Genesis of Downhill Skiing

Very few people know it but the Mostviertel is considered the cradle of alpine skiing.

In the 1890s, the Lilienfeld ski pioneer Mathias Zdarsky developed steel bindings and the skiing techniques to go with them. These innovations attracted many an alpine enthusiast to Lower Austria to attempt the new sport under Zdarsky’s guidance. Muckenkogel, the local mountain in Lilienfeld, was the venue for the first ski race in world history in 1905 and remains a popular ski resort today.

Zdarsky was a teacher but also an enthusiastic athlete and a gifted craftsman. After extensive travels throughout the world, he settled in Lilienfeld. There he added a fixed binding to the classic Scandinavian ski boot or ski. It kept the heels from moving sideward.  Building on this innovation and millennia-old Nordic skiing, Zdarsky developed the “Alpine (Lilienfeld) Skiing Technique” from 1890-1896. In the years thereafter, Zdarsky instructed about 20,000 winter sports enthusiasts in the art of skiing downhill on steep slopes. Lilienfeld in the Mostviertel therefore goes into the annals of skiing history as the birthplace of downhill skiing. Today Lilienfeld with the Muckenkogel is a small but popular ski resort with a chair lift and good conditions for alpine and backcountry skiers, snowboarders, sledders and winter hikers.

Into the valley on skis

In honor of the ski pioneer Matthias Zdarsky, a handful of skiing enthusiasts from Traisen formed an old-time ski group in 1985. Co-founder Eduard Fürst: “Ever since then we have appeared countless times in the preliminary events leading up to World Cup races.” Every year in March, Muckenkogel is the venue for a globally unique historical race. It seems to transport spectators back in time. The racers ski with leather lace boots and a single pole. The skis are made of wood and have no steel edges and the slopes are ungroomed. All this creates a nostalgic, old-time atmosphere like in the days of Zdarsky, the man who put on the first slalom in skiing history in Lilienfeld on 19 March 1905.