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The postman in Damüls comes on skis...

…and other tales from the early days of skiing: the Damüls Ski Museum is a most appealing historical monument.

Outside the window was more snow than you can ever imagine, at least three metres of the stuff, towering above everything; and inside a certain colonel Bilgeri looked out at it dreamily. This was on a photo, taken in 1910. At that time Georg Bilgeri was not only a much sought-after young bachelor, but also probably the most innovative ski instructor of his time. Skiers have him to thank for the stem turn, as well as the double pole-plant technique without which no-one would ever make it back down the mountain today. Bilgeri came from Bregenz, a professional ski instructor in the Austro-Hungarian army and, in 1892, the first person to offer ski tuition in Gargellen. He was a Vorarlberg legend, whose memory has been somewhat forgotten. Such a fellow deserves a mention here. But the colonel is not alone:

The Vorarlberg FIS Ski Museum in Damüls, which has been recently renovated, uses photos and exhibits to tell the story of the heroes of yesteryear, a time when people went around the mountains without breathable clothing, smart phones and avalanche airbags. Here you can see skis from the earliest days of winter sports, great long wooden planks over which sealskins were stretched. And also, of course, items whose owners were responsible for writing winter sports history, such as Toni Innauer’s first skis, or the original racing skis belonging to Toni Sailer from the 1950s.

The museum in the former vicarage is based on the private collection of the naturalised Damülser Christian Lingenhöle from Bregenz who, a few years ago, thanks to the support of the local community, was able to realise his dream of founding a ski museum. The collection recalls not only Vorarlberg’s 130 years of ski history, but is also a memorial to the skiing mountain farmers of the region. It wasn’t so long ago that a dozen small firms were all producing winter sports equipment in Vorarlberg. The museum’s finest exhibit, however, has to be the uniform of the Damüls village postman. Up until a few years ago he still did his postal delivery rounds on skis - even when the snow was three metres high!

Author: Stefan Nink
Source: Vorarlberg Magazin Winterwelten

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