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WINTER
Chris Weittenhiller

von Chris Weittenhiller

January 13, 2020

WINTER

The winning guy from the Karwendel

The tracks of the first Ganghofer runners lead deep into the Karwendel, to Hinterriß. It is located in the middle of a steep valley without an exit: Before comes Vorderriß, after that only "the Eng". Here lives the old forester, Herbert Schafhuber. Today he is long out of service, but according to the Ganghoferlauf archives, he was the first Austrian people's runner to win the Ganghoferlauf in Leutasch in 1976.

An unusual career

Back then, everything actually started with the forest, the forester recalls. After graduating from forestry school, the young man applied for the federal forest district in the Karwendel and moved into the small wooden house in Hinterriß. The fact that he bit himself in the ass a bit at that time, he admits today with a smile: Because skiing in the steep Rißtal valley was almost impossible, he had to find sporting alternatives. At some point, Bavarian cross-country skiers got him interested in gliding in the snow. At that time, no one in Austria was able to keep up with the world's top cross-country skiers, the ambitious popular skier emphasizes. It was an uninteresting niche sport, because the Alps had always been considered the territory of skiers. The young forester therefore got his first equipment second-hand from the Bavarians. The rest is probably history today, Herbert Schafhuber grins.

Portrait photo of Herbert Schafhuber

The long run to the top

At some point, no one on the home courses around Hinterriß ran faster than the forester, who had long sensed the competition. So he had himself put on the squad at the neighboring ski club and shortly thereafter went to the start at the Tyrolean Championships in Seefeld over 15 kilometers. Maybe one or two are faster, have the better equipment, he speculated. And he finished second to last. Where others would probably have given up, Herbert Schafhuber now burned for victory full of defiance.

In the Eng, the ambitious cross-country skier treaded his training track, 16 kilometers there and back. No one had really taught the career changer how to cross-country ski, but where there's a will, there's a trail. And where there was a popular race, there was soon the Schafhuber: Koasalauf, König Ludwig Lauf, the Alpen-Tris, even the Worldloppet Wasalauf in Sweden he visited with two friends in the camper.

A Ganghofer victory with history

I am and always will be a runner in the woods and meadows," admits the old forester with a grin. A fact that brought him victory in the Ganghofer Run in 1976. At the start, the runners were greeted by a dense snowstorm. Although the leading pack was able to pull away quickly after the starting signal, the first runners first had to enter the snow-covered track again, which took a lot of effort. As the forerunners gradually fell back, exhausted, the Ranger took the lead. The hard training in the narrow now paid off, he created distance between himself and his followers, but at some point the forces then also left him.

Starting number from the Ganghoferlauf

When he could already feel the breath of his pursuers on his neck, other runners suddenly came out of the wild tangle of flakes to meet him. Whether they were lost tourists or runners from the Leutasch ski school who came to meet the Ganghoferlauf in their tracks, Herbert Schafhuber can no longer say today. In the end, however, he suddenly found himself on a freshly trodden track and went home that day with the first Austrian Ganghofer victory in history.

The Styrian oak

Herbert Schafhuber still enjoys cross-country skiing today. Less often and not as fast as he used to, but he still likes to ski his home trails. Once he even took Arnold Schwarzenegger with him, a regular guest in his younger years. When Arnie wanted to try cross-country skiing one fine winter's day, the experienced forester took him along on the trail in the Eng. The Styrian was finally so enthusiastic about the forester's gliding that he also engaged his teacher for the next day. But when Herbert Schafhuber turned up at the inn at the agreed time, far and wide there was no Arnie to be seen.

Arnold Schwarzenegger as a guest of Herbert Schafhuber

Only when around half past ten the second coffee came, one heard the Arnie broad-legged down the stairs. He apologized meekly to the trainer, saying he could hardly walk. But Schafhuber grinned, he knew the notorious cross-country skier's disease all too well. And so that morning he simply sat in the sun next to the Styrian oak tree and drank coffee. After all, only very few can claim to have brought an Arnold Schwarzenegger to his knees.

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