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Questionable construction boom in ski resorts

Jan 24, 2022 / Veronika Hribernik, CIPRA International
Cable cars, reservoirs and blasting pylons: the Alpine landscape has been and continues to be built up for winter tourism even during the pandemic – sometimes in nature reserves and despite much criticism.
Image caption:
Questionable construction on the Klein Matterhorn/CH: In future, the mountain railway will connect Switzerland and Italy. (c) Zermatt Bergbahnen

A ten-person gondola instead of the double chairlift, additional snow cannons and storage ponds, a mountain restaurant for up to 80 people: the current plans around the Wurzeralm/A ski area and the renovation of the Frauenkar lift span two landscape conservation areas as well as a nature reserve. Following sharp criticism, the Alpine Club and Friends of Nature Upper Austria applied for an examination of the project by the Legal Service Agency Alpine Convention (RSS) based at CIPRA Austria. The RSS found that the current construction plans are unlawful and repeatedly contradict the requirements of the legally binding Alpine Convention.

In Tyrol/A, the Kaunertaler Gletscherbahnen company wants to build 25 avalanche pylons in the Natura 2000 area, for access to the ski area via the Kaunertaler Gletscherstrasse. The project was approved by the regional authorities but has been on hold since an objection was lodged by a Tyrolean environmental lawyer.

Criticism of buildings in sensitive landscapes

In the Bavarian Alps a family of investors wants to modernise the old ski lifts and snow-making facilities at the Grünten in the Allgäu/D and build a new gondola lift. This could transport 1,500 people per hour up the mountain. NGOs are sharply critical, and more than 70,000 people have signed an online petition against the expansion.

In the French municipality of La Clusaz, a fifth reservoir is planned at 1,500 metres above sea level in the immediate vicinity of a Natura 2000 site and a peat bog. Most of the water is to be used for artificial snowmaking. Conservationists claim that the construction would endanger the water balance of the entire area and destroy unique ecosystems.

In the Aosta Valley/I, environmental organisations, including CIPRA Italy, have criticised a planned cable car between Ayas and Cervinia. Construction would threaten the extraordinary natural world of the Vallone delle Cime Bianche, the region’s last wild valley.

Construction is already underway on the Klein Matterhorn/CH: with a mountain railway connecting Switzerland and Italy, the operators want to direct "Asian tourist flows" from Milan via the Italian Aosta Valley to Zermatt, Geneva and on to Paris. Criticism for this has come from the Swiss Foundation for Landscape Conservation, among others.

CIPRA addresses the issue of tourism development in sensitive areas in its "Position Paper on Landscape" published in 2020 and in its position paper "Solstice in Winter Tourism".


Sources and further information: (de), (de),,SmwG3Sk (de), (de), (en), (fr), (de), (de), (it), (it), (it)