The snow must go on
Every Wednesday evening, the piste in front of the Karl Schanz Stadium in St. Anton am Arlberg is transformed into an über-dimensional screen: giant images projected onto the slope, bright 3D effects and a firework display provide the setting for around 150 protagonists, who impressively demonstrate the historical developments of ski sport. The event premieres on 30th December 2015. From 13th January thereafter, the 45 minute long „Snow must go on“ ski show is presented jointly by the Ski School Arlberg, Arlberger Bergbahnen Cable Car Co. and St. Anton am Arlberg Tourist Board every Wednesday from 21 hrs, with free admission. A very different kind of „history lesson“.
The ski show in St. Anton starts with the Empire State Building in New York and hectic city life, with blaring car horns. This noisy urban backdrop, however, quickly gives way to an inviting winter landscape. Spectators are welcomed by the organisers with this message: banish the stresses of everyday life, you are in St. Anton! Then things start moving on the slope in front of the Karl Schranz Stadium: the „Stanton Girls“ women’s team swing rhythmically down the mountain to the sound of „Pretty Woman“, followed by the perfectly choreographed „Lipizzaner“, in their elegant white ski jumpers. More demo teams from Ski School Arlberg or the Ski Academy St. Christoph then enter the stage with some elaborate synchronised skiing, before the junior freestylers perform some daring somersaults and twists over a huge jump by torchlight.
What originally began as a sporadic ski instructor display by torchlight developed throughout the 1990s into an incredible display of alpine sport artistry. The first elaborately scripted weekly ski shows with a professional demo team were staged in the 2006/7 winter season. These so-called „swing designers“, six ski instructors from Ski School Arlberg, are still a permanent fixture in the ski show and take advantage of the floodlit show on Wednesday evening to train – as they have no other time available when working as ski instructors.
Their reward: over the past few years they have constantly been amongst the leaders in the Tyrolean and Austrian Demo Championships, and actually won the Tyrolean Demo Championships in February 2015. This means that St. Anton can currently boast of having two Demo Champions, because Stanton Girls were also able to secure the ladies title with their incredible skills.
„Our goal is to convey to our guests the fact that St. Anton is actually the birthplace of alpine skiing“, says Martin Ebster, Director of Tourism for St. Anton am Arlberg. „Staging this show involves a huge effort for the Tourist Board as well as the Ski School Arlberg, but for us it is worth it. We are honoured that so many people come and, once a week, they should be made aware of the significance of where they are. We have a story to tell, and we are proud of it“.
It quickly becomes clear what Martin Ebster means when the spotlights are directed on the „Hannes Schneider Team“. Six figures in knickerbockers and heavy tweed jackets ski down to the stadium on long wooden skis whilst performing stem turns – which once revolutionized the ski world. Other formations demonstrate how the skills of the Arlberg ski pioneers continued to develop, until two carver skiers with flaming torches bring this 100 year journey through ski history to an impressive end.
Back to the present, the spotlight moves briefly to a ski jump on a neighbouring piste, where Christoph „Giggo“ Wolf, trainer of the Ski-Club Arlberg New-School-Team gives the command to his talented freestyle youngsters. He has already coached around 100 young athletes, including freestyle pro Andy Gohl, who competed in 2014 in Sotschi at the Olympics and took part in the Freestyle-World Cup at Kreischberg last winter. Wolf’s current 25 member junior team requires a great deal of professional training; the youngest member is only nine years old. But only the best perform during the ski show, confirms „Giggo“ Wolf: „Only the most talented can take part. When the temperature drops in the evening, it can get icy very quickly. The approach then has to be shortened accordingly; take-off and landing are more difficult to calculate than in daylight.“ Starting this year, the six best freestylers are a permanent fixture in the show.
Another unchanging feature on the programme is the closing song. When all the telemark, ski bob and piste bully drivers have finished show-casing their skills, the moderator introduces the final song „We are the World“ – after all, St. Anton’s guests do come from all over the world.