A 2.5% increase in the cost of ski passes that amounts to more than twice the Austrian rate of inflation has been announced for the forthcoming winter season by the representative body of the Tyrolean cableway operators.
The progress of implementing additional lift systems throughout the Austrian Alps has been stymied in recent times by those described as “fanatical professionals” and organisations whose mission statements are predicated on protecting the environment from overdevelopment – in effect those who vehemently object to the industrialization of the countryside and fear that even the remotest of alpine valleys are now considered fair game by developers.
It has nevertheless been as rare as a dry week in the Zillertal that a cableway has failed to reach built reality due to the objections of naysayers but the planning process has become more protracted and divisive. Whilst being a thorn in the side to the entrepreneurial ambitions of those tasked with delivering new cable cars to Austria it is only right, at least in my view, that schemes are brought to account to ascertain their green credentials and if environmental concerns can be assuaged. This includes visual amenity issues of how new or additional lifts affect the landscape and form an alliance with their natural surroundings. A stringent and robust planning process that pays more than lip service to environmental sensibilities will ultimately ensure new constructs harmonise with the local area, albeit at the expense of developers not receiving the smooth ride for their plans that they had originally hoped.
Whether saturation point has been reached is hard to say but nevertheless remains a subjective issue. I am though of the opinion that existing cableways can and should be upgraded when and where appropriate but very few upland areas of the Tyrol and Salzburgerland remain untouched by ski infrastructure, resulting in a marked increase in resorts or regions being linked together, potentially bringing an influx of visitors to small and erstwhile quiet villages while larger towns at the other end of the connection see negligible benefits. A perpetual restlessness does exist within many ski resorts who see neighbouring towns upgrading their infrastructure and feel pressurised into following suit. It can quite simply be called greed or failing to rest on one’s laurels even though the financial gains can be imperceptible.
Despite increasingly vocal and confident environmental lobbies it seems inevitable that there will be yellow Liebherr cranes dominating alpine summer skylines for years to come, a sight as synonymous with the Tyrol as the cableways themselves.
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