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Hubert Natter from Au lives the American dream

In 1960 Hubert flew to the USA with the Lech Olympic gold medal winner in slalom, Othmar Schneider, and taught the Americans how to ski. This article shows how a young man from the Bregenzerwald set out into the big, wide world and became wealthy through hard work.

It highlights the beginnings of skiing with the then hot spots of Arlberg, Bödele and Egg through the development of Viktor Sohm from Dornbirn. This story also shows the development of ski resorts and ski schools in America, which were created almost exclusively by Austrian know-how. Austrian ski racers and ski instructors were Austria's ambassadors in the U.S and it is thanks to them that the word 'Gemütlichkeit' entered the American vernacular.


This blog post is also available in German language.


Hubert Natter from Au at the age of 20 in Boyne Mountain, Michigan in 1960.


Hubert Natter born on 13.2.1940 is the youngest of 6 children of Hermann and Katharina Natter (Schlossars), living in Au, Kreuzgasse 355. Today we know this property as Sägerstuben.

The parental home of Hubert Natter.

The town Au is located in the valley of Bregenzerwald, Austria. The valley connects Lake Constance and the Arlberg region with the towns Lech and Zürs. It's an one hour drive away to the borders of Germany, Switzerland and Liechtenstein.

Hubert did a carpentry apprenticeship with Josef Herburger in Schoppernau. In the carpentry shop of Hugo Willi in Egg Hubert had a journeyman year. There he had quarters with the Dorner family in Egg, Klebern (today Schuhhaus Fetz). Then he worked for 2 years in the carpentry Hänsler in Au, Argenau.

Hubert's aunt Maria Natter from Au, Argenzipfel married name Raffel, emigrated to America and worked in the canteen of the Ford Motor Company in Detroit. She told Hubert during a home leave that the model carpenters at Ford, who first made new models in wood, earned very well. However, he needed a green card for that and for that you needed a guarantor in the USA. His aunt, however, did not want to take on this responsibility.


Already at the end of the 1950s Hubert played dance music together with Oskar Moosbrugger, Adalbert Bischof and Hermann Kaufmann, all from Au.

When Sepp Moosbrugger from Egg founded the Rogledis together with his brother Elmar, Oskar Moosbrugger and Hubert Natter were part of the original formation. Hubert played the accordion and the bass.

The Rogledis.

From left to right: Elmar and Sepp Moosbrugger, Hubert Natter, Oskar Moosbrugger.

Hubert Natter became famous in Egg when he serenaded the passing churchgoers sitting at the open window of the Dorner house in Klebern on Good Friday.

The Rogledis in the Ochsensaal in Egg.

From left to right: Elmar and Sepp Moosbrugger, Hubert Natter, Johnny Moosbrugger.


In 1959 Hubert Natter, together with Lothar Fetz from Schwarzenberg, took the ski instructor exam in Obergurgl, Tyrol, according to the strict criteria of ski pope Professor Kruckenhauser. Afterwards the two gave ski courses at the Bödele in the ski school of Albert Fetz.

The Berghof Fetz on the Bödele, opened in 1958.


In the fall of 1960, Hubert received a call from the shoemaker Werner Albrecht (Buonar), Au.

He told him that Othmar Schneider from Lech had taken over a ski school in the USA and that he was looking for a ski instructor who could also play music.

Werner took the journeyman's exam in Rankweil in 1954 together with the Egg shoemaker Konrad Dorner (Dorner Electronic). After the exam, Martin Strolz, a ski boot maker from Lech, appeared, together with Othmar Schneider. Strolz was looking for good shoemakers.

At that time, about 20 shoemakers worked at Strolz. The leather ski boots were almost exclusively exported to the USA. The sales manager in America was the brother of ski manufacturer Franz Kneissl. Werner accepted and was then employed in Lech until his retirement.

Martin Strolz was on the Austrian national team and was runner-up in the downhill world championship in Åre, Sweden, in 1954.

Werner Albrecht and Hubert Natter met at the farmers' ball in the Krone in Schoppernau. There Hubert learned in detail why Othmar Schneider wanted to talk to him. Hubert met Othmar Schneider in Lech, who offered him a job as a music-making ski instructor in Michigan, USA. Hubert accepted immediately. On December 22, 1960, the American adventure was to begin.


The Boyne Mountain ski resort in Michigan, USA.

Boyne City is located in the Midwest of the USA, in the far north, near the Canadian border and has today about 3800 inhabitants.

