Kaprun, Austria | C.1909

Photo Credit: Camilla Lubecka

Don’t worry, this trolley isn’t lost. Sitting high above the small Austrian town of Laprun, this little cabin sits at the ready for any avid alpine skier as a launching point for a designated “racetrack.” Projecting themselves forward from inside the cozy cable car, hundreds of skiers a day take on a snow-laden path with no asphalt roads or automobiles to be found. Open all year, the ski slopes of Kitzsteinhorn are a quintessential spot to try one’s luck at the “Austrian way” of skiing. 

Austria’s location in the Alps has made it a continual formidable force in the world of competitive skiing, with hundreds of ski schools within its borders—but skiing in the country wasn’t always about competition. Before the turn of the 19th Century, skiing was a form of travel, and a way to transport goods in the hard- to-reach villages of the Alpine region. Mathias Zdarsky, hailing from what is now known as the Czech Republic, is considered the “Father of Alpine Skiing.”

Taking inspiration from Norwegian ski design, Zdarsky developed skis and bindings better suited for racing downhill—designs that are still in use today. Possibly Austria’s first ski instructor, Zdarsky would demonstrate the effectiveness of his skis over the ensuing decades and would hold the first alpine ski race in 1905. Knowing the height of Austria’s mountains, Zdarsky’s feats are even more impressive knowing he only skied with one pole. Zdarsky’s accomplishments would lead to a fervent wave of ski enthusiasts, hoping to capture the Austrian techniques for taking on the slopes.

Racing down the frosty pathways of the Kitzsteinhorn, skiers embrace the methods invented years ago—with sticks in both hands. 

Written By: Seamus McMahon

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