The Birth of Alpine Skiing
Tales of the Tyrolean Alps
In 1931, the future Nazi director Leni Riefenstahl found film work as a terrible actress in a seriously goofy comedy, Der weisse Rausch (The White Thrill). The movie featured a local ski instructor named Hannes Schneider as a daredevil skier, racing and jumping down one pristine trail after another. To everyone's surprise, the film took off internationally and put Schneider, St. Anton, and Alpine Skiing on the worldwide sporting map.
By 1936, Alpine Skiing would be added to the Olympic schedule. By the start of World War II, the entire world would be learning to ski using Schneider's Arlberg Technique—a gradual evolution from snowplowing into stemming and carving.
So the tiny village of St. Anton might be accurate in its grand claim to have invented the modern sport of Downhill Skiing—but it didn’t help Schneider. In 1938, he got in trouble with the Nazis. Snubbed in the village, hounded by Party thugs, and briefly jailed by the new regime, he eventually found a wealthy American sponsor to spring him all the way to North Conway, New Hampshire.
Nowadays, St. Anton supports hundreds of miles of trails, from bunny slopes to black pistes to helicopter skiing in the high Arlberg. But the sport and its equipment have moved on. It's doubtful that many of the young skiers you see today would know why the Schneider name appears on every other business in the village.