Boyne Resorts was founded in 1947 by Everett Kircher, Jim Christianson and John Norton. They purchased a steep hill in northern Michigan for $1 from former Senator Pierson. Then the co-founders purchased a single - chair lift from Sun Valley in Idaho for $5,000 and installed it at their resort in Northern Michigan as their first lift. This chairlift was the first ever built at Sun Valley and is still in operation today, having been upgraded several times.

The hill was christened Hemlock after the single Hemlock tree (center of picture in front of the brush).


Everett Kircher, born 1916 in Detroit, Mich.

In the 1930s, his passion for skiing was evident in the construction of one of the first rope-operated ski lifts north of Detroit, which he lit with the headlights of his truck.

Eventually, in 1947, he became the youngest licensed Studebaker dealer in the country and was able to participate in the postwar boom of the automotive industry.

Kircher experimented with snow cannons as early as the beginning of the 1950s. He is considered one of the fathers of the snow gun.

The beginnings at Boyne Mountain Resort.

In 1953, Kircher hired the Norwegian Stein Eriksen as ski school director. Eriksen became Olympic champion in the giant slalom in Oslo in 1952. He practiced the Norwegian style with a lot of counter shoulder and elegance. Stein was a very handsome man with charisma and he became the first superstar in the American ski circus.

From the 1950s, a Pro Tour was organized in the USA. Many of the international ski stars took part in these races, as it was possible to earn money here. Austrian racers came to America for the first time.


Stein Eriksen left Boyne Mountain after the 1959/1960 season to become ski school director in Deer Valley, Utah.


Othmar Schneider born 1928 in Lech was an Austrian ski racer. Schneider attended the Bregenz Commercial Academy and began studying pharmacy at the University of Innsbruck in 1949. He celebrated numerous victories in international ski races in the first half of the 1950s and won the gold medal in the slalom and the silver medal in the downhill at the 1952 Winter Olympics. He was named Austria's Sportsman of the Year by Austrian sports journalists in 1952.


Othmar Schneider went to the 1952 Olympics in Oslo as the favorite in the downhill. There he succeeded 'only' the silver medal. In the slalom as an outsider, he then made the gold medal, ahead of Stein Eriksen from Norway.


Trude Jochum - Beiser, born in Lech in 1927 must also be mentioned in this context.

She won the gold medal in downhill at the Oslo Olympics. Trude Jochum - Beiser was Austria's sportswoman of the year in 1952.

Back in 1948 at the Olympics in St. Moritz, Switzerland Trude Beiser won the silver medal in the downhill and the gold medal in the combined. Later Trude said, "St. Moritz 1948 was a culture shock for me. At home, we were struggling for the bare necessities after the war, here - just a few kilometers away - there was coffee with whipped cream and Malakofftorte. For the first time in my life, I felt privileged."

In 1948 she married Alois Jochum and gave birth to son Alfred in 1949.

At the 1950 World Championships in Aspen, Colorado, she won the silver medal in the giant slalom and the gold medal in the downhill.

After that, Trude withdrew into private life. In the winter of 1951/1952, she was persuaded to compete once again at the Olympic Games in Oslo.

The Jochum family later built the Hotel Olympia in Lech am Arlberg.


Vorarlberger Nachrichten 6.3.1952

The Olympic champions from Lech.


In the spring of 1952, Othmar Schneider participated with other Austrians in a pro race in Stowe in the state of Vermont, USA.

Othmar Schneider talks about the Oslo Olympics and his trip to Stowe. (in English).

Othmar Schneider was hired by the Stowe Resort operator to train his ski instructors for the remainder of the winter season.


In 1953 Othmar broke off his studies and increasingly participated in the pro races in America.

In 1960 at the Olympic Games in Squaw Valley, California, he was the leader of the Austrian Olympic Ski Team. After that, pro races were again held in America. It was at a race in Aspen, Colorado that Everett Kircher and Othmar Schneider met. Kircher offered Schneider the management of his ski school at Boyne Mountain. Othmar accepted.

In 1960, Othmar Schneider also took over the ski school in Portillo, Chile. From then on, Othmar Schneider had work in Chile in the summer and in the USA in the winter.


Othmar Schneider tells of the beginnings in Portillo, Chile and Boyne Mountain, USA. (in English).


At least for the ski school in Michigan, Othmar hired mainly ski instructors from Salzburg and Tyrol. There he needed 35 to 45 ski instructors. The ski instructors got a visa for 5 months from the end of December to the end of May.


Othmar Schneider drove with his ski instructors via Tyrol to Munich airport on December 22, 1960. Hubert Natter was the only Vorarlberger. The policeman Willi Winkler from Bezau took him to Munich in his sports car. On the luggage carrier was the ski bag with three pairs of Kästle skis. Hubert's accordion was also in the luggage.

