This is the first in our series of highlighting some of our team members. We want to share their stories, so you can get to know who you’ll be skiing with, and the type of people that make up the New Gen team. Here’s our Q&A with Hanni Steppan in St Anton, on skiing, travel and living life to the fullest.
Meet: Hanni Steppan
Resort: St Anton
MEET THE TEAM: HANNI
How did you get started skiing?
I was born in Innsbruck, Austria and everyday after kindergarten, my mum would take me to the local small drag lift in our town. I would lap the one little lift and never get bored. Those fond memories have stayed with me and I still love skiing as much today as I did then.
When I was five, my family and I moved to Vienna, Austria. From a young age to until I was 18 years old, we only skied for around two weeks per year on holiday, like most Austrians. So although I’m Austrian and locally Tyrolian, I technically didn’t really grow up in the mountains.
Why did you decide to become a ski instructor?
When I graduated high school, I didn't know what I wanted to study, so I didn't want to go to university straight away. I wanted to explore the world and I always had my sights set on Canada. So I figured I could do my ski instructor level 1 qualification there, as an excuse to go away for a while and have something to work on while I was away. Gap years weren't really a thing then, but I knew I was following my dream.
So I did my first full season in Canada when I was 19, and then, over the years, did many more seasons. I didn't always do a full season, as I was going between studying at uni and working 'normal jobs' too! I was constantly changing careers, living situations, boyfriends and countries I lived in. A lot changed in my life constantly, but one thing has always stayed the same: skiing (my anchor) - always keeping me grounded.
"My dad always said if you're not studying you are working. "
It was supposed to be my fun, part-time job, and somehow it evolved into my safe place, and 50% of my final career path. I have to admit, I got lost a few times in trying to work in film in summer, or trying to decide where I want to live as the travel bug never left me. Whenever I was in doubt I always returned back to the mountains, to give another ski qualification a go, just to see how far I could take that possible career. It gave me a purpose and made me feel at home, wherever and whichever mountain I was on. When I ski, I feel at home.
Where else have you taught skiing?
After my first season teaching skiing in Canada, I went to university in London to study for three years. In between studying, I actually went to work in St Anton during my uni holidays. I also traveled to the US and did one semester studying and skiing at Colorado State University. And that was supposed to be the end of my skiing career.
So I went to do another ski season in Hinterglemm, Austria. I ended up working there for 3 (or maybe 2? I don't remember now) seasons. I started interning, and getting jobs in film throughout the summer. I seemed to have worked out a nice rhythm with film keeping me busy in summer and ski instructing in winter.
After that I worked in Mauterndorf, Obertrauern. Sometimes for full seasons, sometimes just a few weeks. I also began ticking off qualifications and started training with SBSSV in Kitzsteinhorn. This is where the Finnish Ski Federation was also training, and I ended up losing a bet. So I went to work in Finland for one winter season. I actually liked it so much I went back for a second winter. Following my work in Finland, I decided to turn back to studying and ventured to Florida to finish my Masters Degree.
I got a 'permanent job' at Red Bull Media House and helped out in my local ski school of the time, in Rußbach, Dachstein West. I later started my own film company called Powerhoney Productions. I love working in film, but soon realized that life is too short to not be outside exploring the world.
"life is too short to not be outside in the world"
So I quit, went skiing in Japan for two seasons and started to wonder if maybe one day I could actually be good enough to become Staatlich (Austrian Ski Instructor Certification.) On returning,I started my own film company and began race training (I was 32 when I did my first gates....so never too late.) The Staatlich entry exam is once a year, and if you get it, you can start the following year. So I made sure I was back in Austria for my exam.
Why did you want to work for New Gen?
When I was race training two years ago in Tignes, I met a few people that were raving about how great it is to work for New Generation. So I checked out the website and liked what I saw. I then went on to race train in Kitzsteinhorn in the autumn and through coincidence, one of the girls on my training group worked for St Anton. At the end of that season and I had a snowboard course on Kitzsteinhorn and it just so happened that Bex Tate and Sanne Romijn were in my group.
So for two years New Generation kept popping up around me, and when I was looking for a ski school in St Anton, I couldn't deny fate anymore. It all came full circle and was meant to be!
What do you bring to the team New Gen St Anton team?
I give German lessons to the team - or let's say Austrian lessons (including funny Austrian dancing) - so they are practical and applicable for what we do on a daily basis.
I have more experience now, so I do extra training sessions with the team on how to handle the mental pressures of an off-piste guiding day, or how to engage a kids group. Making sure our team can manage peoples' expectations and handle a group environment so everyone has a great time. We come up with fun new ideas for the team to use so we are continuously training to be better teachers.
To be honest, I turned out to be the trusted older instructor that the younger team members can come to with any problems like homesickness, heartbreak, practical money issues, or life decisions in general. Don't get me wrong, I'm no agony aunt - I still like to party in St Anton when the opportunity arises!
What are your career goals within skiing?
I am aiming to finish my Staatlicher and eventually even my Skiführer. This would be great for leadership roles within a ski school. Also my Skiführer would also be useful for my film business because it would open unique opportunities for me.
What else are you passionate about?
I'm really passionate about sustainability and encourage people to travel to St Anton via the train instead of flying. St Anton has great connections and travel links making it hassle free, relaxing and better for the environment. Did you know that most hotels in St Anton Resort will pick you and your luggage up from the train station? So the kids can watch movies and take in the views, whilst you can enjoy a drink and relax. Promise me you'll try it next season? For more information and tips on how to make your next ski holiday more sustainable, check out our guide to sustainable ski holidays.
If you'd like to ski with Hanni, simply request Hanni when booking your next lessons. See you on the slopes soon.