Growing concern for Swiss and Austrian ski resorts this winter

Growing concern for Swiss and Austrian ski resorts this winter
Skiing will likely also become more expensive this winter. Credit: Belga

Europe is heading towards a difficult winter, with rumours of blackouts and people not being able to afford to heat their homes. This is also expected to affect popular ski resorts in Austria and Switzerland, which are considering energy-saving measures.

Mountain destinations are only just starting to recover following the pandemic. Now, the future once again looks uncertain for companies, according to reports from Swiss broadcaster SRF, as the Federal Office for National Economic Supply (BWL) stated that restrictions in ski resorts could be considered as part of the four-stage plan to deal with energy shortages.

"A closure would, directly and indirectly, affect over 300 employees, that would be devastating," Urs Keller, managing director of Bergbahnen Hoch-Ybrig, a skiing and hiking area in Canton of Schwyz, said. Cable car operators generate about 70% of their annual turnover during the winter ski season, meaning he is watching the situation regarding the country's electricity supply with great concern.

"We could be back in the same situation as two years ago." However, what the inclusion of ski resorts in the plan means is unsure. Various scenarios are possible, ranging from a ban on the use of snow cannons to the suspension of ski lift operations.

Other measures needed locally

Berno Stoffel, Director of Swiss Cableways, confirmed that cable car operators will do their part, but that the impact of limiting the number of gondolas and their working hours will be limited.

"Cable cars account for only 0.3% of electricity consumption in Switzerland," he said. In comparison, the economic damage of closures seems disproportionate, he added.

Instead, options such as only offering cold water in the toilets and heating indoor spaces less, to turning off advertising lights and heaters, should be considered. In this way, closures can be avoided, however, the levels of comfort for winter sports tourists will be cut back.

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Austria's cable car operators are also thinking about corresponding savings measures, industry spokesperson Franz Hörl told Der Standard, by reducing how much snow is made via cannons and using fewer gondolas for cable transport. It is also considering increasing the prices of tickets for cable car services.

However, he stressed that ski resorts are not the big electricity guzzlers — cable cars only need 1.3% of the electricity consumed in Austria, while almost no gas is needed — as the core infrastructure for Alpine winter tourism has been working to adopt more energy-efficient transport systems for years now.

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