Othmar's ski instructors were allowed to take 10 pairs of Kästle skis with them to America. Most of the ski instructors did the same and later sold the skis in the USA. Kästle also wanted to be present on the big USA market. In the following years they were no longer so generous.

From Bregenz it started to rain and the road was slippery. The two arrived late in Munich, when the plane to Frankfurt just took off. Now they went through the night in the bars in Munich. Hubert wanted to go home the following morning, but he was afraid that he would be laughed at home. So they went to the airport and Othmar got the same Lufthansa flight as the day before. For Hubert it was the first time in a plane. In his pocket he had just 8 dollars.

In Frankfurt, a lot of black GIs, who were stationed in Germany and flew home on Christmas leave, boarded the plane. Now the trip was to New York. Hubert did not speak a word of English. In New York he followed the crowds and somehow got to the North Western Airline Terminal for the onward flight to Detroit.

Othmar Schneider left a ski instructor at the airport, because more ski instructors from home were expected that day. Hubert's name was called and now the troop was complete again. By bus they now headed north to Boyne Mountain.

The way led over the highway Interstate 75 to Gaylord. There the driver said that we would be in the mountains in half an hour. But Hubert did not see any mountains.

Arriving at Boyne Mountain, Hubert discovered that the mountain was actually a hill.

The chairlift at Hemlock had meanwhile been upgraded to a two-person chairlift.


Franz Trauner from Salzburg and Hubert Natter.

Since there were two in the ski school with the name Hubert and one Herbert, Othmar Schneider suggested giving one a nickname. From then on, Hubert Natter was called Sepp. Today he says that apart from his banker, no one in the USA knows that his name is actually Hubert.


Everett Kircher's patented Duckbill snow cannon.

The artificial snow was mixed with the natural snow and formed a compact, dense snow layer.


The lodge with 24 rooms and a heated outdoor pool was built in 1953.

The heated outdoor pool.


More rooms were added with Boyne Hof Lodge in 1959.


The ski school with the sports store and accommodation for ski instructors.

The daily routine of Hubert Natter. Othmar Schneider is said to have been a very professional leader, but also an absolute perfectionist. He understood very well Professor Kruckenhauser's doctrine that he was an ambassador for Austrian skiing in America.

At 7:00 a.m. was day wake-up. For warm-up training, they climbed up the slope and practiced their turns until they were perfectly in sync. Guests ate breakfast while watching the ski instructors make their turns.

Regular lessons were from 10:00 am to 12:00 pm and from 2:00 pm to 4:00 pm. Private lessons were offered from 9:00 am to 10:00 am, from 12:00 pm to 2:00 pm and from 4:00 pm to 5:00 pm.

Afterwards, the ski instructors went to the bar with their students. Hubert then fetched his accordion and played music with his ski instructor colleagues.


Everett Kircher had an airport built in Boyne City as early as the 1950s.

From now on, accessibility from the major American cities was given.

After the first season, Hubert flew back home in May 1961. He earned $800 in 5 months on the ski course. Room and board were included and the ski instructors paid only 20 percent for drinks. The dollar was 23 Austrian shillings at that time. In addition, one was allowed to keep 50 percent of the private lessons. The ski school also paid for the round-trip airfare. Hubert came home with 1600 dollars. Since there was no running water in his parents' house in Au, Hubert used the money to build his parents a bathroom.


In the summer Hubert worked at the construction company Rüscher in Au and also played dance music with the Rogledis again.


In December 1961 Hubert was again Sepp in America.

The snow guns were running and they were ready for another Michigan winter season.


In front of the lodge was an ice skating rink where ice hockey was played on Thursday evenings. The ski instructors were responsible for ice maintenance. The resort had a very good ice hockey team, which included some ski instructors like Hubert.

At one point they played a team that included Detroit Red Wing superstar 'Gordie' Howe. However, they had no chance against this team.


The Swiss Walter Bläsi and Hubert Natter.

Hubert shared the small room with the bunk bed with Walter Bläsi all 4 winter seasons.

Walter Bläsi was later the double in the James Bond movie 'On her Majesty's secret service', and skied down the Schilthorn during the shooting in Mürren, Switzerland.


Again a season came to an end and again Hubert came home with 1600 dollars. This time Hubert built his mother a garden wall. Katharina was said to have had the most beautiful garden in Au.

This summer Hubert worked for his father at the sawmill in Au.


In December 1962 he went again to the ski school of Othmar Schneider in America.

