The Splügen-Tambo ski area in Graubünden had to stop skiing on Monday morning.
Martin SchmidtEditor Economics
The Triemel restaurant in Hochwang in the Grisons mountains is a sad sight: in a normal winter, the slopes would be snow-covered all around and full of skiers. However, skiing fun on the slopes is out of the question at the moment. Tufts of grass flash everywhere on the ski slopes, in some places whole meadow areas. And that, although the restaurant is 1880 meters above sea level.
The sight is surprising: It is not new that ski areas at lower altitudes occasionally come up with green meadows instead of perfectly groomed slopes. But Hochwang reaches up to a height of 2284 meters. Such altitudes are supposed to guarantee snow security. But all eleven slopes are currently closed.
The important New Year’s business is gone
This means that business in the important New Year’s week falls into the water for the railways. Many mountain railways earn up to 15 percent of their annual turnover over Christmas and New Year. And Hochwang in particular could use the money: In the past, the financially strapped sports railways did not have the money to expand the snowmaking systems. They only had to collect funds in early summer so that they could ensure operations for the current winter season.
But even snow cannons are currently no guarantee for a functioning ski operation at higher altitudes. On Monday, the Splügen-Tambo area in Graubünden had to stop skiing. Although it goes up to 2215 meters. And although the local railways can snow on 60 percent of the slopes and advertise that they are snow-reliable. “We have too much water on the slopes. There was a relatively large amount of rain, then the foehn came,” explains Bergbahnen CEO Hans “Hacher” Bernet to Blick. An unfavorable combination that finished off the snow cover on the mountain.
Will other ski areas close soon?
Do skiers now have to fear that in the coming weeks there will be a whole series of other areas that, like Hochwang and Splügen-Tambo, are between almost 1500 and over 2200 meters? «No, artificial snowpack is much denser and more compact. Anyone who was able to make snow in December will still be able to offer good conditions for skiing in the next few weeks, »says Berno Stoffel (52), Director of Seilbahnen Schweiz. If an area is not affected by such an unfortunate weather combination as in Splügen.
Cross-country skiing instead of downhill skiing
In the meantime, in the hotel industry and in the rest of the tourism industry in Splügen, it is hoped that the closure of the ski area will not also ruin their own business. Fortunately, there are currently no cancellations in the hotels, as a small Blick survey shows. But it is still too early to really assess the impact.
The cross-country ski trail is an alternative for skiers. “The conditions on the trail are good. The slopes are hard until half past noon, like in spring,” says cross-country skiing instructor Ernst Steiner (65). Other guests go hiking in town.
The railways are hoping that the temperatures will drop quickly so that they can restart the ski season with a new layer of artificial snow.