A couple of days ago, while video chatting with a colleague who was born and lives in Kazakhstan, I heard: ‘How lucky, you can visit Anterselva! I love that place, it’s wonderful, I want to go there too!”. I was literally stunned. I couldn’t understand how a person living in Almaty, more than 6000 km from Anterselva di Sopra (Bz), could know this Italian border town, nestled in a valley designed by the 3000-meter-plus peaks of the Vedrette di Aurina. To the question I made with wide eyes open, “Do you know Anterselva?”, my colleague replied with disarming naturalness: “Of course I know Anterselva, I love biathlon and I always watch the World Cup stage held there on TV”. Now it was all clear to me.
I think it was the first time I realized the visceral power of passion for a sport that is not one of the millionaire, mainstream sports. An authentic, sincere, and overwhelming passion, which leads you to socialize with anyone who shares it, wherever they come from in the world.
I know Anterselva, I have often been there, and I have easily fallen in love with its peace and its sky that is pushed up by rocky peaks, guarding a marvellous lake in which all this beauty is mirrored. It is a place for not for masses, and those few lucky ones are like arthouse movie lovers or true wine connoisseurs: they are people who love the mountains in their truest and least beaten form.
I have also been to the Arena Alto Adige, a few steps away from the aforementioned Lake Anterselva on one side and the Falkensteiner Hotel & Spa Anterselva on the other: it is a true temple of sport, located right under the most imposing peaks dominating this beautiful valley. As soon as I arrived at the hotel, I realized that I would only be dealing with biathlon experts. In fact, I soon found myself skiing and (attempting to) hit targets with a rifle. Maybe it was the pure natural setting, maybe it was the patience of my experienced instructor, or maybe it was the fact that I really enjoyed doing activities that I had never even imagined before, but I totally identified myself with what I was doing, in an instant. I daydreamed about the crowds united by the desire to celebrate together and only apparently divided by the support for their champions. My hand was shaking and my heart was beating fast, but also the fact that I scored two hits out of five with the Olympic rifle at my very first experience, was a unique emotion, which made me immediately understand why there are so many people who love this sport and above all made me immediately empathize with those present, probably happy to have a new admirer of the discipline among them.
Tomorrow the 2021 Biathlon World Cup stage starts in Anterselva, which will run from 21 to 24 January. The event for the first time will not have its colorful and entertaining crowd, but it will still guarantee sport at the highest planetary level since the main champions of the world’s best national delegations will be taking part. Antholz will be missing that spirit that is created between athletes and fans, between fans of different representations having fun with heart-warming dancing and drinking. Those who live in Anterselva will also miss all of this, as will those of us in the tourism industry who are used to sharing moments of joy while maintaining the necessary composure. We will host the delegations in the hotel and will certainly keep the flame alive for better times. We will live this experience in a more intimate form and we certainly feel responsible for trying to make the athletes feel that this magic exists and will soon return.
Anyone who chooses the Falkensteiner Hotel & Spa Anterselva for ski touring, hiking, or cross-country skiing will surely join us today in this strong virtual embrace of biathlon fans from around the world. In the hope that we will be able to welcome them back, even those who are new to the sport, because the Arena Alto Adige is open to all those who want to become part of this wonderful family, with the possibility of practicing the discipline every day. Long live the biathlon!