Hall of Fame Class of 1958
Hannes Schneider followed a handful of Austrian ski pioneers who were trying to adapt Norwegian cross-country techniques to the steep Tyrolian slopes. Through his Arlberg Method he became the father of modern skiing technique.
Johann Schneider was born in Stuben in the Austrian Tyrol in 1890. Beginning his skiing at age eight, he was mentored by Victor Sohnl, an experienced skier who was experimenting with new ways to turn.
By the time he was 17, Schneider as considered the most accomplished skier in the Arlberg and was engaged by the Hotel Post in St. Anton to instruct guests on skiing. Through trial and error, he developed a system of teaching progressive classes through slow turns and gentle slopes to high speed control. It eventually would be known as the Arlberg Method, a first in ski instruction.
When World War I broke out in Europe Schneider was conscripted. He was sent first to Russia and then to the Italian front where the Austrian army adopted his system of constructive progression in teaching mountain troops.
He returned to St. Anton in 1919 where his Arlberg teaching method evolved into an internally famous ski school which was probably his greatest achievement. His method brought countless numbers of people form throughout the world to learn and enjoy the sport of skiing. In 1928 Schneider and Arnold Lunn organized the first alpine combined competition to be known as the Arlberg-Kandahar.
He was featured in several ski films which brought him further fame. In 1921 Dr. Arnold Frank, a German documentary film maker, produced history’s first ski instruction film. It was based on the Arlberg Method with Schneider demonstrating the techniques. Later Frank and Schneider combined to publish The Wonders of Skiing (Wunder des Schneschuhs) published in English in 1931.
When Hitler invaded Austria, Schneider’s school was seized and he was imprisoned in March, 1938. His release was effected almost a year later by Harvey Gibson, a New York banker who wanted to establish a ski school at Cranmore Mountain in North Conway, New Hampshire. Applying financial pressure to debt-ridden Germany, Gibson was able to negotiate the release of Schneider and his immediate family. They arrived in North Conway on February 11, 1939. Several of Hannes’ top instructors were already in the area: notably Benno Rybizka who had set up the first sanctioned American Arlberg ski school, the Eastern Slopes Ski School in Jackson, New Hampshire. Gibson placed Hannes in charge of the new Cranmore area and brought Benno Rybizka over to assist along with Hannes’ son Herbert.
As Hannes Schneider’s school progressed he became increasingly famous, an icon instructor whose methods were adopted at most of the prestigious ski resorts in the U.S.A. He spent the rest of his life in the United States influencing skiing throughout the world with his Arlberg Method. Many of his students became legendary skiers and instructors including Otto Lang and Friedl Pfeifer. He died on April 26, 1955. Hannes Schneider was elected to the U.S. National Ski Hall of Fame in 1958.
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