Austria Is Destroying A Glacier To Build A Ski Resort

SnowBrains | | Industry NewsIndustry News
austria, glacier, europe
Bulldozers on an Austrian glacier. Credit: WWF

The Alpine Association Austria, nature lovers, and the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) are demanding that the development of the Pitztal-Ötztal glacier be stopped immediately. At a press conference in Innsbruck, the local Alpine and nature conservation associations criticized the ecological short-sightedness of the project’s plans.

The Pitztal-Ötztal glacier complex plans to level an area the size of 90 football fields (64 hectares) on wild, rugged glacier landscape to form ski slopes. For the construction of new buildings, two football fields (1.6 hectares) are to be removed from glacial ice. The mega-project has already begun, with bulldozers in the process of destroying an original glacier and high alpine landscape to create a new ski area in favor of mass tourism. Excavators are digging up the glacier ice for snow groomers to distribute the snow to create slopes for the coming winter season.

“In the neighboring ski areas you can already see what the pristine glacier mountain is threatening: an annual major construction site, where tourism works against nature instead of with it,” says WWF expert Josef Schrank, and demands: “In addition to a courageous climate and environmental policy, we need an effective glacier protection, which is implemented without exception. “

austria, glacier, europe
Austria’s alpine protection associations demand immediate project stop of the Pitztal-Ötztal glacier. (Photo: Alpenverein / Benedikter)

Only seven percent of Austria’s territory today is largely natural and undeveloped. But the use and development pressure on these particularly valuable, last alpine open spaces, is greater than ever. For prestige projects such as the Pitztal-Ötztal glacier, the precious landscape is being destroyed forever.

“The installation of pristine glacier wilderness with energy-consuming infrastructure is emblematic of Austria’s failed climate and environmental policy: Instead of holistically looking at the major challenges of our time – climate crisis, biodiversity crisis and surface pollution – and at all levels, there is a negligent shortsightedness on the part of the decision makers.”

The dredging and paving of a reservoir, the construction of buildings, cable cars, paths, and slopes will inevitably mean the total loss of valuable alpine habitats. For the construction of the mountain station, even a summit will be removed. Water drains for technical snowmaking, crossings and piping threaten to worsen the condition of natural waters.

austria, glacier, europe
The Pitztal-Ötztal glacier

Without comprehensive climate protection measures and further increasing global warming, all glaciers in the Alps could have largely disappeared by 2100. Therefore, instead of new tourist infrastructure, more comprehensive protection for alpine regions is needed, write the associations.

“It is incomprehensible why such destruction is accepted. The glaciers melt away under our feet. At the same time, pristine streams are being used to snow glacier ski areas and reservoirs have been built,” says Robert Renzler, Secretary-General Austrian Alpine Club

With almost 3,000 cable cars and lifts, Austria is in second only to France for ski infrastructure, and ahead of the USA. For the 2019/2020 season alone, 27 new plans are expected to go into operation in Austria.

austria, glacier, europe
Pitztal, Austria

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18 thoughts on “Austria Is Destroying A Glacier To Build A Ski Resort

  1. At the end it comes down to supply and demand. As long as there is more and more people who want to practice their snow sport, there will be development of ski areas. Most of them prefer wide flat slopes where even beginners (think they) can go fast and log their kilometers and altitudes on apps to compare and show off.
    Alternative, less invasive winter sports, like cross country, ski touring, etc, is not of interest for most of them as either too little adrenaline or no skills for it.
    As an investor I wouldn’t invest in winter sports anyway, as there is that phenomenon called global warming… and it will hit sooner than the ROI of such an investment has happened.
    Austria (and by the way also other countries with a big share of winter tourism) should rather invest time and money in coming up with alternatives to maintain their economic stability

  2. the pic “Bulldozers knocking down the Pitztal-Ötztal glacier. ” isn’t tied to the project
    It’s a crevasse filling work , the same on a larger area happens every year at saas fee in may and june for exemple , no skiing there without that , this filling doesn’t change anything for a glacier area and mass .

  3. A lot of glaciers have ski lifts and bars/restaurants built on them. It’s been happening for years. Once the infrastructure is in place it’ll renaturalise the glacier. Makes sense for less snowmaking to build it high.

    Or would the treehuggers prefer to waste gallons and gallons more snowmaking water and fossil fuelled electric at lower levels, where even more damage to the environment can be done?

    1. Tim,I see you have a problem with the natural environment.Man has already done to much harm to the planet,and going by what I`ve seen in this article,they continue to do the same!.All it takes is a mental adjustment for most people,you my friend,without getting personal,may take a bit more,but I`m sure you will get there in the end.Go and hug a tree,I hear its beneficial for both parties!

    2. Hiya Brett,

      I have no problem with saving the environment at all and actively promote and do whatever I can to help. So much so, in fact, I have even been vehicle-less and gave up driving 6 years ago (and no I don’t live in a city, I live up a mountain in the Alps).

      But clearing a ski run and a lift/bar/restaurant or two, on a glacier that’ll reform within a season anyway – I see as progress. Photo probably makes it look worse than it is.

  4. What a crazy project. Dint know that in such a developed country, authorities and people of the land can be so shortsighted. What a shame.!!

    Wake up lovely Austrians. This calls for a big protest.

  5. I was under the impression Austria was a progressive country. A country who valued the environment and what the scientists are saying about the Climate Crisis… but I see they are, in a quiet way, like the Trump and Bolsonaro regimes…just a little more polite and covert.

    1. As an Austrian I can tell you that our government in the past few years has fit in seamlessly with the outrageously stupid politics of Trump, BoJo et al. The reason why we seem polite and quiet is mostly due to our size, I guess.

      1. I’m sorry to hear that! I did not know that of the Austrian government. I guess the only thing we all can do is get out and strike for the climate crisis we are in! In the words of Greta Thunberg, “ see you in the streets !”

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