Hubert Natter.


This winter it was unusually warm in Boyne and the season had to end already in March. Hubert decided to go to California with a Swiss and an East German colleague. Without further ado, they bought a car and set off. The destination was Fairfax County in the San Francisco Bay Area. The brother of one of the two colleagues worked there. They was also able to work there for another month and earn some extra money.

After that they went home again. This time Hubert bought a VW Beetle with his savings.


In December 1963, Hubert was again ready for the flight across the big pond.

Hubert Natter.

Hubert Natter.

Hubert Natter with his colleague Glanzl from Lienz, Tyrol.


The ski school regularly organized ski races. The aim was to beat the Olympic champion Othmar Schneider. From time to time this also succeeded. Othmar had always been a good loser.

The ski instructor from Salzburg Robert Kirchschläger.


The evening meal was a problem for the ski instructors. It had to be taken at 4:00 pm. Often one still had private lessons and one had to go to the bar with the guests. After that, the food was usually cold.

Guests from the neighboring Gaylord noticed this and talked about it with Hubert. Leo and Minnie Schlang ran the Bavarian Inn in Gaylord. Without further ado, they invited the entire ski school to dinner. The only condition was that the ski instructors brought their instruments and played.

Gaylord, Michigan 1960.

Schlang's Bavarian Inn.

There they offered the musicians to play once a week on Saturday evening at the Bavarian Inn. The ski instructors were now picked up by the son and also brought home again. The Americans liked the alpine music and happy hours were experienced.


Boyne Mountain was home to the world's first triple chairlift in 1963 and the world's first quad chairlift in 1964.

Salzburg ski instructor Herbert Thayer from St. Johann im Pongau.

Herbert Thayer was employed in Portillo, Chile during the summer. From 1965 he was ski school director in Jacksonhole, USA. Thayer founded the ski school at Kitzsteinhorn in 1967. He was Austrian men's coach from 1967 to 1971 (Karl Schranz to Hansi Hinterseer). At the Kitzsteinhorn he built up the biggest ski camps together with his brother. Countless world-class skiers trained at his facility on the Kitzsteinhorn.


This winter, guests Mary and Jack Bentley were regular weekend visitors to Boyne Mountain. Both were physicians. Hubert was their private ski instructor. They asked Hubert if he would like to stay in America altogether. Hubert would have liked that, but there was the problem of residency and the green card.

The Bentleys offered to help Hubert. They were friends with then-Senator McNichols. Hubert visited him in his office. The senator filled out the green card application papers and designated his daughter as Hubert's guarantor.

After four months, Hubert received the coveted green card. Now he could stay in America as long as he wanted.


Othmar Schneider tells of his ski instructors making music, which also features Hubert Natter with his accordion, and of the South American ski students who were always late for lessons. (in English).

At the 'Summer Ski World Championships' in Portillo, Chile in 1966, Othmar Schneider was slope manager and course setter.

In 1967 Othmar Schneider built the Hotel Kristiania in Lech. Othmar Schneider married Irmgard Huber (Huber jersey) from Götzis in 1968.

1976 was the last winter season for Othmar Schneider at Boyne Mountain. He had already quit in Portillo in 1970. He handed over the ski school to his ski instructor Walter Amann from Schnifis.

Walter Amann came from the Adler Inn in Schnifis.

He was later also well known in the Bregenzerwald as a long-time representative of the company Summer Weine in Klaus.


After ski racing, Othmar Schneider succeeded in a second career in sport shooting. He became 34-time Austrian national champion (17 individual and team titles each) and took part in two world championships as well as three European championships. However, due to his former job as a professional skier, it was not possible for him to participate in the Olympics as a sport shooter.

At the 1974 World Championships in Thun, Schneider won the bronze medal in the team event with the free pistol, and a year later he also won bronze in the team event at the European Championships in Bucharest, this time with the centerfire pistol. Schneider then became coach of the Austrian sport shooters. He led them to the 1976 Summer Olympics, where Rudolf Dollinger won the bronze medal in free pistol.

Othmar Schneider passed away in 2012.


Hubert Natter said goodbye to the Boyne Mountain ski school after the winter season in the spring of 1964 and moved to Gaylord. There he got a job at Schlang's Bavarian Inn. He was girl for everything - from janitor to bar keeper.

Hubert says today that the Schlangs were his second parents. Leo Schlang came from Bavaria and his wife Minnie from Essen, Germany.

Son Robert Schlang got a crash course on the bass from Hubert. Pictured here at the Bavarian Inn with Robert's wife Nellie and Leo Schlang on the devil fiddle.

