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Kitzbühel Skiing History

The connection between Kitzbühel and skiing is legendary. In March 1893, Franz Reisch managed to ski down from the Kitzbüheler Horn, making it the first Alpine ski run in Austria. No other ski resort in the Alps has such a long and successful tradition, history or association with skiing. In 1956 after winning three gold medals at the Winter Olympic Games and with his charisma and skiing prowess, Toni Sailer became the first global media star in winter sports.

Franz Reisch – Pioneer of Skiing

After making his first successful ski in the winter of 1892 – 93, it is claimed that Franz Reisch told his friend Josef Herold, “Sepp, I would have to beat it into you to prove how beautiful it was.” 
Reisch had read the sensational book; “On snowshoes through Greenland” by Norwegian polar explorer, Fridtjof Nansen in which the author expresses enthusiasm for Skisport and the book received worldwide attention, especially in Kitzbühel. This book may well have been the trigger that began the unprecedented development of a sleepy mountain town into a place that is the heart and soul of skiing. 
Franz Reisch was inspired by the accounts from the far north of Fridtjof Nansen and such was his interest, he ordered a couple of, “planks”, from Norway. At the time, many of the residents of Kitzbuehel were sceptical towards Reisch and thought he had gone crazy! However, he was undeterred and soon began to embark on bigger tours. 
On March 15th 1893 after hiking to the summit of the Kitzbüheler Horn, Franz Reisch successfully skied back down to the valley and in the first issue of the magazine, “The snowshoe”, from November 1st 1893; he described what he had experienced. Josef Herold supplied photographs of the early days of skiing in Kitzbuehel and as a result, the first account of Alpine Skiing was placed on record!
Franz Reisch quickly discovered that there like minded people with similar aspirations who also wanted to undertake skiing trips. Together they organised and held regular ski races throughout 1895 and the development of winter tourism soon followed. Such was the demand, the opening of hotels and leased apartments began, and the first commercial ski lessons became available.

Kitzbühel Ski Club (K.S.C.)

In 1902 the Kitzbühel Ski Association was founded and was renamed "Kitzbühel Ski Club (KSC)" in 1931. The K.S.C. is one of the most famous ski clubs in the world with more than 8,900 members from 30 countries. The club is extremely proud of its heritage and the success of its athletes. Since 1902, members of the club have won a total of 53 Olympic and World Championship medals.

The main tasks of the K.S.C. are the organization of the Hahnenkamm races and the development and promotion of youth in all disciplines of skiing and snowsports, such as, alpine skiing, biathlon, cross country skiing, freestyle skiing, Nordic combined, ski cross, snowboarding and ski jumping.

Ski School "Red Devils" Kitzbühel

In 1926 the Kitzbühel Ski School was founded and it became world famous under the leadership of Karl Koller who ran the ski school between 1950 and 1975. Koller was somewhat of a marketing genius and worked with the artist Alfons Walde, to produce modern posters to promote the "Red Devils”. The, “Red Devils” nickname was a reference to the red sweaters and hats that the ski instructors wore. Always an entrepreneur, Koller introduced and created the, "Pot Ski School", in which all of the instructors involved received a share of the profits.

Karl Koller also developed “Ski Peadagoge” and became great friends with the "Ski-Pope" Stefan Kruckenhauser who revolutionized ski teaching. He introduced short ski teaching methods without ‘Stemmbewegungen’ (knee turns) and brought in, play to learn for Ski kids in the "Children's World", published Ski videos and textbooks and changed many other things. The ski methods used in Kitzbühel spread to ski resorts all over the world and the ski instructors who helped spread the gospel played a leading part in making it such a popular sport in the USA.

Hahnenkamm Downhill Ski Race

March 1931 saw the first running of the Hahnenkamm Downhill Ski Race in Kitzbühel. After World War II was over, the race was held on a variety of different slopes and it became increasingly important race. Towards the end of the 1940s came the idea of combining the “Streif” and the “Ganslernhang” pistes to form a new route for the race, forming the basis of what we know as the Hahnenkamm race today. Since its inception, the race has evolved and has become the most important and prestigious ski race in the world.

Toni Sailer and the "Ski Wonder Team"

The legendary “Ski Wonder Team” plays a legendary role in the history of Kitzbühel. For ten years, the best skiers in the world all come from Kitzbühel. Toni Sailer, Ernst Hinterseer, Hias Leitner, Anderl Molterer, Fritz Huber and Christian Pravda dominated skiing between 1950 and 1960. Together this miracle team won 27 medals in the Winter Olympic Games and World Skiing Championships.

