Seventy five years ago on February 11, 1939, Hannes Schneider and his family stepped off the Eastern Slope Express from New York City at the North Conway, New Hampshire train station, after a harrowing year in which Schneider had been under house arrest, and his family reviled in their hometown of St. Anton, Austria. For the next 16 years, Hannes Schneider, one of the originators of the mountain resort economy in Europe and North America, would oversee the ski school at Mount Cranmore.
The life of Hannes Schneider, his contributions to skiing, and the legacy of the World War II veterans of the 10th Mountain Division will be honored at the Hannes Schneider Meister Cup Race to be held on Saturday March 8, 2014 at Mount Cranmore Resort in North Conway. In addition to a dual giant slalom race on moderate terrain, the Meister Cup features spectator events that include an Opening Ceremony, a wear-your-own vintage skiwear contest, ice carving demonstration, silent auction, and music throughout the day by the Bavarian Brothers Band.
The drama in the life of the Schneiders began with the Anschluss of March, 1938, when Germany annexed neighboring Austria. The alignment of the two countries lifted all constraints on Austrian members of the Nazi party, and many took the opportunity to settle scores with their rivals and opponents. As the leading citizen of St. Anton, Schneider was targeted by Nazis from Innsbruck for keeping his opposition to the fascist movement, and he was jailed for a time before international pressure on the German government led to his release to house arrest in Garmisch-Partenkirchen, Germany.
Through negotiations with terms that remain obscure today, Cranmore’s founder Harvey Dow Gibson managed to obtain Schneider’s release from Germany and arrange for him to relocate to the United States with his family. Certainly Gibson’s position as chairman of the committee of American banks that was considering whether to renew German short term debt may have played a persuasive role in the situation.
Whatever the circumstances of his release, Schneider was enthusiastically welcomed in North Conway on that Saturday morning by ranks of junior skiers of the Eastern Slope Ski Club lined up in the park in front of the train station, who created an arch of ski poles through which the Schneiders, accompanied by Harvey Gibson, walked into their new life in America.
Hannes Schneider’s presence at Cranmore in the second year of its existence leant massive credibility to the new ski area, helping it to become one of the premier ski resorts in the country. Until his death in 1955, Schneider’s residence in North Conway made the town an important center of the international ski world.
Registration for the Hannes Schneider Meister Cup Race is open until March 5, 2014. Age classes run from 9 and under all the way to 90 plus, and the race is suitable for novice skiers and riders and experts alike. Entry fee for each racer is $75, or $375 for a team of five. All spectator events are free and open to the public, and anyone interested in ski history, Mount Cranmore, the 10th Mountain Division, and spring festivals is encouraged to attend.
Sponsors of the 18th Annual Hannes Schneider Meister Cup Race are Cranmore Mountain Resort, the Gibson/Woodbury Charitable Foundation, the Schneider Family, the Connie Davis Watson Foundation, Newcastle Brown Ale, Eastern Slope Inn, Eastern Mountain Sports, Magic 104 FM, 93.5 WMWV, Valley Originals, WPKQ 103.7, the Conway Daily Sun, Outside Television and Hill’s RV. For more information on the event call New England Ski Museum at 800-639-4181.