Karl Koller - Modernized Kitzbühel's ski school

Passing Date

Karl Koller, the 1946 Hahnenkamm combined champion who went on to revolutionize ski instruction for kids and adult beginner, died October 26 in his home town, Kitzbühel. He turned 100 last April.

(For a full biography, see the January-February 2019 issue of Skiing History)

Koller grew up in Kitzbühel, competing in both nordic and alpine events. In 1938 he was Austrian junior champion in downhill and jumping, while training as a ski instructor. After the Anschluss he was recruited to the German ski team, but spent most of the war teaching skiing to Wehrmacht mountain troops.

Returning to Kitzbühel, he took second in both the downhill and the slalom at the 1946 Hahnenkamm, thus earning the combined championship. He returned to teaching, and in 1950 organized Kitzbühel’s rival ski schools into a unified Red Devils ski school, so named for the uniform Koller designed. Over the next 25 years Koller created dozens of innovative teaching techniques, including terrain-based learning, the early-season wedel week, and the Kollerhelp sled that gave kids a grab-handle for their first gliding experience. In 1952 he designed the Schul-Ski and introduced a formal progression of short-ski instruction.

Koller served as president of the Austrian Ski Instructors Association and chairman of the Kitzbühel Tourism Association. With his wife Hilde he ran a hotel. Hilde died in 1997; for the last 20 years of his life Koller lived with his childhood friend Ida, in Jochberg.