Hubert says today that playing music with the Americans opened many doors for him.


Schlang's Bavarian Inn.

Minnie and Leo Schlang.

Hubert stayed at the Bavarian Inn for two years. Here he also met his future wife Margot Rau. She was from Heidelberg, Germany and they were married in 1966. The Natters lived in a small house next to the Bavarian Inn.

Otsego County Herald Tribune 5/19/1966

Margot worked at the Hidden Valley Country Club , where many of the wealthy Detroiters, like the Ford family, were members.

Leo Schlang offered the two a 50 percent partnership in the restaurant. However, Margot and Hubert did not actually want to work in the hospitality industry.


Hubert now applied for and got a job as a model carpenter at the Ford Motor Company in Detroit.



But Hubert didn't like it in the big city, which was then plagued by racial unrest. After two months, he went back north to Gaylord. He started his own business and began working as a carpenter and joiner. His company was called Sepp's Four Seasons Builders.

Along the way, he attended master builder school for a year in the capital city of Lansing, Michigan.

After graduation, he was now allowed to build houses. The young couple received a building lot in Gaylord as a wedding gift from Margot's aunt. Hubert and Margot built their home together with friends in Gaylord in 1966. Cost of materials: $24,000, construction fees $850



Hubert started his company, hired workers, and in 1969 he built the first house for a customer.


There was a lot of land in northern Michigan at the time, just waiting to be built on. Land prices were moderate and city dwellers were drawn to the countryside. In 1970, Hubert built a model home so his clientele would have a spatial idea of what a house would look like. This was new in the area at the time and Hubert was very successful with it.

In 1970, Hubert had contact with a gentleman who wanted to develop a golf resort in Gaylord with homes that were sold as condominiums. The problem was that the resort operator could not get a liquor license for his clubhouse. Licenses were issued by the state strictly by resident and by acreage, much like pharmacy licenses in Austria. Hubert knew that Leo Schlang had a second license that he did not need. He now arranged this contact and Leo Schlang sold the license to the operator for expensive money. Thus Hubert had a foot in the door of the new resort.


Hubert Natter's company built about 300 houses on the Michaywé Resort from 1970. He employed about 20 workers and built the shell in wood and the interiors. Other work he subcontracted to other companies. He always sold complete turnkey houses. Today there are about 1000 houses on this resort.

Houses and condominiums built by the company Sepp's Four Seasons Builders.

A beautiful video that shows the area of Northern Michigan.


In the early 1970s, the city fathers of Gaylord decided to give their city a structural Alpine image. Many of the new house facades were designed and made by Hubert Natter. It was also then that the annual Alpine Festival came into being. In the meantime, it has become a week-long folk festival with countless events.

Hubert also built this facade.

Some examples that show how Hubert Natter gave the city of Gaylord an alpine image.

By the way, Pontresina in Switzerland is Gaylord's twin town.


The Natter couple did not have any children, so Josef Michael was adopted in 1973 and Tanya in 1976. Hubert rarely came to his home in the Bregenerzwald. His wife visited her family in Heidelberg with the children during the school vacations. Hubert says today that he is very sorry that he did not have more time for his family. He had only ever worked.

In 1982, Hubert's wife Margot died of cancer. Margot's aunt now moved in with Hubert and took care of the children.


Ten years later, he met Diana. She was divorced and had 3 children and a dry cleaning chain.

In 1993 they were married in the parish church in Au.

Hubert's former parental home at Kreuzasse 355 in Au im Bregenzerwald

The wedding took place in Au on May 1. 1993.


The Empire of Everett Kircher.

Boyne Resorts' portfolio currently includes Michigan's two premier mountain and golf resorts, The Highlands and Boyne Mountain, as well as the Inn at Bay Harbor in Michigan; Big Sky Resort in Montana, founded in 1970 by the late Chet Huntley; Brighton Ski Resort in Big Cottonwood Canyon near Salt Lake City, Utah; The Summit at Snoqualmie in Washington; Loon Mountain in New Hampshire; Sugarloaf, Sunday River and Pleasant Mountain in Maine; Cypress Mountain near Vancouver, British Columbia - official venue for freestyle skiing and snowboarding at the 2010 Winter Olympics; Gatlinburg Sky Lift near Great Smokey Mountains National Park in Gatlinburg, Tennessee.

Boyne Mountain Resort today.

The ski area today.

