Kober, who built Southeastern skiing from the ground up and has long been known as the “Father of Southern Skiing,” a title he rightly deserved, has been honored by having his name affixed to the restaurant located inside the mountaintop lodge located at The Omni Homestead Resort in Hot Springs.
“Kober’s At The Mountain Lodge” reflects the warmth and ambiance the man himself brought to the area.
Kober emigrated from Austria in 1957, bringing his talents to join the Sepp Ruschp Ski School at Stowe, Vermont. Born outside of Igls, Austria, near Innsbruck, where he was on skis at age 3, Kober taught the sport at Stowe before striking out on his own in 1959 by relocating south of the Mason-Dixon Line.
Drawn by an ambiance that reminded him of home, he became the first-ever director of skiing and winter sports at The Homestead, and was well known as one of the top ski school instructors throughout the region.
It was a novel idea by the five-star resort, which was looking to attract guests in the slower winter months. Kober started from scratch on what was formally part of a golf course on the mountain, installed snowmaking, designed trails and stocked the resort with ski equipment and rentals.
It quickly became a hit, as would-be skiers flocked to Hot Springs to try the new sport, and Kober proved that with improved snow-making, since the weather was not always reliable, skiing was viable in the South. He stocked the Homestead Lodge with 600 pairs of skis and 250 pairs of ice skates for the new, adjacent ice rink.
His efforts filled the iconic Hot Springs resort with guests ready to hit the slopes, skate and take in the pastoral and eloquent winter atmosphere at The Homestead that continues today. Guests at The Homestead watched Kober’s demonstrations, were drawn to his unique Austrian accent and personality, and quickly realized how much fun the sport of skiing could be.
As snow skiing took hold in the region, Kober was at the center of every aspect of the sport, sharing his expertise in all things skiing, from retail to rentals, establishing ski schools and consulting with other resorts on slope design and operations. Simultaneously, he worked as a sales rep for companies that sold everything from hard-goods and apparel to ski lifts and snow-making.
Kober’s son, Sepp Kober Jr., who owns the Freestyle Ski Shops in Charlottesville and at Wintergreen Resort, said in a 2010 interview that his father had provided “one-stop shopping” for the growing sport in the south. “He held people’s hands,” Sepp, Jr noted. “He was a connoisseur of winter sports. I think he saw an opportunity.”
Sepp Sr. founded the Southeastern Ski Areas Association, which now consists of 17 ski areas in five states, including Bryce, Wintergreen, Massanutten, The Omni Homestead and Liberty Mountain Snowflex in Virginia, and he represented the region as a charter member at the inaugural meeting of the National Ski Areas Association in 1962 at The Broadmoor in Colorado Springs.
He also founded the Mid-Atlantic Ski Areas Association and the Southeastern Ski Representatives Association, where he was its president for six years.
In 2009, Kober was inducted into the prestigious U.S.Ski and Snowboard Hall of Fame for his contributions to the ski industry. Due to declining health, his award was accepted by his son and his grandson, Seppi, a skier who put on his first pair of skis when he was only 11 months old. Sepp Sr.’s legacy was firmly cemented.
“It’s very exciting that my Dad is receiving the recognition that he really deserves,” Sepp Jr. said at the time. “His accomplishments put skiing on the map where we are.”
Kober remained in Hot Springs with his wife, Marion, until his death in August, 2010. He continued to ski almost daily until 2008, where he made his last run down the slopes at The Homestead with Sepp Jr. and Seppi.
At the ribbon cutting ceremony November 16th, Marion Kober did the honors, flanked by Sepp Jr. and Seppi. Friends, family and Omni Homestead officials looked on, knowing the new facility reflected the comfort and hospitality that Sepp Sr. would have enjoyed and been proud of as an ambassador to the sport of skiing.
Kober’s at the Mountain Lodge reflects the persona of the man himself. The cozy atmosphere that overlooks the base of the ski slopes and the nearby ice rink centers around a massive fireplace that offers a break from the colder mountaintop temperatures.
Described as a winter smokehouse restaurant designed to reflect Kober’s zest for life in a casual family-friendly environment, the specialty of the house is BBQ crafted and slow-smoked daily, with classic Southern sides along with a full selection of mixed drinks, beers and wines.
The decor includes pictures and memorabilia from Kober’s skiing history. The lodge is open to the public, check for hours of operation. Credit cards are required, except for hotel guests.