Will Vail destroy smaller independent ski resorts

On old snow to new price peaks

A little earlier always seems to be possible. Last year, Kitzbühel started the ski season on October 22nd, not on the Streif, but 20 kilometers away, on the Resterhöhe. The earliest start of the season to date for a ski area without a glacier connection was undercut this year: On October 13th it was "slope free" on the Resterhöhe. During the day the thermometer showed 21 degrees, next to the snow band walked hikers, some in shorts (see photo).

The Hahnenkammbahn has also been in operation since this weekend, also earlier than ever. The secret of the early snow despite the seemingly late summer temperatures is called snow farming - "growing snow".

This technique of snow conservation, which has been practiced in Scandinavia since the late 1990s, has also been conquering the Alpine region for a number of years. There are several methods. One is to cover the "yesterday's snow" stored in depots with wood chips or sawdust and to protect it from rain with tarpaulins. In this way, the snow is thermally insulated, which means that up to 80 percent of the initial amount comes over the summer. Of course, this has its price and is also reflected in the cost of the lift tickets. Skiing has never been as expensive as this year.

The mountain railways have once again raised prices well above inflation. At the Arlberg you pay almost three percent more this year, in some destinations the increase is even higher. The Saalbach-Hinterglemm - Leogang - Fieberbrunn ski circuit, which emerged three years ago as one of the largest ski areas in Austria, is one of them.

57 euros for the day ticket

There the price for the adult ticket has been increased to 55 euros in the high season. That is 3.8 percent more than last winter's 53 euros. The number of kilometers of slopes that can be skied has remained unchanged at 270 (see graphic). The Kitzbühel mountain railways have also stepped up a lot again. The price for the day ticket was increased by 3.6 percent to 57 (2017: 55) euros. Nowhere else in Austria is it more expensive to ski than on the Hahnenkamm this year.

The Association for Consumer Information has been watching the rise in ski pass prices for some time with concern. While the general consumer price index has risen by 19.7 percent since 2008, lift ticket prices have risen by an average of 30 percent in ten years, and in some places even more. Who can afford it?

The mountain railways justify their approach with the high investments. Since the turn of the millennium, almost ten billion euros have been invested in the modernization of ski lifts and snow-making technology.

The costs for the production of machine snow have fallen significantly to around two to three euros per square meter; In order to keep the slopes snow reliable until Easter, more help has to be given than in the past. That drives the prices. Especially for families, however, there are discounts almost everywhere, especially for weekly packages.

Cheaper, but bland

When it comes to skiing, the following rule applies: the bigger and more prestigious the destination, the more expensive it is. Smaller ski areas should therefore be cheaper. That is also true in the vast majority of cases. The positive thing is: If a family of four goes skiing there, it is not necessarily associated with hundreds of euros in daily expenses, even if you include food and ski rental. In selected areas, a day ticket sometimes costs significantly less than 30 euros; Children are often included for 15 or 16 euros.

However, this is not for everyone. Those who try to slide for the first time or drive with small children can have fun there. For young people and frequent skiers, however, a small ski area often becomes very bland very soon. The number of lifts and kilometers of slopes is usually limited to a handful.

Examples from other countries show that there is hardly any upper price limit for skiing. In the French ski area Tignes / Val d'Isère the day ticket costs 59 euros this year, in St. Moritz 79 francs or 69 euros, in Vail (USA) 171 dollars, that's almost 150 euros. (Günther Strobl, October 27, 2018)

Rental boom: the trend towards rented ski pants

There is almost nothing left that does not exist. Ski clothing for hire was something like that - until two years ago. It was then that Wendy Williams had the idea to fill this gap. She founded SkiSuitRental in Vienna and went online.

"I've seen that you can rent everything - skis, matching shoes, poles, even a helmet. Only ski clothing, you had to buy expensive," Williams told STANDARD. She describes herself as a passionate skier. The native Canadian is now starting her third season.

There is no competition for sports shops, not even for ski rentals on site, on the contrary. "We only have things in our range - all quality goods, by the way - that are not available in classic ski rentals: ski jackets and ski pants for women, men and children, gloves and ski goggles," she says. "A lot of people who rent ski clothing for a day, two or three days would probably never even try to see whether they like skiing because clothing is very expensive," says Williams.

Customers order online and can choose between brands, sizes and colors. Packing takes place in Vienna, delivery throughout Austria. When the guest checks in, the order is already in the hotel, promises Williams. This means that guests can theoretically come to Austria with hand luggage on a skiing holiday. Jackets, pants and gloves are then thoroughly cleaned and checked, then everything starts all over again. (stro)

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Snow-white battle of retreat