Resplendent Alpine weather. 50,000 ecstatic fans lining the slope. A magnificently prepared race course. Everything is ready for the men’s downhill, the highlight of the Hahnenkamm race weekend in Kitzbühel, Austria. Everything is ready for Kjetil Jansrud (see photo). As the winner of the downhill at Val d’Isère, the Norwegian racer is the odds-on favorite to ski to victory on the Streif course. He starts seventh and crosses the finish line with the slowest time thus far. He ends the day in 36th place out of 53 finishers, yet only two seconds separate him from Italy’s Dominik Paris, this year’s victor.
Most races on a World Cup course are decided by hundredths of a second. And speed is king also along the fences. The steep final slope, for example, where ski racers hurl themselves toward the finish line at speeds of up to 140 kilometers per hour, is lined by a number of beverage stands. For thirsty fans, hundredths of seconds quickly feel like minutes, and seconds seem like hours when you’re waiting in line to pay. SIX wins the race against queues with its cashless payment services.
For the second time, spectators at the 2017 Hahnenkamm race could preferentially purchase tickets, food, and beverages by cashless payment at more than 80 terminals provided by SIX – not just around the final slope, but also in the fan zone in the center of Kitzbühel. The three-day race weekend drew 98,000 ski fans, an attendance figure surpassed only once, in 1999. “At an event with so many spectators, it’s crucial that cashless payments function flawlessly, because paying cashlessly is simply faster and more convenient for both guests and vendors,” says Manuel Kramer, who oversaw the Kitzbühel project for SIX. In the specially segregated cashless area, the full array of advantages was put on display. There, guests paid exclusively by card or smartphone. Vendors thus needed fewer personnel and didn’t have to keep change on hand in safe storage, nor did they have to count up change to calculate the day’s earnings.
The number of events for which SIX has devised and supplied cashless payment solutions has tripled over the last three years. SIX is the market leader in this field. “Even the initial distrust toward completely cashless events has faded away by now,” affirms Roger Niederer, Head Merchant Services, SIX. In fact, contrary to skepticism, he says, cashless is becoming a lifestyle factor today. Hence, alongside sporting events like the Hahnenkamm race, the Formula 1 Grand Prix in Spielberg, Austria, and the White Turf horse races in St. Moritz, Switzerland, the roster of events that completely or partially eschew cash thanks to SIX also particularly includes renowned European music festivals.
With Crampons and Gaffer Tape
The Streif course is considered one of the world’s toughest and most dangerous racing slopes, and the terrain at Kitzbühel also posed a challenge for SIX. To connect all the terminals, SIX laid 1,396 meters of network cable in the center of town and set up 20 proprietary WLAN hotspots. The aforementioned beverage stands around the final slope area functioned entirely wirelessly via a GPRS signal. “Besides the topography, weather conditions also place special demands on the equipment,” Manuel Kramer explains. “Our terminals must be capable of easily withstanding double-digit subzero temperatures. Under fantastically clear weather conditions like the ones that prevailed in 2017, the temperature can quickly plunge to – 20°C in exposed locations.”
Cashless Calendar 2018 (Excerpt)
Kjetil Jansrud and Dominik Paris had each won the Hahnenkamm downhill once prior to 2017. Jansrud’s victory in 2015, though, was on a shortened course. Dominik Paris skied to his first Hahnenkamm victory and his win again this year over the full distance of 3,312 meters. Was it perhaps superior stamina that enabled him to win anew this year? Whatever the winning factor was, you definitely have to be an endurance athlete to work in Kramer’s team. Seven employees of SIX provided roundthe- clock service throughout the week of the races in Kitzbühel. Their work included training and supporting the volunteers manning the terminals, as well as manually repairing the infrastructure. “We employed upward of a half-kilometer of extra-strength gaffer tape,” Kramer discloses. “And we had to strap crampons onto our shoes again and again because the batteries for the terminals along the final slope unfortunately don’t climb the mountain on their own.” His team logged a total of 467 kilometers on foot, or in other words, each worker on average trekked three times the length of the Streif course each day.
Let’s Do It Again in 2018
SIX already began its preparations for the 2018 Hahnenkamm race in summer, but nonetheless will have to sprint in the end. Since the concession stands and other transaction points have to be in place first, the SIX employees are always among the last to be able to begin their work on site. Yet everything has to function properly before the event grounds open. Which brings us back to those hundredths of seconds.