If you check out my Janury 23rd blog post about my time in Austria called “The Rodelrennen” you will see some funny things that happened along the way there. If you are a skier, at some point you will meet an Austrian. Even if you are not a skier, you will still like the stories of a very passionate and humorous people whose lives revolve around winter sports. As I said in the post, my first experience with the Austrians was on an exchange trip between U.S. and Austrian ski instructors. I was a guest for two weeks in that country and participated in the Rodelrennen(read about it), skied in many areas including the Soelden glacier where the recent World Cup opening races were held, and taught for a week in Kuhtai- a small resort near the Italian border. Witnessing the Hahnnenkamm World Cup Downhill Race, I got to see the passion of the Austrians up close and personal as 100,000+ people line the “Streif” to see their heroes rocket down the slope at nearly 90 MPH into the finish area. This race is like the Super Bowl in Austria and the whole town of Kitzbuhel buzzes with the energy of the world’s greatest ski race.
In my teaching experience over there at Kuhtai, I was reminded that the origin of ski instruction was in St. Anton, Austria. The technique of the Austrians was never questioned and the introduction of the wider stance by the PSIA American Technique was seen with a wary eye by the patrons of the Kuhtai resort. I was trying to teach them the wider, more athletic stance that the racers were using, but the ladies and gentlemen who were taking the mandatory lesson at the time would hear none of that. They wanted me to guide them basically around the resort and not try to teach them anything new especially the current teachings of the PSIA. I drank their plum schnapps and reveled with them as they all enjoyed their time in Kuhtai, but make no mistake, we were in the land of skiing- Austria. Anyone else who thought differently was a usurper to the ultimate degree.
Personally, I have met many Austrians in my skiing adventures and as much as they are a proud people who take their winter sports very seriously, they are a fun lot. Take my friend Max Katzenberger. Max was a pilot for USAirways and was proud of the fact that he was a captain and worked his way up through the Austrian military. He always walked in front of his crew and remarked to me one time that whenever he was in a holding pattern and wanted to land, he just thickened up his accent a bit and they got him down in a hurry. Another time, some guys were ignoring the flight attendants on the plane and their instructions. Max called the security at the gate and had them removed from the plane. He remarked,” I tell you guys to behave, you don’t behave, now you go to the Klink!!!” You don’t mess with an Austrian. Max was fun to ski with and was a very enjoyable host on my honeymoon with Janet. We met Max and his wife Barb in Austria and toured the country with them. They showed us his home town of Moedling and we spent some time in the Austrian wine country in the foothills of the Alps in a town named Gumpleskirchen. Max had that joyous love of life. He passed away a few years ago and he is sorely missed among the local ski community.
Josef Cabe was the ski school director at Hidden Valley Resort here in Pa. for many years. Josef and I would travel to PSIA update clinics and it was so funny to hear his big hearty laugh and his very thick accent. He constantly criticized the clinic leaders and insisted on showing them the right way to ski. He was strong as a bull and could ski most people into the ground, including the clinic leaders. In the evenings, he led the group in song with Austrian anthems and everybody loved Josef on the slope and off the slopes.
Another Austrian that I spent some fun time with was Rolf Sigmund who owned a ski shop in town at the time. Rolf was a solid skier in the Austrian mold and we went heli-skiing one time in British Columbia together. He didn’t like the off piste skiing in the trees, and in the wind packed conditions that you get sometimes before you hit the deep powder that is always shown in the movies for heli-skiing. Sometimes it gets pretty rugged and Rolf always remarked to me on that trip that,” thees is pullsheet McClaaaahskey. We should go to Tahoe. The slopes are smooth and the chicks look at you in da lines and it is way more fun than theeees pullllsheet McClaaahhhhskey.” I laughed as he tried to bribe the helicopter pilot into flying us back to the lodge so we could watch the Super Bowl. Rolf was hilarious as he drank his schnapps and abused some loud obnoxious New Yorkers who were along on the trip.
I got my rear end chewed pretty well one time by a rather intimidating Austrian named Rudi Kuersteiner. I was with a group of guys skiing rather fast through a beginner area at Whiteface in the Adirondacks. We were there for a clinic and Rudi saw us and skied up to us at the bottom of the hill and demanded that we all follow him to the side of the slope. There he told us in no uncertain terms how rude we were and how dangerous it was to ski that fast where beginners are learning to ski. He was right!! We were wrong and were told so by an old pro. Again, you don’t mess with an Austrian. Fun loving people but don’t get on their bad side.
The Austrians are passionate people and if you get the chance to ski with them, talk with them, drink beers with them, you will surely have a good time and you will be told how skiing really is and how you must go to Austria to ski where it all began. I always laugh when I think of their universal famous line to me…………” you don’t know sheeeeet McClaaaahhhskey.” They are right. Thanks for reading.