Hauser and the Count waxing skies.

Sun Valley’s first skis school on the steps of the Sun Valley Lodge. 

Sun Valley’s first Ski School,  Hans Hauser on the far left.

Hans Hauser 1936

In the winter of 1936/37 Sun Valley had almost all the deportment of any European destination resort.  A grand hotel amidst a beautiful alpine setting, two of the world’s first chairlifts providing an extravagance of mountain transportation unprecedented in world skiing history and an “Arlberg” Austrian ski school instructing state of the art “alpine” skiing techniques to America’s rich and famous.  However unlike Austria’s destination ski resorts in 1936, where hundreds of high mountain hostels (mountain bivouac huts) furnished excellent means for its “alpine tourists/ski guides” to explore the serrated ridges and cirque basins of their stunning alpine summits, Sun Valley essentially offered no winter methods by which to reconnoiter it's equally spectacular, yet forbidden mountainous heights.

Pioneer Cabin 1938

Pioneer Cabin with the serrated peaks of the Pioneer mountains

Owl Creek Cabin

Summer 1940.

Dick Durrance and the Harriman Cup

Averiell Harriman to the rear. 

Dick Durrance, March 1937 winning the Harriman Cup on Durrance mountain. 

The Unique Style of Dick Durrance

Haemmerle Painting near Pioneer Cabin.

The spectacular setting of Pioneer Cabin.

The snowfields of Silver Peak above the Owl Creek Cabin. 

Skiing into Pioneer Cabin.






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To compliment Harriman’s ostentatious lifts a ski school would soon be hired, but not just any ski school, an Austrian school knowledgeable in Hannes Schneider’s world renowned “Arlberg Technique.”  To accomplish this goal, again Harriman turned to the Count who traveled back to his native Austria to hand pick Sun Valley’s new instructors.  Schaffgotsch soon returned to Sun Valley with eight Austrian instructors; the most notable being Hans Hauser who would become Sun Valley’s first Ski School Director. Hauser came from Salzburg, Austria where his family owned an inn.


According to Otto Lang, Sun Valley’s Ski School Director in the late 40s and boyhood friend of the Hauser’s, Hans, along with his brother Max, soon became accomplished skiers as well as ski jumpers and would teach skiing to the local community in Salzburg.  Hans soon became the best alpine skier in Austria winning the Austrian combined championships in 1932, 1934 and 1936; however his reign as Sun Valley’s first ski school director lasted for only three seasons when Friedle Pfeifer, another of Schneider’s prodigies, took over the school’s leadership in 1939.


The ski school under Hauser’s leadership lacked in both discipline and direction; While Hauser was personable and a very good teacher, he appeared to lack the administrative skills necessary to run an “Arlberg” Ski School.  Hauser’s energies, as ski school director, were directed more towards the playboy aspect of Sun Valley’s ski life rather than the school.  And to add even more to his troubles, Hauser, in the summer of 1939, started a ski school in Portillo, Chili where upon returning to the United States the following winter, seemed to have paid little attention to Union Pacific Lawyers’ instructions about his re-entry papers.  Thus, it was Hauser’s immigrations problems coupled with his “playboy” reputation which fueled this rapid fall from grace with Union Pacific authorities.  Hauser would continue to teach for the school, on and off, until the winter of 1950.

This would soon change as Harriman’s attention to details left few gaps.  In his ambitions to make Sun Valley mimic Europe’s finest, the popular sport of “Alpine Touring” was introduced, in the summers of 1937-1940 as High Mountain hostels were constructed in the neighboring Pioneer and Smoky mountains.  Sights for said locations were predominately chosen by Alf Engen (from the Wasatch Mountains of Utah) and Charles Proctor.  True to Harriman’s theme of innovating pioneering ingenuity, Sun Valley’s “alpine touring” ski school soon developed its own unique nativity in American skiing history.  These “alpine touring’ beginnings initiated their presence during the winter of 1936/37, in America’s first international alpine competition, Sun Valley’s Harriman Cup.  Like Sun Valley’s prominent European predecessors, which promoted their resorts with world class “alpine” ski races, Harriman quickly followed suit with a race of his own.

Pioneer Cabin, nearly erased by the snows of the winter of 1995-96.

