Skiing Comes to Hinterstoder -Chapter 3
Hinterstoder is first mentioned in historical documents in 1240 by the name “Stoder” which is a Slavonic word meaning cold or stony ground. Since then various antecedent attachments have been added, “Hinter” meaning behind, “Vorder” meaning before, and “Mitter” meaning middle. It became a destination in the late 1800’s for relaxing and enjoying the beauty of Alpine scenery. It offered hunting, fishing, hiking, and just lounging for the earliest tourists.
Lack of snow is not one of Hinterstoder’s problems.
Although skiing dates back centuries and had military applications in Russia and the Nordic countries, it didn’t become a sport of the people until around 1910. Hinterstoder was a natural place where skiing could flourish because of the perfect slopes and the plentiful snow that blankets the scenery during winter. The winter sport of skiing’s popularity is another one of those happenings that enhanced Hinterstoder’s existence and made it a world class skiing location that everyone in Austria knows for that activity.
It was in the early part of the last century that skiing made its appearance in Hinterstoder in tune with the worldwide fashionableness of the sport. Skiing was still quite primitive, and skis were just made with simple planks of wood that were bent with a shaped point in front. Good sturdy hiking boots that came to the ankles and simply strapped on the midpoint of the wooden plank with leather straps were all that was required. The practice of what wax to apply to the bottom of the wood plank was raised to a high level art form. It depended on the temperature, the humidity, the water saturation of snow, plus some yet elusive secret knowledge which I cannot reveal here without risking major censure from the skiing community as well as my personal safety. The progression from primitive to more complex skis is shown in this picture taken at a museum in Hinterstoder dedicated to the Alpine experience, appropriately named the Alpineum. On the right is the simple wood plank with the leather straps. The next evolution was cable bindings. Today the skis are a complex engineering miracle, often a metal core with plastic covering of photos of very realistic looking wood, as decorations pretending to be what once was. The bindings also have made dramatic advances along with the boots, making them much safer in preventing injuries. Nevertheless, still not 100% risk free.
My first-grade teacher is the third from the left, Maria Moser, ca 1910
The transport of the skier has likewise improved. As a child in Hinterstoder, I skied to school in the winter, but the return trip home was on foot. There were days when my loyal dog, Hugin, would wait for school to let out, and he would meet me. I had a little harness that I could strap on his back and he would carry my skis or pull my sled home. But it was not every day that he would be there. Then I just had to carry them on my shoulder and trek up the hill. Here my sister and I are enticing Hugin with a snowball that he would love to chew.
Later it became much easier. Rope tows, Poma lifts, T-bars, chair lifts, and finally gondolas made their entrance. In 1960 Hinterstoder woke up from the long sleep, just like the legendary Sleeping Beauty, and joined the twentieth Century with the opening of the chair lift to the Hutterer Böden that provided world class ski runs and panoramic views that were unmatched anywhere in the world. Now the skiing crowd could ride up instead of hike up and then glide effortlessly down the ski runs. Ten years later another chair lift was built on an equally elegant ski run, the Bärenalm, that became the site of World Cup events in 1978: the men’s Giant Slalom and downhill competitions. Later it was necessary to improve the condition of the runs and subsequent World Cup and European Cup races were moved back to a refurbished and more elaborate Höss Pisten required by the World Cup rules and regulations.
View from Hutterer Böden in the summer with a lake, and just 300 feet lower another view below the lake painted by Vladimir Iwasiuk
The inaugural ride on the Bärenalm Ski Lift in 1970 with the town dignitaries Dr.Fessl, the Bürgermeister at the time, and Dr. Gleissner. This was the first step for Hintersdoder’s eventual hosting many subsequent years of Wold Cup events.
Hinterstoder joined the world of international skiing competition. Not only were there world class events taking place in Hinterstoder, but Hinterstoder was producing its own world class skiers. Hans Kniewasser was one of those. Here he is in 1962 on his way to the World Cup events which he would dominate twelve years later.
He was Austria’s foremost Slalom Skier of the 1970’s. Eventually after his skiing career he became a member of Hinterstoder’s police force.
Another Hinterstoderer who distinguished himself in both the Nagano Olympics in 1998 and multiple Wold Cup and World Championship victories from 1993 to 2003 was Hannes Trinkl. The “2a run” on the Höss runs is named for him (see map). This is a 3500 meter vertical drop with a 60-70% grade that will give even world master skiers a modicum of thigh and calf burning during the descent.
Hinterstoder women are not to be outdone. Eveline Rohregger has established herself in the upper ranks of women, skiing the Giant Slalom and Super G events in the World Championships and the World Cup. Keep in mind Super G competitors reach speeds in excess of 90 miles per hour. She is now the Racing Director of the World Cup.
Hinterstoder has all the trappings of a winter retreat for the skiing enthusiast, replete with world class runs, spectacular scenery, a rich choice of hotels, from luxury five star establishments to agriturismo farms that will take guests, restaurants featuring the local “gemütlich” atmosphere and fare of Austria, to the more continental cuisine. It is not yet the Aspen of Austria, but it is working toward it, and by several orders of magnitude has a much more dramatic and thrilling Alpine surroundings.