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snow of tomorrow

Snow of tomorrow | Does Bavaria need Hubsi's snow cannons?

It could be so simple: ski season is when there is snow.

by Lisa Amenda 01/23/2023
Hubert Aiwanger is using state funds to promote snow cannons in Bavarian ski resorts. In a winter between the energy and climate crises, this is leading to heated discussions. But do we even need these snow cannons or are we just hanging on to times long gone?

There's a photo of me standing on the Rettenbachferner in Ötztal in shorts, laughing. It must have been sometime in the early 2000s. We were skiing on the glacier in summer. The dialectic of the moment was the attraction for me. From ski pants to shorts, then off to the lake after skiing. Today I would dismiss this as the hedonism of the early 2000s. Today, it would probably no longer be possible to strap on skis in summer. After all, we had a hard enough time finding enough snow for a few turns at Christmas this winter!

On January 2, the thermometer on Hohenpeißenberg in Bavaria showed 18 degrees. A few weeks earlier, the Bavarian radio program "Jetzt red i" (Now I'm talking) sparked a debate about whether it still makes sense to use state subsidies to make snow in low-lying ski resorts, such as most of those in Bavaria, in light of the climate and energy crisis. Hubert Aiwanger, Bavarian Minister of Economic Affairs for the Free Voters, spoke out clearly in favor of subsidies on the show. His argument: "We can't tell people: 'Stay at home with your children. Turn your skis into firewood and go into the cellar to cry." He probably means: "People want to ski anyway and if it is not possible in Bavaria, then those who want to ski will go to the (snow-covered) areas in Austria or Switzerland. As a representative of the state, he does not want to prevent them from having fun. Aiwanger is therefore afraid that the skiers' money will be spent elsewhere and Bavarian tourism will not benefit. You can see it that way from the economics minister's point of view.

The crises are now reaching out to each other and two of them, which primarily affect ski tourism, are making common cause this winter: the climate and energy crises. Energy is more expensive than ever and temperatures around Christmas seem to be higher than ever before. The result is switched-off seat heaters in the chairlifts and white but narrower ribbons of slopes across green meadows. Can or should the current situation be viewed as one-dimensionally as Hubert Aiwanger does?

Who actually says that the ski season is always from December to April? Who dictated that to us? The ski god? The tourist destinations? Hubsi himself? Or is it us who have become accustomed over the years, oh, decades, to the fact that it usually snows enough from December to the beginning of April to groom this snow into a slope that is fun to ski on? And that the surrounding area is then also covered in white snow and looks like winter?

Before technical snowmaking, you simply had to accept it if it didn't snow enough until later in the season. Now we say: It's not snowing? Don't worry, we'll make snow! The technology will take care of it. We seem to have forgotten over the years that skiing is a natural sport. And yes, of course, many people in the Alpine region live from tourism. Even in Bavaria. But wouldn't it make more sense to invest the Bavarian subsidies in a sustainable restructuring of tourism rather than directly in snowmaking, which is of no use when the temperatures are in double digits anyway? So that the resorts, hotels and guesthouses can still make a living from tourism even in changing climatic conditions? Perhaps then no longer primarily with winter guests, but more often with hikers, trail runners, bikers, ...

Perhaps now is even more the time to go back to the origins of skiing and remind ourselves why we do it all. Because it's simply fun to glide down the slopes! Preferably on natural snow! After all, nothing is more magical than when the snow covers the landscape in a thick blanket of white. Isn't skiing the most fun when the air smells of winter? Perhaps snow crystals glistening on your pants? You can carelessly step off the groomed slope without fear of skiing straight onto grass?

What if we don't get to experience this so often in the future? Then that's a great pity. But not accepting it won't help either. We can do our best to ensure that the days when winter no longer feels like winter don't become too many. By campaigning for climate protection and trying to live more sustainably. And we can set an example for others and only go skiing when the weather permits. Ski season is when there is snow.

No one is forbidding us from enjoying the mountains anyway. Perhaps by bike or in hiking boots. Let's turn a skiing vacation into a winter vacation and, depending on the weather, get out the sports equipment that makes the most objective sense. As a skier, this makes me melancholy and makes me nostalgically rummage through my ski photo box. But this nostalgia must not turn into a flight from the present. Because now is now. And in the present and especially in the future, there are still great opportunities to explore our mountains. With or without skis.

This article has been automatically translated by DeepL with subsequent editing. If you notice any spelling or grammatical errors or if the translation has lost its meaning, please write an e-mail to the editors.

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