The Skiing Industry in Austria

There is not a more successful nation in World Cup and Olympic skiing than Austria. The country competes alongside the Norwegians and then Americans in trying to claim which is the most successful country at each major event. Other countries from time to time will produce a skier of exceptional talent, but over the years this land locked country of barely 8.8 million people has produced individuals who have cemented their names in skiing history.

Along with football Skiing is the National sport of the country with 40% of all Austrians taking part in alpine skiing. Of all of the Olympic medals that Austria has won around 66% of them have been at the winter Olympics with a half of these being won in the Alpine events.

The country is surrounded by huge Alpine mountains with only a third of the country lying below 500 winters. Due to the lack of coastal waters the winters are cold and Austria has a good snow record. Many people have learned to ski as it is the simplest way to get around.

Matthias Zdarsky one of the first ski instructors

In the early days of the sports this is how people first found their way into competition. Matthias Zdarsky was one of the founders of the modern alpine skiing technique. He created steel bindings which made it possible to ski on slopes and introduce Austria’s first skin race in 1905 and taught many people how to ski.

One of the first skiing areas in Austria was Arlberg. The railway tunnel that was built in 1895 started to bring tourists into the area and when skiing was offered from around 1905 the ski resort started to build. One man who was influential is the resorts growth was Hannes Schneider who created a ski academy that trained ski instructors.

From these early years Austria had a strong ski school culture and so people who were taught how to ski, were taught to be technically proficient. The area had one of the world’s first ski clubs and is now one of the five largest ski regions in the world. Another popular area of the region to ski in is the Hochsolden resort. This was only developed after Austria had its international boundaries restored at the end of the Second World War. The area has a fine snow record and is home to more than 150kms of runs.


Franz Klammer on his way down the Hahnenkamm

The most famous ski slope in Austria is the Hahnenkamm in Kitzbuhel. It is the venue for one of the toughest races in the world and always appears on the World Cup Schedule each December. The mountain is always shaded from the sunlight at this time of year so the course often has precarious patches of ice for the competitors to deal with.

During the 1970s one of Austria’s most well-known skiers Franz Klammer made the race his own, winning it on four occasions. He was crowned the World Cup Champion for four consecutive years winning in all 25 races and at the 1976 Olympic Games he won the men’s downhill.

While Klammer was dominating the men’s downhill events during this period the 1970s were proving just as profitable of Anne Marie Kroll. She won the ladies overall world cup title for five consecutive years between 197o and 1975. In her final season of racing in 1980 she won it again plus also winning Gold at the Lake Placid Olympics in the downhill.

However, the current main man of Austrian skiing Marcel Hirscher already has a record that no skier can match. At the age of 29 he has already won the Skiing World Cup for the last 7 seasons, he has won six Gold medals at the Skiing World Championships and has also won two Olympic Gold medals. This record has him, in many expert’s eyes, as being the greatest alpine skier ever.

Austrian skiing has a reputation of producing the world’s best and a close relation to alpine skiing is ski jumping. At the 2011 Ski Jumping World Championships all five Gold Medals were won by the Austrian team.