Myths and Truths about a Villa

For a hundred years now, the villa above the Galzigbahn gondola has been an integral part of St. Anton am Arlberg. Converted into a museum, it is probably the house in Tyrol with the most eventful history. Numerous stories and myths have grown up around the building that dates from 1912.
Museum St. Anton Construction

The German industrialist Bernhard Trier discovered the special appeal of the site and decided to build a villa there whose architecture was to blend in perfectly with its surroundings. Hans Kronberger, a well-known architect of that time, designed an exclusive building in spacious grounds. To this day the individual rooms have an incredibly harmonious aura and take you back to the turn of the 19th to the 20th century.

Hannes Schneider Skiing History

Skiing history was written in the villa of Bernhard Trier, who is generally regarded as the patron of Arlberg's ski pioneer Hannes Schneider. In its historic rooms Schneider was first pursuaded to propagate his skiing technique all over the world. His first travels to northern Europe marked the beginning of St. Anton's ongoing reputation as the birthplace of modern skiing.

Hannes Schneider Hannes Schneider

The Arlberg ski pioneer takes up ample space in the Museum St. Anton. Born in Stuben am Arlberg on 24 June 1890, he began his career as a ski instructor in 1907 and founded the world's first ski school in 1920/21. It is his achievement that for the very first time, guests were able to learn skiing in organised groups and according to paedogical principles. Schneider was way ahead of his time: while the telemarking technique was still taught elsewhere, Schneider already taught the stem christie, the precursor of today's parallel turn.

Schneider soon acquired a worldwide reputation. One of the most important steps in his career was his journey to Japan in 1930. In lectures and seminars, he introduced his "Arlberg technique" in many Japanese cities, thereby contributing to St. Anton's leading role in the history and development of winter sports.

But Schneider was not only a teacher in the traditional sense of the word. As an actor, he inspired others with the fascination of winter sports and played leading roles in fifteen highly popular ski movies. His best-known film is probably Der Weisse Rausch (The White Thrill) directed by Arnold Fanck and shot in St. Anton in the winter of 1930/31.

In 1938 Hannes Schneider was imprisoned by the Nazis for repeatedly speaking up against the Nazi regime in public and supporting Jewish friends. Thanks to international pressure, he was released soon after and in 1939 emigrated to the USA with his family, where he established a ski school in New Hampshire. He was one of the driving forces behind the development of Mount Cranmore, a ski resort largely modelled on his ideas.

Hannes Schneider stayed in the USA after WWII, visiting his native country only occasionally. The ski pioneer died in 1955 aged 65. A monument in honour of this Arlberg ski icon can be found in the leisure park of the Museum.
The time after Bernhard Trier

The German industrialist Bernhard Trier, who originally built the villa in the heart of St. Anton, died in the turmoil of WWI. His widow sold the villa to a certain Mr Gaenslein. After the latter's son suffered a fatal accident in the mountains, the villa was rented out. The house seemed to bring bad luck to its occupants.

Several years later, the villa was sold to Bulgarian diplomat and tobacco manufacturer Basil Koutzouglou. St. Anton locals still refer to the "Koutzouglou Villa" when they actually mean the Museum. During WWII the building was used to accommodate refugees from bombed-out German cities.

Marie Émile Antoine Béthouart The French High Commissioner

WWII was over and had left scars on St. Anton, too. During the subsequent period of French occupation, the Austrian states of Vorarlberg and North Tyrol were controlled by the French, and the villa in St. Anton served as residence to the French High Commissioner, General Marie Émile Antoine Béthouart. Within a very short time, the General won the respect of the people in the French occupied zone. He contributed greatly to Austria's efforts to become an independent nation again. His ideology throughout was to act as a liberator, not an occupier. The General was particularly appreciated for the permission he gave the traditional Tyrolean riflemen associations to carry historic firearms for parades and holidays. During the time of occupation, Austrian national history was made in the premises of today's Museum.

Museum St Anton After occupation

The time after WWII and French occupation was not a glorious one for the historic villa in St. Anton. The industrialist Koutzouglou returned to the cradle of skiing after the war and tried to sell the villa. The building, so rich in tradition, lost much of its splendour. Then, in the early 1970s, very concrete rumours were going round in the village that the villa and park were to be sold to an international business concern, with plans for a large hotel degrading the villa to a mere appendix of the hotel complex. A model of the project is still stored in the museum's attic, which is not accessible to the public.

St. Anton decided to take action. The general consensus was that the villa and park should remain intact. Ultimately, the municipality and tourism board jointly purchased this historic jewel to preserve it for future generations.

In a first step, the park surrounding the villa was revitalised in 1978. Three years later, a museum of skiing and local history was established on the premises. Today, the first floor of the building houses a modern museum while the ground floor accommodates a restaurant with many traditional features: the fireplace lounge, smoking room, hunting parlour and library all breathe the history of the building.

Where personalities like Hannes Schneider, Bulgarian diplomats, German industrialists or French Generals all made history, the Museum gives you a glimpse of their lives and takes you back to eventful times. The Museum has many stories to tell – just listen!