Pirmin Zurbriggen was born February 4th, 1963 in Saas-Almagell, Switzerland. If he hadn't become a skier he would have been the good-neighbour, the man to marry, the person who preferred to take care of his private life rather than becoming a sport star.
The Swiss grew up in a small mountain village located near Saas-Fee, in the Wallis Canton, and became a member of the Swiss Alpine Ski Team at the age of 17.
Zurbriggen immediately proved to have a talent for Alpine Skiing and he was able to compete in all the five disciplines. Speed or technical, it made no difference for him. He grew up as a speed specialist but often ventured into the technical events such the GS. The Man from the Alps claimed his first WC victory at 18 years and 11 months, triumphing on the home soil in the prestigious 'Lauberhorn Trophy', the combined event held at Wengen on January 24th, 1982, followed by another success in San Sicario.
The Swiss was ready to rewrite some pages of Alpine Skiing history and became the first true all-rounder in the modern era of Ski racing. He rose up in the World rankings and the season later finished sixth in the overall standings, by winning two races.
He was finally recognized as a world-class skier in the successive season. Zurbriggen claimed the WC overall title, by clinching four wins, but missed out on an Olympic medal in Sarajevo, finishing fourth in the downhill by only one tenth of a second.
His rivalry with Marc Girardelli was a milestone of Alpine Ski in the mid-80's. The Swiss was calm and peaceful, the opposite to the majority of ski stars but he changed into a hunter at the starting gate. Zurbriggen attacked ski racing with incredible aggressiveness to reach his targets and he loved the danger of steep, icy and treacherous courses.
The 1985 year was a season to remember for Zurbriggen. A few weeks before the turn of the year he had broken his duck in Slalom, winning the narrow gates race at Sestriere. On January 11th, he became the first ever racer to win all five specialties of ski racing, by winning on the 'Streif' slope at Kitzbuhel. Two days later he triumphed again on the famous Austrian course but injured his knee. He underwent surgery in the United States and was able to compete three weeks later in the World Championships at Bormio, and the result was an astonishing gold medal in the downhill, gold medal in the combined and a silver medal in the GS. Words are not enough to describe the enormity of this achievement.
Zurbriggen finished as runner-up for two consecutive seasons behind the ace from Luxembourg (Girardelli), but reclaimed the coveted globe in the 1986-1987 season, thanks to 11 wins, adding three discipline titles in GS, SG and downhill. He was easily recognizable for his helmet with a black visor. In the 1987 World Championships at Crans Montana the Swiss number one collected four medals: gold in GS and SG, silver in DH and K. He lost the title to fellow team mate Peter Mueller in the downhill by 0.33 seconds, a hugely disappointment for 'Z'. The Swiss squad dominated the speed event with a 1-2-3-4 sweep.
In the upcoming 1987-1988 season the Swiss racer was eager to reclaim the WC and he managed it, adding other two small globes in the speed sector (SG and DH). Zurbriggen was the man to beat in the Olympic Games at Calgary. He arrived in Canada with the aim of taking home the grand slam of golds. He performed with perfection through the downhill, ousting the World Champion Mueller by half a second, but he returned to Europe with only two medals.
He won the bronze in the GS, missing out the podium in the SG, in the SL and in the K. In the combined competition he recorded the fastest time of the downhill run and led by more than two seconds after the first slalom run. He seemed well on his way to a second gold medal when he hooked a tip on the 39th of 57 gates on the second slalom run and ended up on his back.
Zurbriggen retained the WC title at the end of the season. In the '88-89 season Girardelli was stronger and dethroned the mighty Swiss but the Austrian-born didn't reckon without one's host. Pirmin dominated the 1989-1990 season, with a 123 points advantage over the second, Ole Kristian Furuseth of Norway. Zurbriggen lifted his fourth WC overall trophy, equalling Italy's Gustav Thoeni. His last win came on March 11, 1990 on the Norwegian snow of Hemsedal, where he snatched the success in the SG. He finished with 40 WC wins in his resume, placing him fifth in the all-time list behind Stenmark, Maier, Tomba and Girardelli.
He retired from the sport after the 1990 season and definitely belongs to the 'All-Time Greats' of Alpine Skiing. Nowadays he's a father of four kids and runs two hotels in Canton Valais: one in Zermatt and one with his parents in his native village of Saas Almagell.