Other innovations include the introduction of snowmaking. Under the leadership of Everett Kircher, Boyne Resorts invented the Boyne Snowmaker, the first efficient snowmaker widely recognized as the standard for low-temperature snowmaking. It combined small amounts of air and electricity with large amounts of water, resulting in a highly efficient snowmaking system with energy savings and minimal noise. Also under the direction of Everett Kircher, Boyne Resorts pioneered the development of snowmaking equipment and many techniques that are still used today.

The desire to keep his team members busy between ski seasons gave Kircher the idea of offering golf and attracting summer visitors to Boyne Mountain - an idea was introduced to by a friend. Using his father's ancient Ford farm tractor, he built a sporty nine-hole, par-3 course near the ski area's Main Lodge. For decades, the Hemlock course was a favorite among Boyne Mountain guests.

After purchasing Harbor Highlands Ski Area in nearby Harbor Springs and expanding the ski facilities there, Kircher turned his attention to golf. Renowned architect Robert Trent Jones Sr. was commissioned to design the 18-hole Heather course, which opened in 1966. In 1967, the Heather course was ranked among the "Top 100 Courses in the U.S." by Golf Digest. This sparked the golf boom in northwest Michigan, which is now known as America's summer golf capital.

Five other world-class golf courses have been built at The Highlands and Boyne Mountain, along with golf stores, driving ranges and practice greens. These include Arthur Hills, Donald Ross Memorial and The Moor at The Highlands, and The Alpine and The Monument at Boyne Mountain.

Three unique nine-hole golf courses, designed by veteran architect Arthur Hills in collaboration with Kircher's son Stephen Kircher, are also part of the Northern Michigan landscape on the shores of Lake Michigan near Petoskey. Bay Harbor Golf Club features the longest freshwater shoreline in the country and is consistently ranked as a top course in numerous national golf rankings.

Everett Kircher passed away in 2002.


In 2005 Hubert built his last house. It was time to retire. This house he built for himself and his wife Diana.

The house is located in Gaylord, Michigan, right on Lake Otsego.

The view from Diana's and Hubert's front porch. The American flag flies proudly. Hubert still speaks his broad Auer dialect. He definitely has realized his American dream.


Like many wealthy Americans, Diana and Hubert bought a home in warm Florida, in the Gulf of Mexico. Now Diana and Hubert spend the winter months in Osprey, Florida and the summer months in Gaylord, Michigan.

The Natter Home in Florida, USA.


A short time later, they also flirted with the idea of buying a house in the Bregenzerwald, preferably in Hubert's hometown of Au. Since there was nothing suitable on the preferred sunny side, they were finally able to purchase a house in Egg on the Kaltenbrunnen in 2010. This was then renovated and the Natters now spend their 'home leave' from September to the beginning of November on the Kaltenbrunnen.

The house 'Schatzi' in my hometown of Egg in the Bregenzerwald valley.

The view from the living room.

The view on Egg.



In 2019, Hubert's son Josef (Seppi) passed away. Daughter Tanya is married in Texas and has a daughter.


Diana and Hubert Natter in Switzerland in front of the Matterhorn.


Hubert builds houses to this day, but in a smaller format.

Thank you Hubert for your friendship.


As always, the best comes at the end.

How Hannes Schneider took the Arlberg ski technology out into the world.

Hannes Schneider's birth in 1890 came at a time of great upheaval. The small village of Stuben - once founded as a warming station for travelers over the Arlberg Pass - was sidelined after the opening of the Arlberg Railway; it was even threatened with relocation. The Schneider family originally came from Marul, Josef Schneider had worked in a quarry during the construction of the Arlbergbahn and was now employed as a path maker. In April 1889 he married Filomena Matdies from St. Jakob am Arlberg in Stuben. The first-born son was christened Johann Baptist; it was not until the 1920s that he was to be called Hannes (probably for better publicity). He grew up with four siblings - brothers Josef Anton, Alois and Friedrich and sister Juliana - in Stuben.

The Schneider family around 1905.

At the turn of the 19th and 20th centuries, the first skiers found their way to the Arlberg. In 1900, the young Johann Schneider saw, in his own words, the first skiers in Stuben: Viktor Sohm, Max Madlener and Karl Gruber. The encounter with Viktor Sohm was later to have far-reaching consequences.


The young Johann Schneider found his mentor in Viktor Sohm, who gave the decisive impetus to skiing on the Arlberg at the beginning of the 20th century. As early as 1887, Sohm had experimented on the Gebhardsberg with a pair of skis imported by his brother. After a stay in the USA, he continued his skiing experiments at the end of the 19th century and was soon able to gather like-minded people around him. Very soon Sohm and his comrades-in-arms also undertook tours to the Arlberg region.


