Allgäu maintains winter tourism despite climate change

Inspection work is currently underway on the Alpspitzbahn in Nesselwang: employees are dismantling the entire cable car, checking countless cable pulleys and replacing them if necessary. They also check the steel cables. Everything should be reviewed by mid-December. Then winter operation should begin. “We have no alternative but winter; in 20 or 30 years we will still be skiing here,” says Ralf Speck, CEO of Alpspitzbahn.

Snow is guaranteed for a long time, especially in higher altitude areas

He is not alone in this opinion: together with other cable car colleagues, tourism experts, politicians and hoteliers in the region, he has drawn up a ten-point document. The central message is: Despite climate change, Allgäu preserves winter tourism. “We are not going to pull the trigger and say overnight that there will be no more winter. Until then it will be at least another 20 years,” says Bernhard Joachim, CEO of Allgäu GmbH.

Therefore, the region should remain a two-season tourist destination. The actors do not question the advance of climate change. However, they are convinced that, especially at higher altitudes, there will still be snow in the coming years and even decades.

Snow has a special meaning for people

The ten-point document gives snow a very special meaning: it is an “irreplaceable experience” that people long for. Furthermore, snow is becoming increasingly scarce in Germany and is increasingly becoming a “unique selling point” for the region.

Winter tourism remains profitable

Winter tourism is also profitable: half of the tourist added value in Allgäu is still generated in the cold season. Expressed in figures, it is 1,800 million euros (as of 2019). And this despite the fact that, according to Allgäu GmbH, there are fewer overnight stays in the winter semester than in the summer semester: 36 percent compared to 64 percent.

However, in winter guests leave more money: for example, buying or renting winter equipment or buying ski tickets. The guests employ many locals: the Alpspitzbahn alone has around 90 employees.

Studies by the German Sports University in Cologne also show that fewer and fewer people are practicing winter sports and the number of skiers is therefore decreasing. However, downhill skiing remains popular: this year, for example, demand for seasonal ski passes is greater than ever, says Joachim. Although ski pass prices have risen again.

Snow cannons for good slopes

As days with natural snow become fewer and fewer due to climate change, lift operators are turning to “technical snowmaking” according to the ten-point plan. “Snowmaking is essential for us. It is a guarantee for good and safe skiing, especially during the Christmas season,” explains Henrik Volpert, president of the Allgäuer Bergbahn Initiative, explaining the use of snow cannons. The Alpspitzbahn received several new snow cannons this year. The ski resort wants to see if the 30,000 euro machines work better than their predecessors thanks to their new technology. Ralf Speck assumes that they require much less electricity and offer more performance: “So they produce more snow in less time,” he says.

Expand the offer throughout the year

Non-skiers are also becoming increasingly important in the Allgäu. In order to offer all target groups an attractive winter experience, cable car companies, for example, must be even more flexible and expand their snow-independent offer. According to Henrik Volpert, many companies can now switch from winter to summer operation in a short time.

In addition, themed hiking trails or climbing forests should be usable at any time of the year. The former summer toboggan run in Nesselwang was demolished two years ago. Now the so-called Alpine mountain is located there. You can always sled here, unless it’s stormy.

Continue advancing sustainably in the region

Furthermore, those responsible for the tourism sector want to continue developing the region in a sustainable way. In the event that there is no snow in the medium or long term, they want to develop adaptation strategies. The goal is for Allgäu to remain a year-round destination in the future.

According to the ten-point document, tourism partners should, for example, use green electricity or purchase food and artisan services in the region. More than 100 municipalities and companies are already part of the “Climate Neutral Allgäu 2030” alliance. Bernhard Joachim from Allgäu GmbH wishes for the coming winter: “Enough snow, but also respect from all of us who work here in winter tourism for what is to come in the coming years.”

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