The insatiable, unquenchable thirst within the Austrian ski fraternity to build yet more winter-sports infrastructure seems in little danger of being sated any time in the near future, with news of more projects moving from the conceptual stages on the drawing board to fruition or, at least spades going into the ground, seemingly in record time.
The pronounced differences between Slovenia and neighbouring Austria are as diametrically opposed as one could barely imagine. Whilst much hand-wringing over the ultimately doomed 2864 Bohinj project took place in the former Yugoslav republic, elsewhere, in Austria, should someone comes up with an idea for a new ski lift, five star hotel or mountain restaurant the project in question is often completed in the blink of an eye. The planning process seems to revolve around when construction can start rather than allowing for local sensibilities, aesthetic considerations or the actual NEED for additional facilities to be fashioned in the first place. Money rarely, if ever, is a stumbling block – the Tyrol is awash with finance for projects such as these.
But yet, where should the line be drawn? By creating more and more cableways and associated infrastructure, is it realistic to assume more and more patrons will be drawn away from the countries they usually visit in the winter, to instead head to the Tyrol? To me it appears nothing more than an exercise in dividing the tourist cake yet further rather than proportionally swelling the winter-sports coffers. Resorts in Austria perpetually live under a cloud of paranoia, of being jealous neighbours who constantly fear being left behind by the village down the road or in the next valley. Where one ski area can take business off another then a reaction is triggered, amounting to a domino-effect of never-ending development in a landscape that could be forgiven for thinking a sea of yellow Liebherr cranes forms part of its natural topography.
The Brunn area above Kitzbuehel that incorporates the famous Hahnenkamm and Pengelstein is one such region keenly awaiting a new, four-seater chairlift, with associated storage pond, piste development and artificial snow-making apparatus accounting for the €20.5 million slated for the project. Never an area to let the alpine pastures grow beneath its feet, construction is scheduled to commence a mere day after the winter season has formally closed, the lift timetabled to go live in mid-December. The Telfs-based ropeway-concern Leitner secured the contract that is projected to grow Kitz’s ski offering by a further five percent – whether it increases revenue by five percentage points remains to be seen. It will also be interesting to note if the chairlift is fully operational throughout the 2016 summer season, to complement Kitzbuehel’s raft of existing cableways. With over forty percent of the budget earmarked for artificial snow-making little is being left to chance by a resort situated at a relatively modest altitude, whose snow-record ensures it often punches above its height.
First documented in a 1924 ski tome the Brunn region reminds me somewhat of Nasserein, the former sleepy hamlet that has latterly been swamped by St. Anton am Arlberg’s all-pervading tentacles. When an area is classed as offering ‘new opportunities’ for future ski-lifts, it is with Nasserein in mind that conjures images of every available space being utilised to a point where it becomes imperceptible to delineate where one area ends and another begins. In the restless world that those behind the Austrian ski sector often inhabit, such instances of standalone hamlets and districts being harmonised into the auspices of a neighbouring behemoth are becoming increasingly common.
Further reading on this subject can be viewed at: Tiroler Tageszeitung: Further additions to Kitzbuehel’s lift-system