In our article today we want to tell you about the life, or well, a small part of it, of those characters who have marked a before and after in snow sports. What led you to dedicate your life to skiing? What were your main achievements? What obstacles did they used to face and what were those characteristics that made them become legends?
1. HANNES SCHNEIDER
Hannes Schneider is known as the “pioneer of alpine skiing”. He was born in the Austrian town of Stuben Am Arlberg in 1890. His childhood was spent with his father, a milkman and cheese maker, who during the winter was in charge of controlling one of the most complicated roads that the snow sealed to the town of Stuben. Although his father wanted him to be a cheesemaker like him, the fact of being surrounded by mountains and cold temperatures drew his attention a little more. At that time there was a famous skier named Viktor Sohm who, seeing the interest of the young Schneider, decides to sponsor him every winter to teach him his best tricks.
It was thus that in 1907 he began his journey in the world of skiing, but as a ski instructor for the St. Anton in Austria. There, he created the Hannes Schneider Arlberg Ski Teaching Method. This method was applied to his apprentices and we could say, in a few words, that it was a unified method of teaching for ski instructors. Then the World War came and his passion was so great that his role was to teach skiing within the army, and little by little to train professional skiers. He was also a pioneer in appearing in the first film used for teaching skiing. For security reasons and being in the crosshairs of the Nazi regime, he moved to Hampshire in the US.USA, and that is where he spends the last years of his life as a ski instructor.
2. EMILLE ALAIS
As an apprentice to Schneider's Arlberg technique, Emille Alais was crowned the slalom world champion in 1937. This French skier was born on February 25, 1912 in the Mont Blanc region, specifically in the town of Megeve in France. He has been considered the best alpine skier in France for mastering Chamomix on more than one occasion. He was modest, quiet but with great ambitions. He owed his ski knowledge to his uncle, who was a mountaineering instructor and sometimes asked him to help him in his classes by carrying some equipment. Thanks to that, he saw that his nephew, who was small in height, moved with great agility among the trees and rocks, so he decided to train him himself.
Emille's love of skiing went beyond competitions. He had a dream, to run a ski school or have his own shop for this sport. All these dreams were surpassed by reality, because the French had that and more. He managed to be the first to bring the parallel teaching method to the United States, became a coach for the national ski teams of Canada and the United States, designed the first metal ski in an Olympic event and also founded the French ski resorts: La Plagne and Flaine. He died at the age of 100 in France, his native country.
3. TONI SAILER
Toni Sailer was known by the name of “The Lightning of Kitzbuhel”. Lightning for his speeds, and Kitzbuhel for his town in his native Austria. It was in 1935 when this legend of alpine skiing was born to reach a record that has not been surpassed to this day. He managed to add all the golds in the winter Olympic games that were held in the Italian Dolomites in 1956 with only 20 years. He won the giant slalom and downhill adding advantage times similar to 6 seconds or 4 seconds over those who followed him. It was really fast. But beyond adding sports glories, the Austrian began to delve into the cinema, positioning him as an icon of male beauty in the 60s. However, being in front of the cameras did not motivate him as much as being in the snow, and that is when he opted for teaching. He became head and director of the Austrian Ski Association and director of the Hahnekamm race. The legacy of this athlete was such that he has been a benchmark for all those skiers who have wanted to follow in his footsteps. Sailer dies in 2009 from laryngeal cancer.
4. JEAN-CLAUDE KILLY
A few steps ahead of the Austrian Toni Sailer, Jean Claude Killy prevailed in the French Alps, marking a before and after in snow sports. He was born in Saint-Cloud in 1943 and began skiing at the age of five. His name began to sound in all the world's newspapers when he became one of the best skiers in France and in the world. Among his palmares are 3 gold medals in the winter games, 6 world championships and 21 podiums. He was the first skier to master all disciplines of alpine skiing at the 1968 Grenoble Olympic Games. After his success, he retired from competitions and began to get involved in ski associations, both national and international.
5. PACO FERNANDEZ OCHOA
We have already done an article about the 10 things you should know about Paco Fernández Ochoa, and as the best alpine athlete in Spain, we could not leave the legacy “Paquito” out of this list of the best skiers of history Precisely, the name "Paquito" was given to him by his closest people and his family. Said family is dedicated to skiing and, as you will have verified by the last name, he was also the brother of the missing skier Blanca Fernández Ochoa, about whom we also wrote an article on Uller's blog recently. Paco was born in Madrid, where it doesn't usually snow, but his family moved to the Sierra, specifically to the port of Navacerrada, and since then his contact with descents and snow have forged him into the best athlete Spain has ever had. His talent even led him to bring Spain the first Gold medal in the Winter Games; It is quite a milestone to come from a country where it does not usually snow and is considered relatively warm and without a tradition of skiing. Paco then put Spain above countries like Austria and France that already had some experience in winter sports. Unfortunately, Paco died very young at the age of 54 due to lymphatic cancer.