The Harriman Cup, which, in March of 1937, instantly drew the world’s best skiers to the slopes of Sun Valley, was first run on an unnamed peak located in the Boulder Mountains just north of the present day Sawtooth National Recreation Building.  This non-lift serviced site was chosen over the lift-served mountains of Proctor and Dollar due to the necessary vertical needed to run a Europe style downhill alpine race.  (Baldy was yet to be developed)

To reach the race’s beginning, the competitors had to either ski or walk up the snow covered slopes.  Sun Valley’s ski school director, Hans Hauser was heavily favored to win the competition, however when the final times were calculated, former Dartmouth ski team member, Dick Durrance emerged victoriously.  (Durrance won the Harriman cup two more times in 1938 and 1940 and was the first racer to retire the cup. In the winter of 1938, the mountain whose slopes hosted the first Harriman cup was named for Durrance).

As the winter of 1936/37 headed towards spring, Harriman desired to round off his eight-man ski school to ten.  Upon Durrance’s advice, Harriman hired a Bavarian skier/painter named Florian Haemmerle who would soon head this country’s first European-style “alpine touring” ski school.  Born in Markt Oberdorf, Bavaria in 1909, Haemmerle learned to ski on the Austrian/German border.  In 1929, due to worsening economic conditions in Germany, Haemmerle moved to New York where he worked as a painter.  On several occasions, while still living in New York, Haemmerle would rent skis and compete in local races held in Lake Placid where his skiing expertise caught the eyes of Dartmouth College’s coaching staff.  Hired as an assistant to Walter Prager, Dartmouth’s head coach and former instructor for Hannes Schneider, Haemmerle coached America’s top racer during the 1930s, Dick Durrance.


Haemmerle arrived in Sun Valley during the winter of 1936/37 and was immediately positioned as an instructor on the “alpine” ski school where his initial association with Hauser’s Austrians deteriorated quickly into frictional relationships.  Being a southern German on an all-Austrian school was not easy, especially in 1937, with German Nazism activating serious aggressions against a weaker Austria.  While Haemmerle shared none of Germanys nationalistic aspirations of world dominance, his Austrian counterparts affiliate him with such blitzkriegs and unjustifiably alienated him from the school.  With only one month’s service on Hauser’s “alpine” school, Haemmerle was ready to quit.  Fortunately, this schism occurred during Harriman’s ideals of complimenting Sun Valley’s already famous “alpine” facilities with an “alpine touring” center of equal stature.


Not wanting to waste a talent such as Haemmerle and seeing a need to expand beyond their lift-served boundaries, Sun Valley officials, in the spring of 1937, split their ski school into separate entities.  Hauser still headed the existing “alpine” school, which confined its instruction mostly to the lift bearing slopes of Dollar, Proctor, Ruud and Bald Mountains, while Haemmerle headed the newly formed “alpine touring” center which had the seemingly limitless vertical grandeur of Sun Valley’s awe-inspiring surroundings as its classroom.

Pioneer Cabin, the first mountain hostel built, was located 9,700 feet high amidst the jagged encampment of the towering Pioneer Mountains and the Owl Creek Cabin, set below the spiraling dominance of Silver Peak, Smoky Mountain’s highest, both were, in the late 30s to early 50s, the epitome of true European-style “alpine touring” bivouac huts where a weary skier or climber could seek shelter from the remorseless elements after a day’s adventures amongst the crags.  Sun Valley Company, as well as Haemmerle and his guides, even added a touch of luxury, with most trips into its cabins, as the services of an experienced chef and several ski-patrol boys, who would porter their customer’s wears up the slopes, were enlisted.


Both Cabin’s accommodations were rugged, if compared to the luxuries of Sun Valley’s million dollar lodge, yet pleasurable amenities such as Double Decker Bunks, plush zippered sleeping bags, green Pullman car curtains (providing privacy between bunks), a wood stove and leftover maroon carpet from the lodge took some of the bite out of roughing it.   The “Alpine touring” business in the winter of 1938/39 was brisk.  The rolling treeless slopes around pioneer Cabin, as well as its spectacular setting, were a tremendous draw and it soon became apparent that an additional cabin, as well as personnel, would be needed. 


Pioneer Cabin

Spring 1948.











Pioneer Cabin

May 1997

Walter Prauger