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Stuben and the Albonabahn

an open-air exhibition in stuben am arlberg

The new Albonabahn I was put into operation at the start of the 2023/24 winter season. This is a milestone for the development of tourism in Stuben am Arlberg, as the new eight-passenger monocable gondola lift takes access to the Arlberg ski area to a whole new level.

To mark the opening of the new lift, the Klostertal Museum Association has put together an exhibition that reflects on the history of the development of tourism in the Albona region in connection with the development of Stuben. Historical views and reports invite you on a journey through the past decades.

 

   

An exhibition by the Foundation Friends of Hannes Schneider in in collaboration with the Museumsverein Klostertal and the Stuben am Arlberg Tourist Association.
Idea & concept: Martin Rhomberg, Christof Thöny
Design: Kathrin Novis, Christof Thöny
Images: Alexander Kaiser - KPA, Martin Rhomberg, Museumsverein Klostertal, Tourismusverein Stuben am Arlberg, Vorarlberger Landesbibliothek (volare), Stubner Bergbahnen, Doppelmayr
Winter in Stuben am Arlberg um 1920

Winter in Stuben am Arlberg um 1920... und heute

Skipioniere in Stuben (1908)

The Beginnings of Tourism

I was born in Stuben on June 24, 1890. I have nothing special to say about my youth. But the great experience for me was to watch the first skiers on the Arlberg back then: Viktor Sohm, Professor Karl Gruber, Dr. Madlener and engineer Adolf Walther. On my days off I followed their footsteps. When I saw the sportsmen from a distance on a slope, I would run over and watch them. When the skis were outside the hostel, I might have shyly picked them up, but I would have never dared to put them on my feet.

Hannes Schneider (1930)

After Stuben had really come alive during the construction of the Arlberg railway between 1880 and 1884 and found its economy thus invigorated, there were hard times for its inhabitants in the years following the opening of the railway. The road over the Arlberg Pass was hardly used anymore, hence only a few people ended up in the village. The rise of foreign tourism eventually turned the tide. Without it the village would probably have been abandoned sooner or later.

The picture: Skiing pioneers in Stuben (1908)

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Blick auf den Kaltenberg um 1922

Beginnings as a ski touring area

St. Anton has long enjoyed a reputation as a famous winter sports resort, and the idyllic village of Stuben has a strong attraction for skiers. To praise St. Christoph and Zürs as a base for learners and experienced skiers and snowboarders of all ages and genders would be equivalent to ‚carrying snow to the Valluga in winter'.

Fritz Kurz (1913)

In the first decade of the 20th century, most of the peaks in the Arlberg region were climbed on skis for the first time. This also applies to the Kaltenberg, which Karl Gruber, Gustav Aubin, and Wilfried von Seidlitz reached on March 6th 1904, after a ski tour through the Maroital starting from St. Christoph. Viktor Sohm, who was unable to accompany the three ski tourers due to an injury sustained while ski jumping, discovered the later common approach to the Kaltenberg from Stuben via the Albona alp a year later. The ski touring area around Stuben was described in numerous ski guides, especially in the interwar period.

The picture: View of the Kaltenberg (1922)

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Postkarte der Kaltenberghütte um 1960

Kaltenberg hut

Every visitor is pleasantly surprised by the amenities offered by the hut. The central heating - the whole house is warm - is particularly pleasant for winter mountaineers. 24 very good beds and just as many good mattress dormitories invite you to rest after a hard climb. The fact that the former construction hut has been converted into a further mattress dormitory means that 80 visitors, or even more in an emergency, can be comfortably accommodated.

Paul Bantlin (1930)

Especially the construction of the Kaltenberg hut brought the catchment area of today's Albonbabahn into the center of interest. This can be traced back to an initiative by the Reutlingen section of the Alpine Club, which became increasingly interested in establishing a base in the Arlberg region in the 1920s. In October 1926, the section leased a building site from the town of Bludenz, on which a hut with a material ropeway was subsequently built above the Albona alp and the Bludenz alp. The „snowshoe hut" was inaugurated in April 1929.

The picture: Postcard of the Kaltenberg hut (ca. 1960 )

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Friedrich Schneider mit einem Skischulgast in Zürs (um 1935)

Stuben Ski School

The founder of the Stuben ski school was none other than the youngest brother of ski pioneer Hannes Schneider, Friedrich Schneider. He and three ski instructors founded this institution in 1924 to promote winter sports. When he moved to Zürs in 1928, where he ran the ski school for decades, Albert Walch took over the Stuben ski school.