6. INGEMAR STENMARK
Ingemar Stenmark is the skier who put Sweden at the top of winter sports. This is truly surprising because, despite the fact that these snow sports were already popular in his country, alpine skiing was not so popular due to the orography of the terrain. He started skiing when he was 5 years old and at 18 he won his first gold in a cup. Some time later, in 1976, he became the first person from northern Europe to win a world cup, and he had the honor of being victorious twice in a row. He never considered himself a sprinter, so he never opted for this type of competition, focusing on Slalom and giant. Throughout his career he was lucky enough to compete with athletes such as Alberto Tomba, Thoeni and Girardelli, something that undoubtedly challenged him, both physically and mentally. As a curious fact, in 2004 he was in Thailand at the time of the Tsunami. He was very lucky to survive, but this nevertheless marked a turning point in his professional life.
7. ALBERTO TOMBA
Alberto Tomba was Italian and was born on December 19, 1966 in San Lazzaro di Savena, and is one of the most representative ski athletes in Italy. He was nicknamed "La Bomba" because he achieved great success during the 80s in the modalities of slalom and giant slalom, as well as 3 consecutive gold medals in the Olympic Games. The curious thing about this athlete is that his childhood was not exactly surrounded by mountains, as is the case with many of the skiers we are seeing in this article. Tomba began playing soccer until skiing began to attract his attention, so he began to train precisely in Sweden representing the Italian team. The nickname they gave him was not only because of his sports skills but also because of his personal scandals. He liked nightlife and was considered something of a womanizer, which is why he obviously became a media player, and each of his competition appearances began to be accompanied by a show. Among his palmares he gathers five Olympic medals and two world championships.
8. CANDIDE THOVEX
Candide Thovex is another French athlete who surprises us more every day. We are talking about an athlete and artist who has taken the world of snow sports to another level. So how could we not include him in our list of the best skiers in the world? Thovex was born on May 22, 1982 in the town of Annecy, France, but where he really grew up and his passion for snow sports awoke was in what he considers "his station": La Cluzas . His professional life was just beginning when at the beginning of the year 2000, at the Gravity Games in California, he marked a milestone in freestyle history by performing a 720 turn. Without a doubt, this was one of the largest rotations ever seen in history, and hence they began to call him the "flying Frenchman". This French freerider has won three gold medals corresponding to different modalities within the Winter X Games: Big air, Superpipe and Slopestyle. In addition to his sporting career, the Frenchman is famous for his audiovisual productions, since in them he is able to take skiing to another level, teaching us that snow is not so necessary to be a true freerider.
9. HERMANN MAIER
Herman Maier was considered "weak and skinny" for the skiing profession, but he undoubtedly came to leave all those who doubted him speechless when in 1997 he won his first world cup dominating alpine skiing modalities, both giant slalom and downhill. Born in Austria in 1972, the skier has been characterized by his decisive and risky character. Initially, after being rejected due to his growth problems, he started working as a bricklayer where he miraculously grew. This opportunity made it easier for him to have time to dedicate himself to alpine skiing and to be part of the national team. As you have already seen, all the previous skiers had a nickname, and Maier was not going to be less: they called him “Herminator”. In fact, in a crash where he was thrown through the air at over 100km/h, he shocked the world by getting to his feet and walking off the track with only minor knee discomfort. And it is that the spectators had imagined the worst given the magnitude of the accident. And everything was in a fright! Of course we are talking about a person whose record includes four world cups and three gold medals. Come on… a crack.
10. SHANE MCCONKEY
Shane McConkey was a Canadian skier who was born in Vancouver, Canada on December 30, 1969. During his first years of professional career he dedicated himself to freeskiing, and this modality gave him several victories. But freestyle began to attract his attention and even its extreme variation, making him participate in various audiovisual productions. Some time later he began to delve into base jumping, especially the ski-wingsuit-base and, unfortunately, this maneuver cost him his life in 2006. He was in the Italian Dolomites, doing an ad campaign for Red Bull, when one of the skis wouldn't release. This made him lose control of the flight and when he went to open the parachute it was too late... dying almost instantly.