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Upgrading the high mountains

The new suspension bridge on the Dachstein Glacier in Austria is intended to boost visitor numbers. © Dachstein

Austria's highest suspension bridge, including the "Steps into the Void", is intended to lure tourists to the Dachstein Glacier in a similar way to the recently opened "Du Gouter" luxury hut for walkers on Mont Blanc. The ways in which the Alpine mountain world courts visitors.
In winter and particularly in autumn, the Dachstein-Tauern region is not overrun by tourists, according to George Bliem, managing director of the Planai pistes. More visitors and thrills are now to be assured by a further elaborate production on the Dachstein Glacier: an 80-metre long suspension bridge at an altitude of 2,700 metres, including an observation platform above the precipice, the "Steps into the Void". A panoramic cable car with balcony began running this spring. In 2007 an "Ice Palace" was constructed inside the glacier, while 2005 saw the opening of the "Skywalk" observation platform, complete with glass floor. The increasingly theatrical exploitation on the Dachstein is being criticised by among others ANISA, the Association for Alpine Research, which states: "The destructive potential in terms of nature exploitation and environmental impact has greatly escalated through the increased marketing of the glacier."
The High Alps of France can also boast yet another spectacle: in June the "Du Gouter" hut opened at an altitude of 3,835 metres on Mont Blanc. The new stainless steel building has, despite its ecological design, been criticised in particular because of its luxurious fittings, which have more in common with a five-star hotel than a mountain hut. Its unusual architecture is likely to tempt additional tourists onto the mountain, which is already a goal for thousands of mountain climbers each year. Critics claim that, to promote sustainable tourism, it would have been far simpler not to build any new structure.
Sources and further information: www.derdachstein.at/dachstein/de/dachstein (de), http://steiermark.orf.at/news/stories/2595432/ (de), www.refugedugouter.fr/?p=1341 (fr), www.spiegel.de/reise/aktuell (de), www.anisa.at/Gletscherzustandsbericht_2012 (de)