Franz Josef Mathies (2005)

Founded 100 years ago, the ski school in Stuben am Arlberg played a significant role in the development of skiing in the village. Guests learned the Arlberg technique taught at the time on the slopes all around. Advanced participants were able to undertake more extended ski tours.

The picture: Friedrich Schneider and ski school guest in Zürs (ca. 1935)

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Stuben am Arlberg mit dem "Walchlift" (um 1960)

First ski lifts

In 1949, a small T-bar lift was installed on the Gitzibühel, initiated by ski school director Adolf Walch and Emil Walch from the Mondschein inn. The lift was called a pendulum lift, which could pull three people at a time from the Rut up to the level of the later access road to the Hubertushof; the difference in altitude was around 60 meters. The first operator was Egon Begnini. In 1953, Adolf Walch built a pendulum lift in Oberer Anger on his own initiative, which was replaced by a circulating surface lift in 1956 and is still in operation today.

Hans Thöni (2005)

After Austria's first T-bar lift was put into operation in Zürs in 1937, the era of technical lifts began in Stuben in the post-war years. These offered new opportunities, especially for the ski school. The T-bar lift built in 1956 - still known today as the „Walchlift" - was taken over by Stubner Bergbahnen in 1986.

The picture: Stuben am Arlberg with the „Walchlift" (ca. 1960)

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Blick auf Stuben und die Albona mit den projektierten Liftanlagen

First route study

The residents of Stuben wanted to make the magnificent ski slopes of the Albona accessible. On a beautiful day in April 1955, the main initiator and innkeeper Emil Walch, the then mayor Karl Brändle, technical advisor Sepp Bildstein, and the ski school directors Friedrich Schneider and Adolf Walch went on the Albona for the first route study. The fantastic firn descent strengthened the determination of these courageous men to open up this wonderful, extensive ski area to as many skiing enthusiasts as possible.

Publication 30 years Albonabahn (1986)

The boom of the 1950s encouraged the leading tourism experts of Stuben in their plans to build an Albonabahn. Most of the town's inhabitants supported the idea of founding a company.

The picture: View of Stuben and the Albona with the planned lifts

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Bauarbeiten an der Bergstation

Construction of the lift

The Albonabahn Gesellschaft m. b. H. in Stuben a. A. is planning to build a chairlift from Stuben to the Albonagrat in two sections to open up the Albona and Kaltenberg slopes, which have been popular with ski tourists for years. The lift is to be built as a single chairlift and will primarily be used for winter sports. The route, whose starting point is behind the church in Stuben, runs from there in a south-westerly direction to the middle station and from there in an approximately southerly direction to the mountain station on the Albonagrat. The altitude of the valley station is 1410 m, the intermediate station is 1846 m, and the mountain station on the Albonagrat is 2364 m.

Announcement of the hearing on the railroad permit (March 6th, 1957)

After the Albonabahn company was founded in July 1956, planning for its construction progressed. However, starting operations at Christmas 1956 was impossible due to the excessive ground clearance. Only the joint venture with the newly built Muttersbergbahn in Bludenz made it possible to start operating the Albonabahn in April 1957.

The picture: Construction work at the mountain station

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Reger Betrieb an der Mittelstation (um 1965)

First years of operation

We were able to open on April 13th 1957, which was a Saturday, practically at the end of the season. Back then and for a long time, we were still skiing until Pentecost if the snow conditions were right.

Erich Berthold (former operations manager)

The first operations manager of Albonabahn was the chief fitter of Girak. He was later succeeded by Erich Berthold. In April 1957, Emil Walch had already applied for a business license for the Albonabahn to operate a guesthouse at the middle and mountain stations. A year later, he resigned as managing director for health reasons. His job was taken over by Mayor Karl Brändle, whose position as Chairman of the Supervisory Board was transferred to Hans Steiner. In October 1962, he submitted a request that the Albonabahn should also be operated in summer. This was implemented for the first time in 1963.

The picture: Busy activity at the middle station (ca. 1965)

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Winterbetrieb in Stuben (um 1965)

Tourism association Stuben

Projects to increase capacity have been on the table for two years, as the transport capacity of 320 passengers per hour no longer meets the actual demand and is not expected to generate a return on investment. In the spring months of March, April, and May, at least 2-3 times the frequency could be achieved with a modern system and with the same number of staff.

