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Onto the slopes by helicopter

Feb 01, 2022 / Maya Mathias, CIPRA International
Is heliskiing in the public interest? Vorarlberg extends its authorisation by two and a half years: CIPRA Austria calls for greater emphasis on climate protection.
Image caption:
Aircraft noise instead of climate protection: Heliskiing is still allowed in Vorarlberg (symbolic image). (c) Total Heliski

Fun on the slopes for a few, noise and air pollution for everyone else: Vorarlberg is permitting heliskiing to continue for another two and a half years, Austria’s only state that is doing so. Those responsible justify the decision as being in the public interest and refer to the strict conditions imposed: this will also supposedly make helicopters available for avalanche observation and blasting flights and enhance the tourist offer. CIPRA Austria and other nature conservation organisations criticise the decision: it is not in line with the country’s climate protection goals, contradicts the interpretation of the Alpine Convention and is against the public interest.

As early as 2016, the Legal Service Agency of the Alpine Convention said that environmental protection must be highly valued and heliskiing should be restricted according to the tourism protocol. For Stephan Tischler, President of CIPRA Austria, Vorarlberg’s decision is incomprehensible: “The competent authorities must fulfil their responsibilities in protecting the population from natural hazards even without heliskiing”. Moreover, the costly activity is only available to a very small group of people. The public interest in an unspoilt experience of nature and, above all, in climate and nature protection, should have much higher weighting.

The low importance of heliskiing for Austria’s other tourist regions is also reflected in the lack of interest shown by other large ski resorts. This makes Vorarlberg’s decision questionable, not only from an ecological and social standpoint but also from an economic perspective. The legal situation is different in other parts of the Alps: in France and Germany heliskiing is prohibited, while in Switzerland, Slovenia and Italy it is permitted but strictly regulated.


Sources and further information: (de), (de), (de)