With his success in skiing, natural charm and charisma, Toni Sailer became the first global media star in winter sports. He and his “Kitzbühel Wonder Ski Team” dominated the ski world for a decade. He won 3 Olympic gold medals, 7 World Championship medals and won races on all the classic ski pistes in the world. These are the sporting achievements of Toni Sailer but Toni Sailer was more – he was a legend in his own lifetime. He achieved so much and remarkably was only 22 years old when he ended his professional skiing career. Once, on a visit to Tokyo, he was welcomed by Crown Prince Akihito and 250,000 delirious fans at the airport.

Toni Sailer was became the symbol of reconstruction in the post-war Austria and an icon for a whole nation. The three Olympic gold medals and four world championship titles he won at the 1956 Winter Olympic Games in Cortina d’Ampezzo, Italy, were the highlights of his extraordinary career.


The 3S gondola is a technical masterpiece in aerial ropeway engineering. It connects the two ski areas of Kitzbühel / Kirchberg and Jochberg / Resterhoehe. When it was opened in January 2005, the, “3S”, broke two world records. The first record was the maximum height above ground of 400 metres and the second record was having the longest span of any aerial cable car of 2507 metres. The, “3S”, travels the exceptional distance of 2507 metres between the Jochberg station and the single 80 metre high support pillar over a total distance of 3600 metres.

Axel Naglich at Mount St. Elias

In the last few years, Axel Naglich and the late Peter Ressman from Kitzbühel have climbed up the highest mountains and become the first people to ski some of most extreme downhill routes in the world. Axel was at the foot of the Nuptse in the Himalayas and skied from the top highest mountain in Europe, the Elbrus, in the south of Russia. He travelled for years through South America, across the Middle East and along the way left his tracks on Damavand in Iran.

Axel Naglich loves a challenge. He has three wins at the 24- hour-race in Aspen, 11 years experience as a forerunner on the Streif at the Hahnenkamm downhill race and became the first man to ski the longest downhill in the world at Mount St.Elias in Alaska, 5489 metres above sea level. To put it into context, the highest mountain on earth is Mount Everest at 8848 metres above sea level; however, it only protrudes approximately 3500 metres from the Tibetan Plateau. These are just a few milestones in his career of Axel Naglich

David Kreiner

David Kreiner was crowned Olympic Champion on February 23rd, 2010 in Vancouver. Together with his team mates, Felix Gottwald, Mario Stecher and Bernhard Gruber, he won the team event at the Nordic combined at the 21st Winter Olympic Games. David won the first Olympic gold for Austria since Ernst Hinterseer in 1960 at Squaw Valley.

In 2011, Kreiner was successful with the Nordic combined team. At the World Championships in Oslo, he and his team mates Felix Gottwald, Mario Stecher and Bernhard Gruber secured their second world championship title in the team competition.

Skiing History in Numbers:


The Hotel Schloss Lebenberg opened its gates for a new ski season.

1892 First ski attempts by Franz Reisch.


The first high alpine down-hill ski in Austria was made by Franz Reisch from the Kitzbühel Horn, 15. März 1893.


The first book on skiing by Franz Reisch in the pamphlet "Der Schneeschuh" on the 01. November 1893.


First Ski Race in Kitzbühel. Winner: Josef Herold


The first time international Ski tourists came to Kitzbühel. The first commercial and military ski reaching.


The foubding of the Wintersport Club Kitzbühel, in 1931became the Kitzbüheler Ski Club (K.S.C.).


1st. Tiroler Ski Competition in Kitzbühel.


1st. Austrian Ski Competion in Kitzbühel.


Founding of the Skischule Kitzbühel - "Rote Teufel".


Hahnenkammbahn – First Cable car for Skiing in the World.


1st. Hahnenkamm-Race on 28. and 29. März 1931.


The Prince of Wales – Later become King Edward VIII. – came skiing in Kitzbühel and started a boom of British tourists.


1st. Floodlit Night Slalom on the Ganslernhang. 25. Dezember 1950. Karl Koller took over the Ski school and made it famous.

Ab 1950

The Kitzbühel Wonder Team with Toni Sailer dominated the Ski-World. Kitzbüheler exported their Ski teachers around the Globe.


Toni Sailer won in Cortina d´Ampezzo with 3x Olympic-Gold, 4x WM-Gold. Sailer was "over night" the first World Star of Wintersports.


Commander of Apollo 13 James Arthur Lovell had a Ski holiday in Kitzbühel


The 3S-Bahn, the most spectacular and modern 3-Cable-System on the world.


The Kitzbühel Extreme skiers, Axel Naglich und Peter Ressmann, skiied the longest run in the world11.on August 2007 on Mount St. Elias.


David Kreiner was Olympic winner in the Team-Event of the Nordic Combination in Vancouver.


David Kreiner was Double World TeamChampion - der Nordischen Kombination in Oslo.

Winter Fairy Tales in Kitzbühel (1953)

Your room in Kitzbühel