Green-brown instead of white. The situation in many small and lower-lying ski areas in Switzerland is similar to that in Pany GR.
Samuel Walder, Dominique Schlund
Even if it is supposed to snow down to 1000 meters during the week, it is far from certain that the white splendor will remain.
That’s why operators of ski lifts are now running on two tracks, as a survey by Blick in a good 30 ski areas that are between 1000 and almost 2000 meters in altitude has shown.
Motorbike tour and tobogganing
Roger Meier (48) is the managing director of Atzmännig Sportbahnen SG and has switched his company to summer operations. “Since we’ve had little snow in recent years, we’re used to switching to summer operations.”
Meier: “The toboggan run, motorbike tours and hiking trails are open here. We have also put the leisure facilities back into operation for children.” But the income from the skiers is missing in his coffers. Normally, up to 2,800 guests would be skiing down the slopes in the Atzmännig at this time of the day. Now there are only about 700 a day who pass the time on the toboggan run or on a moped. At least the sports railways can continue to employ their 25 permanent employees, even if the business doesn’t quite cover their costs on bad days, says Meier.
Grass skiing and ziplining
The situation is similar at the Marbachegg LU sports railways. There are discounted pedestrian fares, sociable fondue meals on the mountain and afternoon cinemas for the children. But that’s not all.
If there is still no snow, the operators will also open the bike trail and offer grass ski courses like in summer. The infrastructure for both is in place, says a spokeswoman for Blick. The management of the sports railways will be deciding these days whether it will soon be possible to roll down the snowless, green slopes on roller skis. The decision depends on snowfall and temperatures.
Due to the lack of snow, summer activities are also the order of the day on the Pradaschier GR adventure mountain. Here, guests can whiz down the slope on so-called ziplines or on the toboggan run instead of on skis and snowboards.
Associations and villagers help out
Ski areas like Aeschi in the Bernese Oberland are luckier. Here the ski lift is run by villagers on an hourly wage. “The costs for the ski lift are very low when the facilities are not in operation,” says Tanja Schäfli (50), Managing Director of Aeschi Tourismus. So she waits until the snow comes and then opens the business again. “I am very convinced that there is still snow,” she says.
The situation is similar in Hemberg SG. “We have no personnel costs because we have no permanent employees,” says Hansueli Rechsteiner (60), manager of Hemberg Skilift AG. However, he still has running costs for the upkeep and maintenance of the lift.
Sponsors and cooperation with competitors
But Rechsteiner has found a solution for this. He has sponsors pay for the approximately 12,000 francs that the maintenance devours annually. In return, he advertises on the main street for companies that support him and the ski lift. “That would give the kids the opportunity to ski at least a little bit,” says Rechsteiner to Blick.
A different strategy is used in Flüelen-Eggberge UR. The operators have an agreement with the nearby Andermatt UR ski area, which is very snow-sure. If you buy a season ticket for the Flüelen-Eggberge area, you can use it on the slopes in Andermatt for half price throughout the season.
“We sold a lot of season tickets in advance. People are already buying the season pass knowing that we may not open it at all, »says the operator to Blick.
Weekend operation and short-time work
In Jeizinen-Feselalpe in the canton of Valais, people are forced to cut costs. Because of the little snow, only two out of six lifts could be operated over the festive period. On Monday, the decision was made to limit operations to the weekend. Because during the week there were simply not enough guests.
This is also the case in many other ski areas. Operation during the week often does not cover costs. The Grimmialp-Diemtigtal ski area in the Bernese Oberland has even applied for short-time work from the federal government in order to survive.