Interview with St. Anton ski school

January 2017 Jürgen Pirker, St. Anton Classic ski school, St. Anton, Austria

BINDER sponsors the St. Anton Classic ski school in Austria

A glimpse behind the scenes of a ski school: Interview with Jürgen Pirker, St. Anton Classic ski school, St. Anton, Austria

 

BINDER has been sponsoring your ski school for the last 6 years. How did this partnership come about?
Mr. Binder has been coming to St. Anton as a guest for many years, both in the winter for skiing and in the summer. Over the years, he has formed friendships with many residents, some of whom are ski instructors. That’s how the partnership started.

 

How long have you been a ski instructor?
My first full season was 1976/77; before that I had a temporary job during the school holidays.

 

How many guests do your ski instructors teach over a season?
Our St. Anton Classic ski school was founded in 2009 and specializes in private lessons and personal guided ski tours in the area. So we’re not dealing with huge numbers of people.
In our opening year we had 17 instructors. That number has now doubled to around 35 for the 2016/17 season. Each instructor has around 50 – 60 different bookings in a season on average. But a booking might be for one morning or up to 2 weeks – each one is different. Sometimes it might just be 1 person, or a group of up to 8 people could be out with an instructor or guide.

 

St. Anton is one of the most popular ski resorts in the Arlberg. What makes the place and the region so special?
As someone who was born and grew up here, this is how I see it:
We live in a clean environment and we are lucky enough to have a typical Alpine landscape around us. (We are one of the few, if not the only ski resort in the Alps to produce 100% of our electricity using hydropower from 2 reservoirs). The weather conditions may be harsh sometimes, but there are beautiful things to discover everywhere. And then there are the endless ski runs to try out on the pistes and out on the open slopes. The ski lifts are modern and well-developed, it’s easy to get here by train, car or plane, we attract an international clientèle and we have an excellent infrastructure. That's why this place is so special.

 

Do you have any interesting anecdotes about your career as a ski instructor?
I used to work as an instructor in the USA and Argentina. In the late 70s, skiing was a new, exotic, unknown experience for most South Americans. We would see skiers (beginners) with their ski boots on the wrong way round – with the left and right boots on the wrong feet – so the buckles were facing inwards and would constantly get tangled up. They were constantly falling over – it wasn’t a great success!

There’s another funny story about an English couple. Until 1999, we had a funicular in St. Anton called the Kandahar train, with cars on a cable which were pulled up the mountain on rails. This train was red. Right next to the Kandahar train was the normal train station. So we told this couple how to get to the ski group: “Take the red train and you see the ski school at the top”. Then in the evening, the hotel the guests were staying at phoned to complain. They had got on a red train and “There was no ski school there!”. It turned out that they had got on a normal train (in a red carriage) and gone about 100 km to Innsbruck.

 

Has skiing changed in recent years? If so, how?
It has changed a lot. With the constant development of the equipment technology (boots (!), skis, and bindings), skiing has got easier and more comfortable, and it’s quicker to learn now. The number of skiers has increased as well – the comfortable, efficient lifts bring skiers up the mountain more quickly and more often, so popular pistes can get very full at certain times. And these days, après-ski, good food, and a good nightlife are all essential parts of a winter holiday.
There is a new trend for touring, which is being requested more and more at our ski school. For many people, spending the day on a tour with a guide is an amazing experience. You do the first bit in the cable car, then climb up using ski skins. When you're on a tour, you usually get a whole valley to yourself. It’s a real physical challenge, but it’s worth it for the peace and quiet, the unbelievable views from the top and, of course, a great run down.

For me, skiing is something natural and important because it allows me to be outside in the mountains. Sometimes I go fast, sometimes I take it slower. And almost every day, I get to meet great people on the lifts, on the pistes, and around the resort, and enjoy the peace and quiet on my tours and runs.

 

Personal information:

  • Age: 60
  • Address: Dorfstrasse 57 6580 St. Anton am Arlberg
  • Profession: Ski instructor and businessman
  • Family: Married since 1986, 2 children

 

 

For me, skiing is something natural and important because it allows me to be outside in the mountains.

Jürgen Pirker, St. Anton Classic ski school