He was born in the town of Stuben am Arlberg in Austria as a son of a cheese maker. In 1907 he became a ski guide at the Hotel Post in St. Anton, Austria where he began work on what became known as the Arlberg technique. After serving as a ski instructor for the Austrian army during the First World War, he returned to the Hotel Post. In 1921 a film came out based on the Arlberg technique, he formed a semi-independent ski school where by 1924 he had formalized his method of instruction.
In the inter war period he also appeared in several of Dr. Arnold Fanck's ski films. Der weiße Rausch, which helped make skiing popular, was filmed at the Arlberg in the winter of 1930/1931. He also co-published a book (with Fanck), named Die Wunder des Schneeschuhs which became translated to English as The Wonders of Skiing in 1931.
In 1939 he moved his operations to Cranmore Mountain Ski Resort in North Conway, New Hampshire. He had run into trouble with Nazi policies and even spent time in jail after the Anschluss. During the Second World War he helped train the 10th Mountain Division of the U. S. Army in which his son Herbert served.
The New England Ski Museum hosts the Hannes Schneider Meister Skiing Cup in his memory every march at Cranmore Mountain resort. During 2005 the New England Ski Museum features an exhibit on the life of Hannes Schneider and his impact on the sport of skiing.