Controversial Plans to Link Pitztal & Soelden Cancelled

It had been planned to join the two Austrian glacier areas in the Tirol. There has been much opposition from environmentalists and some locals.  UPDATED

The project would have linked the ski resorts of Soelden and Piztal to create the largest glacier ski area in Europe.

Amongst the planned construction projects were:

• Three new ski lifts
• A three storey ropeway station (more than 15,000 m² usable area)
• Restaurants and bars (for up to 1,600 guests)
• A tunnel (600 m length, 7 m diameter)
• An asphalted water reservoir (104,000 m³)
• Additional artificial snow systems
• More than four kilometers of roads and paths
• Levelling and removal of ice on 72 ha of glacier terrain
• Grinding down of a mountain ridge on the left Fernerkogl by 40m and
120,000 m³

The plans met with an outcry from some on environmental grounds as the construction would have impacted the landscape, some of it on glacier terrain.

The was significant local opposition too.

“Right from the start, the consent of the local community was the basic requirement for us to consider and plan a merger with the Ötztal Glacier and the Sölden ski area,” said the Pitztaler Gletscherbahn in a statement.

“This was repeatedly signaled to us by the municipality and clearly confirmed by several unanimous resolutions in the municipal council.

“The result of the referendum in St. Leonhard im Pitztal on the planned merger now shows a different picture and we will of course take note of it.

“It is now up to the community of St. Leonhard to draw the appropriate conclusions.

“However, it is clear to us that we will no longer pursue the Pitztal-Ötztal merger project that has been planned since 2016 and has now been shut down.”

Glacier in Soelden. Image © PlanetSKI

Glacier in Soelden. Image © PlanetSKI

The biodiversity in danger included springs, streams and rivers.

Animals under threat included the ibex, the snow grouse and the black grouse, the bearded vulture and the golden eagle.

Many of the alpine turfs and forests are endangered habitats that are protected by EU regulations.

The planned expansion would have stretched from Mittelberg in Pitztal over Griestal up to the Linker Fernerkogel.

It would have affected three glaciers.

Only 7% of Austria‘s national territory are still in a natural state and free from technical infrastructure.

“If you carry out construction projects of this size up there, you change a wild, pristine high mountain landscape into an industrial landscape,” said an employee of Austrian Alpine Association, Benjamin Stern.

The outdoor clothing brand Patagonia joined the opposition by releasing a documentary about the plan, Vanishing Lines.

“The high mountains of the Alps are at risk as developers encroach ever further in the name of expanding ski resorts and their infrastructure—all amidst palpable climate disaster,” said Patagonia.

“Once this destruction happens, this natural alpine area will be lost forever: lost to nature, to us and to the next generations, ” said Patagonia’s  snow ambassador, Mitch Tölderer.

There have been demonstrations against the proposals.

Thousands of people took to the streets of Innsbruck and a petition with more than 168,000 signatures and printed on a 60-foot roll was handed to the Tyrol state government.

“For only five additional ski slopes, the ski resort operators want to block three untouched glaciers,” said the organiser of the petition, Gerd Estermann.

“In doing so, they are destroying the unique high-alpine natural landscape, which is already threatened by global warming.

“That’s negligent and we want to prevent that.”