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In Austria, we tighten our belts in the ski resorts

In the resort of Kitzbühel known for its mythical World Cup descent, as in the rest of the massif, the soaring prices are strongly felt.

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In Austria, we tighten our belts in the ski resorts

In the resort of Kitzbühel known for its mythical World Cup descent, as in the rest of the massif, the soaring prices are strongly felt.

The bill is high to run the ski lifts and snow cannons, which consume energy.

The latter are fully activated from dawn to store as many artificial flakes as possible and take advantage of the current electricity contract prices, before the upward revision expected in 2023.

"We estimate that our costs will at least double this season," worries Anton Bodner, head of the managing company.

And "we have no choice but to pass on these higher prices to our customers," he told AFP. The entrance ticket has thus increased by 10% this year.

The resort has also reduced its hours, starting later and closing earlier, and limited the capacity of the chairlifts to reduce weight.

For now, only a few slopes are accessible: the general opening had to be postponed to December due to the lack of snow after a particularly mild autumn.

Faced with these challenges, the sector - which weighed 3.9% of national GDP before being affected by the restrictions linked to the Covid-19 pandemic - wants to keep its spirits up.

But economists warn of the impact of inflation.

Some households are considering giving up their winter holidays for this reason, comments Oliver Fritz of the Wifo Institute, based on a survey of 1,000 people in Austria and Germany.

“For those who are still planning to leave, they are concerned about spending less: going out to restaurants less often, shortening the length of stay or looking for cheap accommodation, all of these are privileged avenues.

Klaus Bernert, the 58-year-old skier met in Kitzbühel, will be satisfied, for example, with “one schnitzel per week instead of two”.

"Everything has become 20 to 30% more expensive. If it continues at this rate, we will no longer be able to afford to ski", he confides, hoping not to be forced to "give up this pleasure".

Between the purchase of equipment and tickets for him and another skier in his family, he has already paid this year "two to three months' salary".

Sabine Huber, who lives in the area, prefers to indulge in ski touring, a sport that does not require taking the lifts. "I'm lucky, it's cheaper for me. Of course, I know a lot of people who are reluctant to buy a package," she says.

- Climate danger -

What accelerate the disaffection of the Austrians for the ski, always more expensive over the years.

Ecological awareness is also driving some away from this practice, which has become a challenge with global warming which has reduced the annual snow cover by an average of 40 days since 1961, according to the ZAMG meteorology institute.

Without measures to fight against greenhouse gas emissions, it could still "decrease by 25% by 2100 between 1,500 and 2,500 meters above sea level".

The stakes are crucial for the Austrian economy, which could lose "ten billion euros if winter tourism were severely affected by climate change", warns the Wifo economist.

While waiting for the ax, Kitzbühel tries to defy nature.

“Resorts can no longer be viable without artificial snow, because the tourism industry simply needs predictability and reliability,” insists Anton Bodner.

This is the only way to "guarantee our customers skiing from the beginning of December to April".

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