Ski pioneer Viktor Sohm.

Viktor Sohm was born in Dornbirn-Oberdorf in 1869 as the son of Johann Michael Sohm (accountant) and Elisabeth Sohm (birth name Stieffel). When he was two years old, the family moved to Heidelberg, the birthplace of his mother. As early as 1873, the family took up residence again in Vorarlberg, in Bregenz. His father opened a bank and exchange business in Bahnhofstraße.

He attended elementary school in Bregenz, the commercial school in the Mehrerau and the industrial school in Freiburg (Switzerland), did an apprenticeship in his father's bank in Bregenz. From 1887 to 1890 and in 1893 Viktor Sohm was employed by an uncle in a brewery in the USA and learned how to brew beer. He worked as a brewer in Augsburg, Geneva, Munich, Winterthur and Zurich until around 1900.

He then founded a sporting goods store in Bregenz at Bahnhofstrasse 10. In 1926 Sohm moved to Switzerland for professional reasons.

Then in 1899 he intensified his interest in skiing and was able to attract a large number of other athletes to the sport. On January 1, 1900, together with Josef Ostler and Hermann Hartmann, he skied the first ascent of the Schesaplana, which was followed by many more summit ascents in winter.

Viktor Sohm with his ski tripod in 1902.

In 1903, he submitted the first plans for a ski jump at Bödele and he also built the first ski jump at Lank on the spot where there is still a ski jump today. He attended a ski course with the Norwegian Leif Berg in Lenzerheide (Switzerland) in 1905 and then held ski courses himself in Vorarlberg, Tyrol and Switzerland.

He favored the "Norwegian" ski technique and spread it in his courses. The first course took place in November 1905 in Stuben am Arlberg. The most famous course participants of the first round were Hannes Schneider (birth name: Johann Schneider) and Albert Mathies (later Sohm's brother-in-law). Other participants: Fritz Iklé, Ferdinand Schallert, Franz-Josef Mathies (Avalanche Franz Josef), Engelbert Strolz, Theresia Mathies (later Sohm's wife). Another well-known ski student of Sohm was Sepp Bildstein, who also became a friend of Sohm.

Already in 1905 Viktor Sohm was president of the Central European Ski Association.

Vorarlberger Volksfreund 8.12.1905

At the 6th Austrian Ski Championship (sixth association race of the Austrian Ski Association) on February 3-4, 1912 on the Bödele near Dornbirn in the then crown land of Vorarlberg, the Vorarlberg Ski Association (VVS) was responsible. Viktor Sohm was in charge of the overall management. Already in the years before, the VVS had organized the annual Bödele ski race.

Viktor Sohm at the Bödele.

Already in 1902 Viktor Sohm discovered the Egger mountains as an ideal skiing area. With his friends from Lindau he took ski tours in the area Brongen, Schetteregg, Gülke. They spent the night in the Rössle in Ittensberg.

In 1908, the Egg Ski Club was founded under the leadership of stationmaster Hans Gamohn.

Vorarlberger Volksfreund 14.2.1908

Gemeindeblatt 24.1.1909

The ski jump stood on the steep church hill down into the Melisau.


In November 1920, Viktor Sohm took over the management of the Vorarlberg Skiers' Association, which had been founded on October 14, 1905 in the Hotel Rhomberg in Dornbirn.

Hotel Rhomberg, Dornbirn, Bahnhofstrasse.


The founding of the Arlberg Ski Club on January 3, 1901, at the Hospiz St. Christoph also took place at that time. Under the leadership of Rudolf Gomperz and Carl Schuler, the club provided important impulses for the promotion of skiing on the Arlberg and also for the training of the young skier Johann Schneider. However, the latter initially received special support from Viktor Sohm.

As early as 1903, at the age of just 12, the young Schneider was able to demonstrate his talent in the first internal club race of the Arlberg Ski Club. Later, he took part in the first ski competitions on the Bödele, where he achieved victory in the senior jump race. His successes soon made him well-known and, through the mediation of Fritz Iklé, he received an invitation to work as a ski instructor in Les Avants in Switzerland.


Ski course in Zürs am Arlberg with Viktor Sohm in 1906.


The ski race of SC Arlberg on Ascension Day 1907.

Innsbrucker Nachrichten 13.5.1907


At the same time, however, Schneider was invited by the innkeeper at St. Anton's leading Hotel Post and Rudolf Gomperz, who had settled in St. Anton in 1905 and taken over the chairmanship of the Arlberg Ski Club in 1906, to work as a ski instructor for the Arlberg Ski Club at the Hotel Post.

