I have recently touched upon just how relentlessly obsessive many of Austria’s Tyrolean resorts appear to be in pursuit of continually updating their tourism infrastructure, even when a natural saturation point seems to have been breached long before, notwithstanding the many dubious architecture abominations window-dressed as cutting edge, futuristic and a word loved by those whose outlandish drawings come to fruition: progressive.
One such example is a recent report in the Tiroler Tageszeitung regarding the possible link up between the Pitztal and Oetztal glacier regions, presumably linking Sankt Leonard with Soelden. Such tie-ups are becoming more frequent, the Ski Juwel project connecting Alpbach with the Wildschoenau’s Schatzberg mountain in Auffach is generally considered to be a resounding success although, it is with some disappointment that I found it only to be operational in the winter. Nevertheless, having previously hiked from Niederau to Auffach, ascended the Schatzberg lift and walked down to Alpbach before retracing my steps, a non-functioning lift linking the Schatzberg with Alpbach in the summer is far from being the end of the world. There is though an uneasy feeling troubling me that no Tyrolean alpine area can remain untouched, no mountain now seemingly left in peace for its flora and fauna to abundantly thrive without human intervention. A strange comparison, perhaps, but I am now seeing similar pressures placed upon land here in my native England. All tracts of land now seem to have to have a function, a tangible use and more importantly for many, a monetary value that varies dependent upon what a successful planning application will allow a developer to do with it. Gone it seems now are the days of land being left alone just because; it might not have been pretty or served a particular function but unkempt scrub, unmanaged woodland and neglected agrarian land all gave nearby conurbations green lungs and catered for more wildlife than many would give it credit for. I find such examples of land far easier on the eye than the dreadfully designed, shoehorned boxes that are now often placed on it, marketed as “starter homes” but serve only to increasingly blight our villages and towns, rather than seamlessly harmonise with the incumbent landscape.
It is perhaps reassuring that whilst a lift-system is proposed to link up the Pitztal with an Oetztal who recently welcomed the celluloid industry filming the next Bond flick, a caveat has been inserted as a nod to environmental concerns, stating there are to be no further ski runs created. To any cynic though living in the area or who has visited the region this will sound rather hollow. The area has been developed to oblivion, no more runs constructed is surely a euphemism for there being very little scope to manipulate the mountains yet further to create extra pistes. I am minded to think that the tie-up between the two valleys will benefit the Pitztal far greater, the Oetztal and in particular Soelden already being a formidably large and successful glacial ski region that provides opportunities throughout the year for snow-sport protagonists, not to mention the American ski team who currently use it as their training base. Soelden will of course welcome new patrons but if they don’t come from the Pitztal they’ll arrive from elsewhere, the area being particularly popular with high-rolling and at times obnoxious Russians, as well as the easier going but equally bibulous Dutch. A certain attraction of skiing both valleys during the same day will nevertheless appeal to many and despite setbacks for those recently proposing a connection between the Kalkkoegel and Stubaital regions, this proposal will in all likelihood get the thumbs up from the decision-makers. A message though to those currently pouring over maps of the Tyrol, seeking out fresh pistes and terrain for further connecting lifts: where will it all really end? When will enough be enough? Will Austria’s ski resorts ever arrive at a point when they finally declare they’re content with their lot?
Further reading on this subject can be viewed at: Oetztal and Pitztal connection mooted