Recent Italian opposition to a scheme feared by several villages in the South Tyrol to be a competitive threat to their unilateral winter-sports economies has since dissolved in the wake of last month’s council elections, the prospect of both frontier districts linking up their relative attributes for the benefit of skiers now being seen as more probable than at any time since the venture was first mooted.
Despite the will of all parties on both sides of the border being favourably aligned there is as of yet no firm date when the scheme will formally be brought before a council plenary session. Several investors from the private sector have voiced their interest in backing a project widely seen as a vital boost to flat-lining tourist numbers in Graun im Vinschgau, although data suggesting 250,000 overnight stays serviced by 2.500 tourist beds are ‘declining’ figures many resorts would be more than happy to accept. With the potential to elongate its access to skiing from its current four winter months to an all year round use of the Kaunertaler Gletscher(glacier), it is easy to understand why the Bolzano Chamber of Commerce and the Governor of South Tyrol are willing to subsidize three-quarters of a project that would see a link up with the Karlesjochbahn cable-car that transports passengers to beyond the magic 3,000 metres mark. Although influential opposition remains from the borderland Belpiano-Schoeneben lift operator the unanimity forged between both regions recognising that today’s tourists seek varied terrain rather than being restricted to a limited number of pistes will form the basis of driving the project forward to its ultimate goal. It is rare for an idea in Austria of this magnitude to gain significant media traction without eventually coming to fruition, especially one with such bilateral political will. Once this proposal is brought before the council chamber I fully expect the only debate left to be not if the scheme is to be realised, but when.
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