Plans to create one of the biggest ski areas in the world under the TirolS banner have been confirmed, for the first time connecting resorts in both the Austrian Salzburgerland and Tyrol provinces.
The established SkiCircus area, consisting of Leogang, Saalbach and Hinterglemm will link up in time for the 2015/16 with Fieberbrunn, their Tyrolean neighbour, who aim to invest €20 million through the Fieberbrunn Lift Company to bring the plans into reality. The Wolfurt-based cableway manufacturer Doppelmayr have been tasked with providing a ten seater gondola device capable of transporting 2,600 passengers per hour. 3.5 km of new piste will be created, serviced by an artificial snow-making capability throughout the ski area. Furthermore, ambitious plans to amalgamate with Salzburgerland resorts Zell am See and Kaprun, famous for its Kitzsteinhorn glacier have also been confirmed although, no date for this has as of yet been slated.
The obvious criticism of such a scheme inevitably centres upon individual resorts – which we must remember in many cases are in fact autonomous villages in their own right – potentially losing their own distinct characteristics; being swallowed up to become a small piece incorporated into a larger swathe is not an attractive proposition but will allow winter-sports enthusiasts to sample in one day terrain more diverse than being limited to one resort. This though would seem to benefit tourists far more than the average citizen. The publicity bumph inevitably extols the virtues of the whole area becoming greater than the sum of its parts, pointing to individual quirks that each resort can bring to the table to be sampled as a whole. There is though also the added bonus of summer hikers being able to take advantage of more terrain being opened up to day walkers and hut to hut trekkers.
The second phase consists of conjoining Zell am See/Kaprun with Saalbach, complementing an already established run between the two with an additional ten passenger gondola, linking up Zell am Zee’s Schmittenhoehe with the Glemmtal, at a cost of €25 million. Since the statutory period when complaints could be lodged unsurprisingly passed without a dissenting voice heard, there is now little standing in the way of yet another major alpine infrastructure project taking physical shape.
It is to be assumed that a near 365 day a year use is planned for both the aforementioned lift devices; a business plan that solely relies on winter usage at such modest altitudes could see a return on such significant investment being by no means certain. Advocates of the scheme will point to artificial snow-making as being the project’s get out of jail card but no resort can produce synthetic snow if temperatures are insufficiently low. Only on the Kitzsteinhorn above Kaprun can apposite conditions be guaranteed, with glacier skiing being possible throughout the year.
With the Tyrol being awash with finance for such projects deliberations over how to bankroll these kinds of ventures are almost unheard of. In seeking to keep one step ahead of other countries and indeed intranational resorts one wonders if the day when expansion becomes no longer possible has ever entered the minds of those charged with overseeing the Tyrol’s resorts.
Further reading on this subject can be viewed at: Planet Ski: Austrian SkiCircus set to expand