The day will come when the ski slopes will turn into green meadows, when the snow will escape to the high peaks, when the skis and snowboards will give way to mountain bikes, and the ski lifts will no longer be the same. This prediction is not really a prediction at all, as it is already happening. Many alpine resorts in Europe are forced to accept the new reality imposed by climate change and, more recently, by the Covid pandemic.
Covering glaciers, artificial snow cannons, closing hotels, restricting access, PCR tests and aid to affected tourism are temporary measures. European plans to drastically reduce emissions by 2030 are long-term. The pistes cannot be left empty for months. The lifts should not stop for long. Facilities in the mountains should bring health, pleasure, variety and revenue.
Should, but how? The village of St. Corona in Lower Austria provides a worthy answer to the big question. It is an hour’s drive from Vienna and is located at 900 metres above sea level. Six years ago, the local residents refused to develop it as a ski resort. Longer snowless periods have led to reduction in the number of tourists from 70 to 25 thousand in two decades.
Karl Morgenbeser, a former snowboard instructor: „We were 100 percent winter-oriented, but due to climate change and changes in tourism, summer has become increasingly important to us. Since 2015, we have focused on this season.“
A park for summer mountain entertainment was built near the village with sledges on rails and places for climbing. But the real change came with the advent of mountain biking trails. They gave a new look and gave a new chance to the lifts in the area.
Karl Morgenbeser, a former snowboard instructor: „I think we were the first in the world to make a summer version of a mountain bike trail facility. Studies and calculations have shown us that large lifts are not cost-effective for climbing bicycles. But this facility is very suitable. All we had to do was develop our own attachment system. ”
The idea of an efficient and easy attachment of the bike came to Simon Hanl while watching TV with his girlfriend. He hurried down to his workshop in the basement. He grabbed pieces of tape and shoelaces and assembled the first prototype of the summer towing attachment. Hanl’s invention is already widely used on the slopes of St. Corona.
Simon Hanl: „So far we have no complaints. The facility is used by both children and adults. It’s easy to use, because that’s what I wanted to do – to make it as easy to use as possible. „
The routes for riding are various – such as length, displacement and degree of difficulty. They attract both beginners and more advanced cyclists. And most importantly – the resort attracts whole families.
Lisa Göschel: „We come here mostly on weekends. My husband likes to ride a mountain bike, and where we live, there are not many trails. Here, however, it is very convenient. There is also a large park for children and we love to come and spend time together, as a family.
The coronavirus itself helps St. Corona in an unexpected way. Restrictions since the start of the pandemic have pushed many Austrians into outdoor sports. This trend has increased the annual number of visitors to the resort village to 130 thousand. And that’s nearly twice as much as the best of times, when the local slopes were covered in crisp, natural snow.