Fresh snow, formidable champions and above all bags of enthusiasm: skiing was booming in the Seventies and fans were all focused on Gustav Thoeni, one of the greats in the history of Italian skiing. Which had just been changed by the Valanga Azzurra, the national team who triumphed in the giant slalom at Berchtesgaden on 7 January 1974, with Piero Gros, Gustav Thoeni, Erwin Stricker, Helmuth Schmalzl and Tino Pietrogiovanna taking the top five places in the final ranking.
Bielmonte, the ski resort “invented” and promoted by Ermenegildo Zegna, was in full swing in that decade and entered the annals of the sport thanks to two exceptional events: the 1976 and 1977 “Parallelo di Natale”. The 1976 Parallelo saw all the Azzurri in action on the slopes of Bielmonte, not only the four aces Thoeni, Gros, Radici and Bieler but all the rest as well, including Diego Amplatz, Paolo De Chiesa, Bruno Confortola, Giuseppe Oberfrank, Bruno Nokler, Herbert Plank and Erwin Strinker.
The athletes raced on two parallel tracks laid out in Bielmonte by national coach Thoma. Watched by a huge public, the event featured 20 or so gates and was won by the Valle d’Aosta skier Franco Bieler (also winner at the 1975 Parallelo at Pontedilegno), who received the Lancia gold trophy. Participants at the 1977 Alitalia-sponsored Parallelo, in addition to the Valanga Azzurra, included famous names from the international World Cup circuit, such the Hemmi brothers, Wenzel, Frommelt, Fournier and other athletes in the Austrian national team.
Representing Italy were Thoeni, Bieler, Gros, Nocker, Plank, Radici, Stricker, Bernardi, De Chiesa, Burini, Mally and David. The public were concentrated on Bieler, winner of the previous year’s event, but it was Wenzel who finished first, ahead of Burini and Radici after the Valle d’Aosta champion took a fall.
Those unforgettable moments and the biggest talents in the history of Italian skiing who were the protagonists will be back to set us dreaming: on 20 January Bielmonte is celebrating the 60th anniversary of the Monte Marca ski-lift with the 3rd “Gara dei sogni NAST – Nazionale Artisti Ski Team” (NAST – National Artists Ski Team – Dream Race), during which a number of artists headed by Luca Jurman will race against old time ski stars like Gustav Thoeni, Kristian Ghedina, Franco Bieler, Pietro Vitalini, Maria Rosa Quario, Deborah Compagnoni and Karen Putzer.
Before this event, there will be a Giant Slalom open to all, at 18.00. From amongst the best times (approaching or bettering Giorgio Rocca’s), one skier will be selected to take part in a week-end of training with the NAST artists. The exceptional night-time parallel event between the Nazionale Artisti Ski Team and the Valanga Azzurra will start at 21.00. The Race is also designed to raise public awareness of young people with disabilities and raise funds for associations that support them.