23 January 2023
Post originally written in: Deutsch Information An automatic machine translation. Super fast and almost perfect.

"Everything used to be better." A phrase I usually deeply distrust. With one exception: It used to be possible to ski or toboggan on the then still unspoiled slopes in the immediate vicinity of the city. Activities that contributed decisively to Innsbruck's rapid rise as a sports city.

It was then the heyday of skiing in the 1960s that catapulted Innsbruck into the rankings of top winter sports destinations. Skiing was not only by far the most popular sport in this country at that time: half of the inhabitants were skiers. It is also no wonder that to this day, 16 world champions and 13 Olympic medal winners have come from the greater Innsbruck area. The medal table is even more impressive: Innsbruck winter athletes won a total of 68 medals at World Championships and Olympic Games. Two Olympiads then definitively cemented our reputation as the capital of skiing.

Innsbruck's success story as a sports city begins with a simple fact: In the past, skiing in Innsbruck was usually possible right 'outside the front door'. Whether the daring skiers with their up to two meter long boards swung from the Mutterer Alm, the Patscherkofel or the Nordkette to the valley - the speedy journey ended in the city if the snow conditions were good. The logical consequence: in an era that hardly knew any cars, the training conditions were virtually on the doorstep and for decades were an immense advantage at major international ski races. Such as the FIS race held in Innsbruck in 1933, which was also the 3rd Alpine World Ski Championships. A profound account of the FIS races can be found on the website of the Stadtarchivs Innsbruck as well as nostalgic memories of the former ski hills.

In sports, too, champions neither fall from the sky nor are they born as such. Training opportunities are of great importance. The learning aids were skis or toboggans, the training grounds were those slopes that even then were called 'training hills'. Undeveloped slopes on the outskirts of the city were both playgrounds and sports fields for children and young people in winter.

However, skiing itself was not invented in Innsbruck. It was the Norwegians who had long mastered the use of snowshoes and 'gliding woods'. And then there were the English students who shaped sports from the reality of life of the Norwegians. They converted sleds into bobsleds, they curved around on the ice and raced downhill on their bellies on runners with their Skeletons. And now the winter fun sports have been expanded to include skiing.

"Throw to the ground in case of danger"

When the first tests of the new 'gliding boards' were carried out in Tyrol, it did not look as if they would become established as a piece of sports equipment in winter. After the first skis arrived in Innsbruck around 1890, Julius Pock gave them a not really good report in 1892. He summarized his experiences after a test on the Waldrast like this:

"On flat or only gently sloping snowfields, the 'skis' perform admirably ... On the other hand, skiing down steeply sloping slopes, e.g. of 20° - 35° inclination and frozen snow is not harmless; once in motion, it goes with tremendous speed, braking with the pole remains completely ineffective. If there is a danger of being thrown against an obstacle, the only way to stop the speeding is to throw yourself to the ground The speeding ride by throwing oneself to the ground."

No wonder that tobogganing was much more popular than skiing at that time.

Another episode from the early days of skiing in Tyrol tells of how Alfons Siber, a skiing pioneer from Hall, jumped off on a terrain edge and landed in the snow again a few meters later. Farmers saw the interrupted tracks and were convinced: "This can only be the Tuifl, because he flew through the air".

Whether ski jumpers had felt like devils is unknown. But the fact is that ski jumping was more popular than skiing for quite some time. Jumps practically grew out of the ground: on the Bergisel and on the Seegrube.

The legendary Ferrariwiese

One of the reasons why Innsbruck was able to become a ski center was the training conditions. This was also where the first talent scouting could take place. The Ferrariwiese played an important role as a training ground.

And it could still be such a place today if only a single photo had been found around ten years ago showing skiers who had skied there within the last 30 years. It was the time when they were looking for dump sites for the overburden of the Brenner Basistunnels. If photographic evidence had been found showing skiers within the preceding 30 years on Ferrari Meadow, the meadow would have been virtually owned as a ski meadow. A rededication to the rubble dump of the Brenner Basisunnels would have been prevented thereby.

The Mutterer Alm was another training center, which could even be reached by Stubaitalbahn during the winters when there was usually a lot of snow. Best conditions for the Skiklub Innsbruck, to cultivate an intensive youth work.

After the construction of the Nordkettenbahn, the Seegrube became a top-class practice area. And if it was ever too foggy or dangerous up there, the children's ski courses took place on the meadow behind the parking lot of Nordkettenbahn.

Reading tips:

The website of the Stadtarchivs Innsbruck is a real treasure trove of stories from the early days of skiing. It is a publicly accessible 'memory' of our town at any time. I thank you for the permission to use the photos in this post.

Anneliese Gidl, Lukas Morscher und Gertraud Zeindl: Sport in Innsbruck bis 1960.

Anneliese Gidl, Karl Graf: Skisport in Innsbruck. Haymon.

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