Former mayor and managing director Karl Brändle, in a letter to the then president of the state parliament, Dr. Martin Purtscher (1976)

Once the problems of the expensive avalanche barriers, which would have affected a large part of the popular ski area, had been resolved, the way was open for an economic renovation of the Albonabahn in 1978. On the initiative of Karl Brändle, the involvement of all the cable car companies around the Arlberg was implemented in 1976 and the Albonabahn was thus given sustainable financing. The tourism association Stuben was founded with participation of St. Anton, Lech and Zürs. Mayor Erich Brunner from Klösterle, who had already been managing director of the Sonnenkopfbahn since 1975, was appointed as the new managing director.

The picture: Winter mode in Stuben (ca. 1965)

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Doppelsessellift Albona I (errichtet 1983)

New buildings in the 1980s

When the Valfagehrbahn opened, Erich Moosbrugger, Robert Pfefferkorn and I went down that steep slope once. We stopped at the top when Pfefferkorn said to me: „Erich, you'll see, things are moving upwards in Stuben now."

Erich Brunner, former managing director and mayor (1940-2018)

The solid economic foundation made it possible to make new investments. In 1980, a long-cherished wish was realized with the construction of the Valfagehrbahn as a detachable triple chairlift, linking the Albona with the St. Anton ski area. In 1983, section I of the Albona itself was converted into a double chairlift, followed two years later by section II. In the course of this, the ski area was extended to include the Albonagrat lift. By moving earth, the lift routes could now be designed in a way to eliminate the problem of ground clearance. With the construction of the new Valfagehrbahn in 2005, capacities were considerably increased.

The picture: Double Chairlift Albona I (constructed in 1983)

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Teilnehmer des Longboard Classic Stuben (2018)

Longboard Classic Stuben

At the „Woodstock of Snowboarding", instead of groomed slopes, there are 1000 meters of treeless north-facing slopes. Instead of nouvelle cuisine, there is fine food from the communal kitchen, and instead of prize money, there are heartfelt hugs.

Paul Gruber (founder of the Longboard Classic)

Founded by Paul Gruber in 1999, the Longboard Classic is the biggest longboard and old-school snowboard event in the world. It takes place at the end of the winter season and has earned a legendary reputation in the scene for a quarter of a century. Hundreds of fans from all over the world make the pilgrimage to Stuben am Arlberg to experience the Woodstock of snowboarding. Nowhere else is the spirit of snowboarding celebrated more authentically than in Stuben. Over 400 enthusiastic snowboarders set off from the Albonagrat over 1,000 metres down to Stuben.

The picture: Participants of the Longboard Classic (2018)

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Freeriderin Nadine Wallner im Skigebiet der Albona

Freeriding on the Albona

The Albona is characterized by very long runs where you can make a lot of vertical meters. Due to its north-facing orientation, the snow is usually perfect. If you want to go even further, you can also set off on your own touring skis.

Nadine Wallner (two-time freeride world champion)

The Arlberg enjoys an international reputation as an off-piste ski area. The Albona also contributes to this, as the treeless northern slopes provide ideal freeride terrain.

The picture: Freedrider Nadine Wallner in the Albona ski area

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Bergstation der Albona II

New construction of the Albonabahn II

Thanks to the Flexenbahn and Trittkopfbahnen I and II, as well as the Albonabahn II, all ski resorts on the Arlberg have been accessible on skis since the start of the 2016/17 season. What's more, with 305 connected ski slope kilometers and 85 state-of-the-art lifts and cable cars, Ski Arlberg is the largest corresponding ski area in Austria and one of the five most extensive ski areas in the world.

With the commissioning of the Albonabahn II monocable gondola lift in December 2016 a new era began on the Albona. It now runs from the valley station in the Alpe Rauz area to the Albonasattel. The Flexenbahn was opened at the same time, making Rauz an essential hub in the Arlberg ski area.

The picture: Mountain station of the Albonabahn II

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Albona I - Vorbereitung der Inbetriebnahme

New Albonabahn I as access to the Arlberg ski area

The newly built monocable gondola lift with gondolas for up to eight people forms the new Arlberg West Portal, which is the first entrance to the extensive ski area. The West Portal is very centrally located in the ski area. From here, the most famous resorts of the Arlberg, St. Anton, and Lech can be reached in roughly the same time via the various lifts.

Dr. Walther Thöny, CEO Arlberger Bergbahnen

After 40 years, the history of the Albonabahn I double chairlift came to an end in summer 2023. It was dismantled and replaced by a modern monocable gondola lift. This is intended for transporting guests up and down the mountain and is designed for a transport capacity of 1,600 people per hour.

The picture: Preparation for commissioning

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