Günther Zangerl doesn’t talk about it for long. “One cannot argue away that we are a large energy consumer and are therefore viewed critically,” says the board of directors of the Silvrettaseilbahn AG in Ischgl.
The A1 cable car alone in Austria’s fourth largest ski area transports up to 3440 passengers per hour and is powered by eight 4350 hp engines. A “true power pack”, a “technical marvel”, is how the company describes itself.
However, the power consumption is correspondingly high, which is a source of criticism in view of the current energy crisis in Europe. After all, the Austrian federal government recently called on the population to reduce their energy consumption by eleven percent as part of “Mission 11”.
Is it still possible to soar carefree at up to six meters per second and on heated seats, and then glide back down into the valley via an artificially snowed slope? Günther Zangerl also sees the contradiction: “We are expected to make a contribution.”
So this winter, savings will also be made in Ischgl. The speed of the cable car is reduced, the lighting is reduced and the seat heaters remain switched off. “These are things that we have always done,” says Zangerl, “but this year we are paying particular attention to them.”
In the thermal baths, which also belong to the company, the outdoor pool stays cold. Heating the water to plus 30 degrees at an air temperature of minus 20 degrees simply uses too much energy. “A total of ten percent savings are possible without the guest having to forego comfort.”
The ski industry is particularly criticized because of the artificial snow, which consumes large amounts of electricity – in Ischgl it is about 40 percent of the total energy requirement, estimates Zangerl. At the same time, however, hardly anything can be saved here, since the slopes have to be well prepared to make skiing possible at all.
At the Cable Car Association of the Austrian Chamber of Commerce, efforts are being made to put the numbers in relation. The electricity requirement of all 3,000 cable cars in Austria accounts for just 1.2 percent of the country’s total consumption, it says.
At the same time, the industry secures 125,900 jobs, and winter sports enthusiasts generate sales of 11.2 billion euros per year. “Snowmaking is of essential importance for tourism,” says Franz Hörl, chairman of the association and ÖVP deputy in the National Council. “Because just as the conveyor belt is the production area for industry, this is the slope for winter tourism.”
Similar arguments are also being made on the other side of the German-Austrian border, in Oberstdorf, just 50 kilometers as the crow flies from Ischgl. “The share of the mountain railways in the total electricity consumption is extremely low, but the added value in rural areas is extremely high,” says Henrik Volpert, CEO of the local mountain railway. The discussion about energy consumption is “emotionally very charged”.
“If you don’t just talk about technical but also about social efficiency, then the energy that our companies need is very well invested,” he says.
Nevertheless, his company is also planning savings in the upcoming winter season. In Oberstdorf, too, the cable cars will run more slowly if the number of passengers allows, and the seat heaters will remain cold.
One goes one step further in Garmisch-Partenkirchen, at the foot of the highest mountain in Germany, where the Bayerische Zugspitzbahn runs and takes ski holidaymakers to the slopes of the Garmisch-Classic ski area, among other things. There they even want to save on snowmaking this winter, says spokeswoman Verena Tanzer.
There will only be artificial snow where it is absolutely necessary. She considers it a matter of course to make a contribution to reducing energy consumption.
“My impression is that the entire leisure industry is under observation,” says Tanzer. “It’s being looked at more closely because we’re not systemically important.”
So everything was put to the test. One consequence: this winter, the usual radiant heaters on the terraces of the restaurants will not be switched on.
“It’s really pure luxury to sit under a patio heater at minus 15 degrees,” she says. A total of ten percent energy savings are possible.
Ski holidaymakers not only have to dress warmer this winter, but above all there is a risk of higher prices. In Garmisch-Partenkirchen, ski passes cost around ten percent more this year. In addition, the parking spaces at the valley stations are subject to a charge for the first time.
Both have nothing to do directly with the energy crisis, says Tanzer, but had been planned for a long time. According to Franz Hörl from the Austrian Cable Car Association, the price increases are “in the range of inflation”.
If price developments in the energy sector were taken as a basis, the increase would be significantly higher, he says. “Here, however, there was a clear commitment from the industry that it absolutely wanted to prevent this, especially with regard to families and children.” Günther Zangerl in Ischgl has definitely increased the prices for ski passes this year.
“We weren’t able to allocate inflation 1:1,” he says. In the meantime, the energy costs in his company have quadrupled. “But the development must be reflected in the prices.” Depending on the category, holidaymakers pay 11 to 13 percent more to get onto the slopes.
Author: Jonas Martiny
The original of this article “The ski industry wants to save money” comes from Deutsche Welle.