If you saw the Häusl family on the street you’d probably know instinctively that this is not your average family. They just seem too cool, their faces a bit too tanned for someone with a regular, random every-day life. They are, however, an almost typical family for St. Anton. Well, almost...
Geli is a St. Anton-born-and-raised certified ski instructor who loves to show her guests special hidden off-piste gems – of which there are many in her native ski region, the Arlberg. Stefan, on the other hand, well, it would not be an exaggeration to call him Austria’s most renowned freeriding pro. And Jana, their daughter, has gathered more skiing experience before her first day of school than many of St. Anton’s guests in a lifetime.
So what’s special about living at the Arlberg? Geli answers quite enthusiastically: “The mountains we have around here might not be the highest, but they are just perfect for skiing. That’s why the Arlberg is so special to us.”
And how is life for a family where almost everything – on both a personal and professional level – revolves around skiing? Whose home is one of the world’s most renowned skiing destinations and whose parents have left their traces in the snow all around the world more than once?
“We’re just having a really nice time together and we do many things together. That wouldn’t be possible if one of us had to work a regular Monday-to-Friday routine”, says Geli.
Jana is six years old. In winter, she watches her father competing in races live on the internet - or on the big screen at the premieres of his freeriding movies. She also sees him at breakfast or when he picks her up from kindergarten to take her skiing in the afternoon, something he not only does in picture-perfect conditions, by the way. Jana explains why she likes skiing also on snowy and foggy days: “There are less people on the slopes.” Fair enough. The freeriding community in general loves the solitude of untouched slopes, so it’s quite likely that Jana will soon follow in her parents’ footsteps.
Stefan himself has been a main player in the Freeride World Tour, the premier competition for freeriders, for many years. The sport looks extremely dangerous to outsiders, especially when it’s a family father racing down rocky hills at high speed. But Geli, quite dryly, puts it all into perspective: “Stefan is not stupid and jumps down to his death somewhere – child or no child.”
Skiclub Arlberg is the association that makes famous ski racers even more famous and whose sports events offer a great networking platform for athletes, sports officials and business people - creating the best possible training environment for young talent along the way. Early on, local children are familiarised with the various aspects of skiing on and off piste – think technical questions or dealing with the dangers of alpine sports. Besides Stefan Häusl, the two biggest Austrian female freeriders, Nadine Wallner – the first Austrian woman to become freeriding world champion – and Lorraine Huber, are also members of Skiclub Arlberg. Still, becoming a freeriding pro is a self-organised endeavour in St. Anton: “No one showed up here yet and said, ‘I’m taking care of that,” says Stefan. The local pros, including Nadine and Stefan, are still too busy with their own careers, travelling and racing all around the world. But without doubt, there will always be access to perfect conditions professional training for pros-in-the-making in St. Anton.
Back home at the Häusl’s. Jana knows that her parents have their fair share of the limelight; sometimes she joins her father when he does autographing sessions, and she knows why there are special seats reserved for her and her girlfriends at her dad’s film premieres. But when you hear her chat away cheerfully like any 6-year-old, you realise that usually unusual families like this one are quite common in St. Anton, and that they also do live some kind of a normal daily life. Daily life at the Arlberg...
March 13, 2017