcome. With the help of the combined elements he brought down the wretched man of Krkonoše." This tragedy was brought the first decades of Czech skiing to a melancholy close.



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    The Giant Mountains

    The Giant Mountains (Krkonose Mountains) are the most well known mountains in the Czech republic – mountain Snezka is the highest peak of the country. The Giant Mountains are the most visited region in Czech in the winter season. Wide offer of accommodation in the Giant Mountains – cottages, chalets, hotels and bed&breakfast houses. Accommodation in the Giant Mountains is a great choice when you like sports (skiing, hiking, biking) and virgin nature. Skiing in the Giant Mountains – excellent conditions for winter sports already from December until April. Downhill skiing in the Giant Mountains in altitude 700-1300 metres above sea level. Information portal brings you tourist information which you need to the visit of the Giant Mountains, Czech Republic.