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A story from the newspaper archive:

The first skis arrived in the Montafon 120 years ago

A short insignificant article appeared in the 15th January 1895 issue of the Vorarlberger Volksblatt, and anyone reading it would never have believed that the “wooden planks” described therein would make such a profound impression on the lives of the Montafoners during the 20th century. These first skis were heading for Gaschurn, and were called “ski shoes” by the writer of the article. This was how he described them:

“The wooden planks, approx. 2 – 2½ m long, and narrow like skates, with pointed bent-up tips, were viewed with great curiosity and disbelief by bystanders. Nobody knew what they were for, and no-one could see how they could be used with any freedom of movement, especially on narrow pathways. Would they ever be usable here?”

The aforementioned skis, as was usual at the end of the 19th century, were probably imported from Scandinavia, where at that time downhill skiing was not widespread. Instead, skis were used as a means of getting around on flat terrain, in other words cross-country skiing. Ski pioneers, such as Mathias Zdarsky from Lilienfeld, and the Vorarlbergers Viktor Sohm, Georg Bilgeri (both from Bregenz) and Hannes Schneider (from Stuben am Arlberg), invested countless hours developing the necessary techniques and adapting the skis (by making them shorter) to accommodate the requirements of downhill skiing. So the answer to the question raised in the newspaper article regarding the suitability of skis in the Montafon is a resounding “yes”!

In the winter of 1905/06 the valley’s first winter sports clubs were founded in Schruns and Tschagguns. Subsequently downhill skiing developed into the massive sporting movement we know today, bringing with it the Montafon Austrian Championships, World Cup racing and, last but not least - 120 years to the day after the appearance of the newspaper article quoted above – the 2015 European Youth Olympic Festival.

(Andreas Brugger)

Originally published in: Montafon Museums - Members’ Information. Nr. 72 (1/2015). S. 10f.

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