The Austrian Woman
From her base near Austria’s St. Anton, freerider and Nordica test team member Geli Häusl inspires women to ski.
Mornings come early for Geli Häusl. This freerider, mountain guide, and member of Nordica’s test team, is up at the crack of dawn with her daughter Jana each morning, tending to their ordinary family life and extraordinary skiing life near St. Anton am Arlberg — a.k.a.: the “cradle of alpine skiing.”
Geli and her husband, Stefan Häusl — best known as a Nordica pro skier and dynamic member of the Freeride World Tour — make Austria’s Arlberg their home, a vast alpine region that famously includes St. Anton, St. Christoph, Zürs, Oberlech, and Lech.
This is where it all began for Austria’s sport of skiing. Around the turn of the 20th century, men, women, even the parish priest strapped long, wooden skis to their feet and ventured through the alpine — often by the light of the moon — whizzing along the snow-laden slopes of Lech, St. Christoph and St. Anton; climbing and skiing a local peak called the Galzig; and coming together to form the infamous Arlberg Ski Club. Hotels, lifts, and world-renowned slopeside restaurants followed. Fast forward to Winter 2016/17, and this ski region has grown to an immense 340 kilometres of ski slopes, newly connected by the Flexenbahn cable car, which enables skiers to tour the Arlberg in a single loop.
It is here, in the most recognized ski town in Europe, and surrounded by all this ski history, that the Häusls have settled their life. As Stefan heads one way each morning to train for the Freeride World Tour, Geli heads another, delivering their young daughter to school, then adopting her persona as an accomplished freeskier with a specialty in guiding women.
As a state-certified ski instructor and guide who has completed skiing and hiking expeditions in Alaska, Nepal, Greenland, Tibet and beyond, Geli Häusl spends her working days inspiring women in the ways of safely conquering steeps and rock-strewn faces. She does this in both winter and summer. In the warmer months, Geli is a mountain guide, leading hut-to-hut hikes through the Austrian Alps. In winter she’s ski instructor and guide, leading women’s camps throughout the Arlberg, and guiding private groups of students to parts of the mountain only locals and seasoned freeriders are privy to.
Geli’s courage and lust for the ski life is contagious — evident in ski films such as Headscarf vs. Beanie based on an all-girls ski trip to Iran, and Elements, an artful film that mixes the travel lifestyle with freeriding.
Yet perhaps it is Geli Häusl’s work as a member of Nordica’s test team that’s most worthwhile. Geli taps into her knowledge as a freerider and her experience guiding women of all levels to help develop new ski gear for Nordica that assists women in achieving their skiing goals, whatever they may be.
The world needs more passionate and dedicated women skiers like Nordica’s own Geli Häusl.
More Arlberg Hotel Options:
Hotel Tannenhof, St. Anton: Ask about its connection with 007 author Ian Fleming. http://www.hoteltannenhof.net/en
Arlberg1800 Resort, St. Christoph: Home of the world’s highest concert hall. https://www.arlberghospiz.at/hotel-tyrol-austria.html
Kristiania, Lech: Where rooms and food are true works of art. http://www.kristiania.at/en/
For more nformation: https://www.bestofthealps.com/en/
The Arlberg’s Top 3
If you find yourself touring Austria’s Arlberg region this season among skiers like Stefan and Geli Häusl, you’ll need places to eat, play, and sleep. Here are three of Nordica’s favourites in the Arlberg region:
1. Hotel Kristberg - Lech am Arlberg
He was born a “Lecher.” Egon Zimmermann — 1963 World Champion and 1964 Olympic Gold Medallist — lives, breathes, and skis his hometown of Lech, Austria. He still presides over Lech’s Hotel Kristberg with a broad smile and more than a story or two of victory, speed, and grace. Zimmermann, handsome and charming still, ambles through his centrally located, four-star hotel — now operated by his nephew Michael — entertaining guests, his star power a match for his hotel’s coziness and home-away-from-home atmosphere.
Don’t miss: Hotel Kristberg’s “golden view” of Lech from the sunny terrace.
2. Hotel Goldener Berg - Oberlech
Its lofty perch in Oberlech gives Hotel Goldener Berg one of the best wintery views of the Arlberg. Austria’s Pfefferkorn family infuses the hotel with flair and healthfulness: Splashes of sunny yellows and bright pinks are everywhere; the spa promises a “Path of Happiness.” The Panorama Restaurant patio’s backdrop of white snow and silver peaks is [the place to people-watch and eat, especially on a sunny afternoon in February.
Don’t miss: Kaiserschmarrn with sugar and stewed plums, anyone?
3. Hotel Schwarzer Adler - St. Anton am Arlberg
Built in 1550 by the Knights of St. John, Hotel Schwarzer Adler is an historic take on modern luxury in the centre of busy St. Anton. Situated near the Galzig gondola and in the midst of St. Anton boutiques, this four-star Tirolean masterpiece is endowed with frescoes, traditional stone fireplaces, and an outdoor pool ringed by pretty Austrian alps.
Don’t miss: The hotel’s breakfast, guaranteed to bolster the heartiest of St. Anton skiers.