Normally the gentle slope in front of Braunlage's town hall is a pretty quiet place during the winter. Beginning skiers practice their first turns, parents plop their children on sleds, and pensioners take some air.
But the scene was quite different on Saturday, when thousands unexpectedly turned out for a nearly naked sledging contest sponsored by a radio station. Completely taken by surprise, authorities in the small town in Lower Saxony struggled to deal with the massive crowds.
“The traffic is huge problem for us,” complained Braunlage's police chief Michael Huth.
But the logistical challenges didn't keep around 30 contestants from stripping down to their panties or briefs and racing the 100-metre course on little red and black sledges. Many of the tanned racers looked more ready for the beach than the piste, as some even bared what had to be rather chilly nipple rings.
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“We had a lot of luck with the weather,” said André Gierke from the radio station 89.0 RTL. “A proper winter for naked sledging.”
The 26-year-old Christian Schmidt from Blankenburg in Saxony-Anhalt won the race, but the crowd saved much of its applause for a 70-year-old pensioner who spontaneously stripped down to sledge the hill on his own.