"I preferred to stay at home and in my mountains" was Schneider's motto, and he was certainly encouraged in his decision by his parents. So in December 1907 he started his new job as a ski instructor in St. Anton.

Arlberg technique and school.

There was no method of teaching skiing before the First World War - rather, it consisted of demonstration and imitation. Although a "considerable number of participants" already took advantage of Schneider's lessons in the first years in St. Anton, he still had plenty of time to develop his technique. His goal was to enable safe downhill skiing at high speed, because he understood the attraction of alpine skiing in the downhill, not in touring. He tried to push snowplow, stem turn and the so-called Stemmchristiania and rejected the Telemark.


Ski films and Arlberg-Kandahar.

Even before the First World War, Dr. Arnold Fanck had become aware of the skier Hannes Schneider. With him, he made the film "Miracle of the Snowshoe" in 1920, which showed the skiing of the time.

In Schneider he found the ideal actor for his films. Thus a new genre of film was born: "The German Mountain Film", whose two most famous - and more or less the only protagonists besides Fanck - were subsequently Leni Riefenstahl and Luis Trenker.

In the silent films of the 1920s, Hannes Schneider played the skier or mountaineer in each case. He embodied a type of the man from the mountains, closely connected with nature. Many of his ski instructors also appeared in smaller roles in Fanck's films.

Bludenzer Anzeiger 4.2.1922

The following films were made with the participation of Hannes Schneider.

In the Battle with the Mountain (1921), The Miracle of the Snowshoe, Part 2: Fox Hunt on Snowshoes through the Engadine (1922), The Mountain of Destiny (1924).

The White Art (1924), The Holy Mountain (1926), The Great Leap (1927), The Battle for the Matterhorn (1928), - The White Hell of Piz Palü (1929), The White Intoxication (1931).

Hannes Schneider, Leni Riefenstahl and Rudi Matt during the shooting of the film "Der weiße Rausch".


Around 1930, Hannes Schneider was at the peak of his fame: film stars and crowned heads from all over the world learned to ski at his ski school in St. Anton am Arlberg. Together with Rudolf Gomperz, Schneider had launched the so-called DAKS (Deutsche Arlberg Kurse Schneider), which attracted thousands of German guests to the Arlberg. This promotional activity is a milestone in the development of organized winter tourism.

His trip to Japan by rail, where he gave numerous lectures and demonstrated his skiing technique at the invitation of the Japanese emperor in 1930, consolidated the international fame of the skiing master.

In 1935, he conducted a promotional trip for St. Anton to France, England and Belgium. A year later, he toured the United States for the first time. Accompanied by his two ski instructors Benno Rybizka and Otto Lang, who were working in the USA, Schneider held ski demonstrations in Madison Square Garden in New York City.


After the German Wehrmacht invaded Austria in March 1938, the tide turned in Hannes Schneider's life. The new rulers - who as illegal National Socialists had not been tolerated in his ski school - arranged for his arrest and subsequent departure to Garmisch-Partenkirchen. He was not allowed to return and take over the ski school again.

Innsbrucker Nachrichten 21.9.1938

International contacts enabled the Schneider family to emigrate to the USA in 1939, where an influential financier, Harvey Dow Gibson, commissioned the famous "ski master" to build a ski resort in his hometown of North Conway (New Hampshire).

Innsbrucker Nachrichten 26.6.1940

Hannes Schneider (seated right) at a social event in North Conway.

Rudolf Gomperz - who is often underappreciated to this day - was denied this good fortune: although a baptized Protestant, he was considered a "full Jew" under Nazi racial laws. As such, he was brought to Vienna in 1942 and finally deported to Maly Trostinec and murdered.

Vorarlberger Nachrichten 7.6.1947

Hannes Schneider.

Vorarlberger Nachrichten 6.4.1949

Hannes Schneider remained in the USA after the end of the Second World War, where he died in 1955.


A great film about the life and work of Hannes Schneider (in English).


Vorarlberger Nachrichten 16.1.1950


I would like to thank the following people:

Diana and Hubert Natter, Michigan, USA for their willingness to tell their story, for the pictures and for the many information

Werner Albrecht, Au for the videos and the information

Sepp Moosbrugger, Egg for the Rogledis pictures and the information

DI Michael Manhart, Lech for the explanation of the history of the snow cannons

Irmgard Schneider, Götzis for the information

Albert Schneider, Egg for the information

Marie-Luise and Kaspar Schneider, Egg for the information

Anton Nenning, Bezau for the information

Erwin Feldkircher, Bezau for the information



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Klaus Riezler.


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