Inspection work is currently underway on the Alpspitzbahn in Nesselwang: employees are dismantling the entire cable car, checking numerous rope pulleys and replacing them where necessary. They also check the steel cables. Everything must be checked by mid-December. Then winter operation should begin. “We have no alternative to winter operations; We will still be skiing here in 20 or 30 years,” says Ralf Speck, managing director of the Alpspitzbahn.
Snow is guaranteed for a long time, especially at higher altitudes
He is not alone in this opinion: together with other cable car colleagues, tourism experts, politicians and hoteliers in the region, he developed a ten-point document. The central message is: Despite climate change, the Allgäu maintains winter tourism. “We are not going to pull the trigger and say overnight that there will be no more winter. Until then, it will certainly take at least another 20 years”, says Bernhard Joachim, General Director of Allgäu GmbH.
The region should therefore continue to be a two-season tourist destination. Actors do not question the advancement of climate change. However, they are convinced that at higher altitudes in particular, snow will still be guaranteed for years and even decades to come.
Snow has a special meaning for people
The ten-point paper gives snow a very special meaning: it is an “irreplaceable experience” that people crave. Furthermore, snow is becoming increasingly rare in Germany and increasingly becoming a “unique selling point” for the region.
Winter tourism is still profitable
Winter tourism is also profitable: half of the tourist value added in the Allgäu is still generated in the cold season. Expressed in numbers, it is 1.8 billion euros (in 2019). And this despite the fact that, according to Allgäu GmbH, the winter half of the year has fewer overnight stays than the summer half of the year – namely 36 percent compared to 64 percent.
However, guests leave more money in winter: for example, by purchasing or renting winter equipment or purchasing ski tickets. The guests provide jobs for many residents: the Alpspitzbahn alone has around 90 employees.
Studies by the German Sports University in Cologne also show that fewer and fewer people practice winter sports and therefore the number of skiers is decreasing. However, alpine skiing is still popular: this year, for example, demand for seasonal ski passes is greater than ever, says Joachim. Although ski pass prices have gone up again.
Snow cannons for good slopes
As days with natural snow are decreasing due to climate change, ski lift operators are relying on “technical snowmaking,” according to the ten-point plan. “Snow production is essential for us. It is a guarantee of safe and good skiing – especially during the holiday season,” says Henrik Volpert, President of the Allgäuer Bergbahn Initiative, explaining the use of the snow cannons. The Alpspitzbahn got a number of new snow cannons this year. The ski area wants to test whether the €30,000 machines work more efficiently than their predecessors thanks to their new technology. Ralf Speck assumes that they require significantly less electricity and provide greater yield: “So they bring more snow in less time,” he says.
Expand Year-Round Offerings
Non-skiers are also becoming increasingly important in the Allgäu. In order to be able to offer all target groups an appealing winter experience, ski lift companies, for example, have to become even more flexible and expand their snow-independent offers. According to Henrik Volpert, many companies can now switch from winter to summer operation in a short space of time.
Furthermore, themed trails for hiking or climbing in forests, for example, must be able to be used at any time of year. The old summer toboggan run in Nesselwang was demolished two years ago. Now there is the so-called Alpspitzcoaster. You can always go tobogganing here unless there is a storm.
Continue to advance sustainably in the region
Furthermore, those responsible for the tourism industry want to continue to develop the region in a sustainable way. If there is no snow in the medium or long term, they intend to develop adaptation strategies. The aim is for the 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 craft 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 in winter tourism here for what is to come in the coming years.”