The Pillerseetal in Tyrol experiences a century of winter. The ski resort still has to fight.
It is a cross! As one advertises to be the snowiest region of Tyrol, and then comes so much that one is hardly master of his. "We had great difficulty getting a grip on the snow," says Thomas Wörgötter, authorized signatory of the Pillersee cable car, whose lifts lead to the Buchensteinwand, which is just under 1500 meters high. "We had to partially clear the lift routes by hand, because the snow reached from the bottom up to the chair." Eight days, the railways had stood still in January, locals and guests had had little understanding. "They were standing at the valley station and wanted to go up the mountain, so I said, then you have to help shovel first." They did too.
Within two weeks, 4.50 meters of snow fell in January in this area of the Kitzbühel Alps. The Central Institute for Meteorology and Geodynamics (ZAMG) in Innsbruck classifies this as a century event, and that means something here. Because Hochfilzen, the location on the south side of the Buchensteinwand location at 1000 meters altitude, is generally known for its snowy landscape.
Who now, after the situation has calmed down, with the chair lift on the Buchensteinwand drives up, finds skiing conditions, as they can not dream of beautiful. Soft, soft pistes, next to powder snow, sun and a special view: it reaches from the Wilder Kaiser to the Großglockner, from the Steinberge to the Kitzbüheler Horn. The villages in the valley look like gingerbread house ensembles, so thick is the snow on the roofs. The first thing that strikes one up here is the Jacob's Cross, a 30-meter-high, cross-shaped, shingle-clad building. The mountain railway advertises that it is the largest accessible summit cross in the world. Procurator Wörgötter calls it "our unique selling point par excellence" and a "power place".
The smaller a ski resort, the more it must somehow stand out from the top dogs. In the case of the Buchensteinwand, with its 20 km of pistes and eight lifts, this means: in the south, the Fieberbrunn, which specializes in freeriding, has been connected to the huge Saalbach-Hinterglemm ski circuit for a few years. To the west is Kitzbühel, and Zell am See in the east is not that far either. The large areas have fast lifts with heated seats, huge piste areas and powerful snowmaking systems.
All this does not have the Buchenstein wall, but she has had the Jacob's Cross for five years. At first glance a chunky strand, but one with inner values. With elevators you can start up, sit in heated rooms facing all four directions, sit against the glass panes or climb the observation terraces above. Pleasant piano music plays out of the speakers and the ravens fly by. Internationally renowned companies would hold seminars here, says Wörgötter proudly, yoga classes and weddings take place. In fact, it is a special place, because you are still a bit above the mountain and has an eagle look. 50,000 guests visit the cross every year, most in the summer.
But because the winters here in the past years have not always been as lush as this year, the mountain railways were several times financially bad to roll, last 2017. The fact that the ski area now continue and even be expanded, is just on the two million euros expensive cross construction. "After four snow-free winters in a row, it was really bad," says Harry Günther, former owner and managing director of the Pillersee cable car. His father, Paul, had pushed ahead with the construction of the St James Cross, in order to make better use of the railway during the summer, but that was not enough. "The investment needed for the important winter business was too big for our wallet."
Therefore, one has long been looking for a buyer for the mountain railway. About a year ago, the Pletzer Group from Hopfgarten, which owns the lifts on the Hohe Salve and a significant share of the Sudelfeld mountain railways, bought the cable car. "The Jakobskreuz was one of the main reasons for the purchase," says Harry Günther, who operates a large Intersport with ski rental at the valley station. "And that made a big stone fall from our hearts."
The Pletzer Group, whose representative Wörgötter is, now wants to invest in the next few years, up to twelve million euros, especially in a ten times more powerful snowmaking system, a gondola is to eventually replace the two ski lifts that open up the mountain of Hochfilzener page, also a Hotel is planned. At the valley station there is a large practice area for children, which was renamed after the change of ownership from "Bobo country" to "Pletzi country", including a new mascot. Wörgötter, who was still the head of the Tyrolean financial police until 2017, says that children are given great attention. Cheap packages for ski courses and racing events for ski clubs are an important business. Wednesdays there is always a children's party with music, polonaise and free fries, twice a day the mascot appears. And you also want to expand the summer business, with the popular cross, but also with e-bike offers.
"A stroke of luck" was the investor now found, raves Armin Kuen, Managing Director of the Tourist Office Pillerseetal. Together with the neighboring communities, the association is investing a total of three million. "Specialization is the only chance for small ski resorts," says Kuen. They wanted to align the Buchensteinwand even more strongly with families. "For the sales-strong winter and the Christmas business must be secured by snowmaking."
The worry about too little snow is here relieved, at least this winter. Those who drive down the beautiful pistes to St. Jakob in Haus or that direction Hochfilzen from the Jakobskreuz can carve undisturbed in large arches, because there is hardly anything going on. Obviously, most skiers prefer to crowd the slopes of Kitzbühel and Saalbach-Hinterglemm, where they can never ski down the more than 200 km of slopes anyway. But good that you have them!
The guest at the Buchensteinwand can only be right. He returns to the cozy Hoametzl hut, which is located on the slopes to Hochfilzen, sits outside in the sun, maybe ordered a noodle soup with sausages. Georg Perterer, the hut keeper, has experienced many winters here. "The German media have done as if Tyrol went under," he annoyed. This is finally a "clever winter" again; and he definitely prefers the "Chaoswinter 2006/07". "We had to lock up the ski area three times, because the snow has thawed out over and over again."
getting there: By car from the north via the A 8 and A 93, via St. Johann in Tirol to St. Ulrich am Pillersee. By train there is a good connection via Wörgl to Hochfilzen, www.bahn.de
Accommodation: z. B. Fairhotel in Hochfilzen, directly at the trail, sauna, double room with breakfast for two persons approx. 140 Euro, www.fairhotel-hochfilzen.at Hotel Kitzspitz in St. Jakob in house, double room with HB for two persons from approx. 260 Euro, www.kitzspitz.at
Ski Area: The Buchensteinwand offers eight lifts and 21 kilometers of slopes, many of which are well suited for children. Day ski pass: 36 euros / adult, 20.50 euros / children, www.bergbahn-pillersee.com; the entrance to the Jakobskreuz costs with the lift ticket six euros.
Further information: www.pillerseetal.at
The research trip for this post was partly supported by tour operators, hotels, airlines and / or tourism agencies.