Please note the current traffic situation
- L200 Bregenzerwald
- B198 Reutte
- L198 Lech
Even in the late 19th all eyes were on the little village of Warth, when then Pastor Johann Müller was the first person to manage to use skis to get from Warth to Lech. Painstakingly, yet full of assurance and ambition, ski history was thereby written.
The ski guides at Warth and Schröcken ski schools take those interested on the original route from Warth to Lech and back again. Be a part of the past and enjoy the wonderful snow-covered landscape, through which this tour will take you!
Ski guides reserve the right to alter tours accordingly depending on the weather and snow conditions!
Pastor Johann Müller - The ski pioneer from Warth
Pastor Johann Müller was the parish administrator from 1891 to 1896 in Warth. In late winter 1894 the newspaper ‘Deutscher Hausschatz’ reported on how people might be able to move around in the far north on skis, even in the event of a great deal of snow. Pastor Müller ordered these skis, practised at the parish residence over a few nights and then a few days later undertook his first varied ski tour to Lech.
An excerpt from the Vorarlberger Volksblatt from 01.03.1948
Director Müller from the charitable institute Valduna, who has been living in Rankweil since the end of the and who is still very active despite his great age, recounted the following story to me, which is relevant with regard to showing the beginnings of skiing in Vorarlberg in a new light. He obtained skis out for practical reasons back in the middle of the 1890s, at a time when Vorarlberg's first ski pioneers were making their first attempts solely out of athletic interest, and taught himself how to use these as an autodidact.
But we'll let him tell his own story: "I was the parish provisor and pastor in Warth from 1891 to 1896. During this time, I received the newspaper "Deustchen Hausschatz". In late winter of 1894/1895, there was a picture of how one can move in winter on skis in the high north, Sweden and Norway, despite large amounts of snow. Below the picture, they printed where one could buy skis and how much they cost.
I immediately thought that they would also be something practical for the Tannberg where there are not only days, but whole weeks, throughout the entire year where no one could leave or reach the community due to the quantities of snow and risks of avalanches. At that time there were no telegraphs or telephones in Warth, not to mention radios. So I took out a money order and sent the required guilders north, with the request to send me a pair of these skis.
After about 14 days, the postman Jakob Felder from the Steeg im Lechtal post office brought me a package with no idea about the innovation he was giving me. Back then, no one on the Tannberg and only a few throughout the entire area had heard of skiing or even seen a pair of skis.
Now it was all about learning how to ski. From the picture I could see that the skis were strapped to the boots and that a large pole was used to move. I had a pole, just like every other tourist at the time. So: What to do? How learn how to ski?
I waited until night-time to avoid being seen and laughed at, until it was dark and all of the lights in the village were out. Even my sister, the housekeeper, had gone to bed. So I could dare to try. I strapped the "little Swedes" to my boots, took the long pole and tried my luck in vast amounts of new snow at the parish residence.
Well - I kept ending up with my skis crossed and my head in the snow until midnight. It was difficult to give up but I knew: You can’t not do it!
I thought, like with snow shoeing, you had to slide forward half on one foot and half on the other and I kept falling I tried again the next night and did somewhat better. So the next day, before the villages lit their first light, I dared a trip to Lech. I made it, aside from a few falls, in 1 ½ hours, at a time where my neighbour, the pastor of Lech, had barely made it out of bed.
I couldn't travel back that day due to the large risk of avalanches. I stayed in Lech and started back off the next day at dawn for Warth, where the dairy farmers with the "Bazida" at their backs awaited me with great expectation, since they had seen this strange dark figure heading in the direction of Lech and soon recognised me. They were very excited and agog, and asked a lot of questions, with the unanimous verdict being: these would be something quite practical for the Tannberg. After all they knew that with a lot of new snow, it was not possible to get to Lech, not even with snow tyres.
I often travelled to Lech with my "little Swedes" as well as via the Luchrere Alps to Hochkrumbach and Schröcken, but never used my skis for sporting activities, simply as a practical means of transportation. When the terrain got too steep, I took the skis off, put them on my back and continued on with snowshoes. For big descents, I hunkered down and used my pole to brake. When it was particularly steep, I either skied in serpentine movements with hairpin turns or I took the path that had already been trod. My favourite thing was to travel to Lech.
Schoolboys soon learned that skis were a practical means of transportation for the Tannberg. They improvised skis out of barrel staves and used them to ski. Provost Walch told me about 12 years ago that he can still remember how I, back when he was still a schoolboy, came to Lech on skis and always wore tall boots. He and everyone else his age imitated me afterwards with barrel staves. Hannes Schneider also talked about how he had his first ski experiences like this.
When I left Warth in the summer of 1896, I left the "little Swedes" to my successor, pastor provisor Peter Paul Matt (who died in 1899 in Rehmen). He continued to use them and instructed the young teacher Wilhelm Huber from Warth (now school director in Hittisau) in the secrets of the white art. He then broke his leg while skiing in Lechleiten. I don't know what became of my "skis".