On the slopes with Jackie and Kirk
The ”snow-how“ of the Arlberg ski pioneers was highly coveted throughout the world. As ski instructors, coaches and managers, they helped establish famous overseas ski destinations.
A mountain cannot travel around the globe, but its name can. Even more so when it has such persuasive ambassadors as the Arlberg, namely those pioneers who, from 1950 onwards, worked as ski instructors (almost) all over the world and were the driving force behind amazing developments in the establishment of sophisticated ski resorts and made skiing internationally popular.
The up-and-coming ski destinations in the USA in particular showed great interest in the best-trained Austrian ski instructors. This opened up a wonderful opportunity for young Arlberg boys (and occasionally girls) to travel and earn a living with their beloved sport – made even more attractive back then by the high dollar exchange rate.Most of the Arlberg ski instructors worked on the American East Coast, others ended up in the Rocky Mountains and the West Coast. No matter where they worked: they were welcomed like stars in the USA and invited to teach celebrities from the worlds of politics, show business, film and television how to ski in the luxurious ski resorts.
Their main task, however, was to train the local ski instructors. The ”season“ of Austrian ski instructors finally came to an end in the USA in the 1990s, by when the Americans had caught up with training methods and infrastructure. ”Where have all the Austrians gone?“, ran the headline of a Vermont tourist magazine in the winter of 1998. Where had they gone? Back to the Arlberg to build a life for themselves at home of course. Only a few stayed abroad for good
Japan and North Conway (New Hampshire)
Hannes Schneider found a new home in America. He founded Austria’s first ski school on the Arlberg in 1921, revolutionised skiing techniques and also made a name for himself as a ski racer and actor in films such as ”Der weiße Rausch“ (The White Ecstasy). Schneider even taught his Arlberg technique in Japan, with his most famous pupil being none other than the Japanese emperor. This resulted in an ongoing partnership with the Japanese village of Nozawa Onsen, where you can still find hotels and guesthouses with Austrian names, such as Hotel Tannenhof, Hotel Kandahar Piste or Pension Schnee. He travelled to the United States for the first time in 1936, where he held ski demonstrations at Madison Square Garden. Shortly before the Second World War, Schneider emigrated with his family to the USA and built up a ski resort in North Conway (New Hampshire). He died in the States in 1955.
Sun Valley (Idaho) and Aspen (Colorado)
Friedl Pfeifer, born in 1911 in St. Anton am Arlberg, was a successful member of the Austrian national ski team. He moved to the United States in 1938, where he continued his racing career. He would later become the director of a ski school in Sun Valley, Idaho. The ski areas at Aspen Mountain (Ajax) and Buttermilk Mountain were developed with his help. He died in 1995 in Paradise Valley, Arizona. A street in St. Anton am Arlberg was recently named after Friedl Pfeifer
Stowe (Vermont) und Lake Placid (New York)
Karl Fahrner, a well-known Austrian ski racer, was born in St. Anton am Arlberg in 1929. In 1950 he went to the USA and worked in Stowe (Vermont) as a ski instructor. After working as a consultant for the Canadian Ski Federation for two years, he took over training of the Japanese national team in 1959. He then worked as a ski instructor and ski school director, first in Broadmoor (Colorado) and later at Whiteface Mountain in Lake Placid. His involvement as personal ski instructor to the family of John F. and Jackie Kennedy earned him a personal dedication from the American president. Fahrner even had his own TV show where he demonstrated skiing exercises on a studio stage. He returned to the Arlberg in 1974, where he died in 1996.
Australia, Argentina, Sun Valley (Idaho) and
What is better: to carve over a white piste, or walk down a red carpet? Ferdl Nöbl, born in 1935, is well acquainted with both. The Arlberg ski pioneer walked the red carpet at the Oscar Awards alongside Kirk Douglas, his eager ski student. Janet Leigh, Barbara Streisand and many other international stars also availed themselves of his ski instructor services. Nöbl was always in action during the winter months in the USA (including Sun Valley and Vail) and in Australia and Argentina during the summer months, where he also coached the Argentine women’s national team. ”I didn’t get to experience summer for 18 years, hardly any other Austrian ski instructor can claim that“, he once said with a smile.
Australia and Sun Valley (Idaho)
”It was the best time of my life,“ says Franz Klimmer, recalling his seasons abroad as a ski instructor. He was born in 1946 and, after passing his state ski instructor exam, set off for Australia at the age of 19 to pass on his skills. He came to Sun Valley in Idaho for the first time in 1969. Many Hollywood greats had built homes there and almost all of them wanted to learn how to ski. Franz worked as a ski instructor in Sun Valley for eight years and has flown back to the USA every year since for the past 50 years, to maintain friendships that were formed back then. ”For us, it was a wonderful opportunity to get to know the world and other lifestyles. We also enjoyed the contact with the stars of course!“
Chile and Sugar Bowl (California)
Toni Marth, who worked as a ski instructor for Othmar Schneider from Lech in Portillo/Chile in 1959, was called to California in the 1960s to coach the Sugar Bowl junior ski team and then the US-FAR WEST women's team. He and his wife, Linda, received a ”green card“ for the USA in 1964, after which they ran a ski school in Sugar Bowl for almost 30 years. This mean constantly toing and froing between Tyrol and the States for the family of four. While in California, Linda Marth home schooled her two sons, in addition to attending school herself. ”I don’t know how I managed it now, but it was a wonderful time“, she says. ”One of our boys stayed in the US and I still fly to our house at Lake Tahoe every summer. We met wonderful people and are all grateful that we were given this opportunity!“