Skip to content

Cookies 🍪

This site uses cookies that need consent.

Learn more

Zur Powderguide-Startseite Zur Powderguide-Startseite

Language selection

Search PowderGuide

snow of tomorrow

Snow of Tomorrow | Skiing equals environmental protection

Why we as winter sports enthusiasts should stand up for the protection of nature

by Lisa Amenda 02/01/2021
Ski resort expansions, new developments or gourmet restaurants at 3,000 meters: ski resorts have long since ceased to be wild, pristine nature. But what is it that really draws us out to ski? And why should we raise our voices not only for the latest equipment, but above all for the nature that remains?

I used to take everything for granted. The chairlift. The skis under my feet. And that new lifts are built every now and then. After all, it's good to have even more opportunities to ski down the mountain. That's my ten-year-old self. I have to admit, I didn't think much about nature back then. How could I? At the age of ten, you mainly think about when and where you can go skiing again and which friends you can meet up with after school during the week. That's it. That's it. In my opinion, that's all a ten-year-old child should have to worry about. I can't even remember exactly when the point came when I started to question things.

For example, I always thought it was cool that you could see the Pitztal Glacier from the Rettenbach Glacier in Sölden. But did that mean the two had to be connected? This idea of a connection has existed since I was ten years old, for example. So for more than 23 years. From a purely self-centered skier's point of view, the idea had its appeal, but objectively speaking? Total nonsense. Both glacier ski areas were perfectly adequate. I realized that even back then.

What is more important? Skiing fun or collecting kilometers of slopes?

So it went on. Me, on the road with my skis and the ski resorts on the road with excavators and bulldozers for even more fun on the slopes. But was that why I got in the car every weekend, got up at 6 a.m. and squeezed myself into ski boots that were far too tight in sub-zero temperatures? For even more superlatives? For even more kilometers of slopes, connecting gondolas and higher transport capacities? Definitely not! I just wanted to feel the tingling sensation of frozen water crystals on my skin as I skied down a powder slope, or the razor-sharp grip of my edge on a freshly groomed piste. Did I have to have more slopes? No! And so, as time went on, it seemed stranger and stranger to me that ski resorts seemed to be constantly striving for growth. Hardly anyone seemed to be satisfied anymore. It was more and more and bigger and bigger.

The Alpine plan and the discussion about the Riedberger Horn

I realized during my studies that things couldn't go on like this, but the real ray of hope only came afterwards. And forgive me, it could have been sooner. The planned expansion of the Riedberger Horn. My Riedberger Horn. In the Allgäu. I practically grew up in the Balderschwang and Grasgehren ski resorts. I gave ski courses there or shoveled kickers in the backcountry. It was clear that you had to choose between Grasgehren or Balderschwang at the start of the day. A connection in between? You didn't need one. The Riedberger Horn was always a haven of peace in between, an escape for ski tourers. As a natural constant between the two ski areas. And above all, it was located in protection zone C of the Bavarian Alpine Plan. The Alpine Plan is an institution of nature conservation in Bavaria. In the 1950s and 1960s, numerous mountain communities opened up their peaks with cable cars and ski lifts. Development hype here we come, so to speak. The only state agency for nature conservation in Bavaria at the time, the State Agency for Nature Conservation in Munich, felt compelled to react to the massive encroachments and create an instrument for sustainable development: The Alpine Plan was born. A concept that aimed to protect the Bavarian Alps, their mountain landscape and alpine nature from local interests and possible further pressures, both then and in the future. And thus also to keep the Riedberger Horn free from development plans. Until 2017, when the state government approved the amendment and thus made a ski area possible. This was followed by massive protests from the local population, the German Alpine Association and the media. In short: the Bavarian state government changed its mind and allowed the Alpine Nature Experience Center to be built around the Riedberger Horn.180-degree turnaround, you could say.

Nature conservation primarily concerns us skiers - worldwide

But what am I getting at with this example? Sure, I was upset by the development of the Riedberger Horn because it was my home ski area and I couldn't imagine with the best will in the world that a lift would be built there now. It was the same when the plans for the connection between Sölden and Pitztal became more concrete. Whenever we are personally affected by a development or something in general, we feel emotionally involved. That's just the way it is. But if former President Trump now arrives and opens up several thousand hectares of American public land for the oil and gas industry, or an Italian investor wants to build the highest glacier ski resort in the world in British Columbia, then we here in the Alps couldn't really care less. Or do we?

I have to admit, this article was originally supposed to look completely different. Because when I suggested the topic for Snow of Tomorrow, Donald Trump was still President of the USA. It was supposed to be about his aforementioned handling of public lands in the United States and what we can learn from it. Trump has been out of office for a little over ten days and Joe Biden has issued several executive orders reversing Trump's momentous decisions with immediate effect: including the re-entry into the Paris Climate Agreement and the halt to the newly planned oil and gas production in so-called public lands. In the broadest sense, public lands are areas of land that are open to the public and managed by the government. In this sense, public lands belong to every American. For kayaking, climbing, hiking and ski touring. However, many of the public lands also have increased fossil fuel reserves. This has prompted politicians to open up parts of the Public Lands for oil and gas extraction. And it was precisely this idea that got me thinking about the topic for today.

Questioning the status quo

In my last Snow of Tomorrow article, I wrote about the Alps as a wilderness and whether they still exist today. Spoiler alert - the conclusion is that the Alps are an evolved cultural landscape and that we still influence them today with every step we take. It starts with lunch and ends with the lift pass. But why I'm talking about this very topic here is because it's not so far away from us. Ski resorts are constantly being expanded, parking lots paved and gourmet restaurants built at almost 3,000 meters above sea level. The Alps, the ski resorts, are no longer the wilderness, the untouched cultural landscape that white-clad slopes suggest on a powder day. Money is being made from the Alps. A lot. And we are part of it.

That's why I want to challenge you today to question things. Does it make sense for ski resorts to get bigger and bigger? In the Alps or anywhere else in the world? Does it make sense for us to sacrifice even more of our already built-up and sealed landscape? Or does believing in infinite growth on a finite planet make us all, as the US economist Kenneth Boulding says, madmen or economists? And if so, is that what we want to be? Do we really? Or would we rather take one turn after another with our skis under our feet? Use the lifts that are already there, or climb the mountains under our own steam and protect the little bit of nature that is still there. With every voice we have. Because these successful projects above have shown us that it's worth raising your voice and that we, as winter sports enthusiasts, have the power to change things.

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.

Show original (German)

Related articles