Alps Warm, Mountain Bikes Replace Skiing in Austria

Descending hillsides is now more than just skiing on the snow in Sankt Corona am Wechsel, which is about an hour’s drive from Vienna. The sport is now done on a mountain bike.

Riders as young as three can now enjoy a ride on the ups and downs and twists of the jungle. As well as giving the village new life, this sport can serve as an example to other ski resorts facing similar problems.

Karl Morgenbesser, a ski park manager in Sankt Corona who is also a former snowboard instructor, says, “In the past, this area was 100 percent a winter destination. We then realized that due to climate change and changes in what can be offered to tourists, summer is becoming a It’s very important. That’s why in 2015 we started developing a special summer sport, and this is the result.”

While the coronavirus pandemic has boosted enthusiasm for outdoor activities, many Austrians are hoping mountain biking and other summer sports can make up for lost winter activities in the Alpine country, where skiing accounts for about three percent. Gross Domestic Product.

Mountain bikers pass through a magical pond at the mini bike park, Wexl Trails area of ​​St.  Corona am Wechsel, Lower Austria, 23 July 2021.

Mountain bikers pass through a magical pond at the mini bike park, Wexl Trails area of ​​St. Corona am Wechsel, Lower Austria, 23 July 2021.

Snow cover has decreased in the Alps at low and medium altitude locations in the past half century, according to a March study published in the scientific journal The Cryosphere.

In addition, a recent report issued by the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) found that in the Alps, snow cover will decrease in areas less than 1,500 meters in elevation, throughout the 21st century.

Sankt Corona, which sits at nearly 900 meters above sea level, dismantled its winter infrastructure in 2014. This came after the village had suffered years of losses as its annual visitor numbers plunged to 25,000 from 70,000 some 20 years earlier.

Not long after, the sled and summer hiking rink opened. But the fortunes of the village of 400 people only changed when they provided mountain bike trails.

Mountain bikers use the bicycle lift in the Wexl Trails area of ​​St.  Corona am Wechsel, Lower Austria on 23 July 2021.

Mountain bikers use the bicycle lift in the Wexl Trails area of ​​St. Corona am Wechsel, Lower Austria on 23 July 2021.

While many destinations for mountain biking offer steep slopes, the bumpy trails in Sankt Corona are suitable for both professionals and children who are still practicing cycling. The village is now able to attract the arrival of 130 thousand visitors every season.

Lisa Goeschl was one of the visitors there. As a child, he often skied in Sankt Corona. This time she came with her children and husband. She says, “We are from Neusiedl am See and we come more often on weekends because my husband loves mountain biking. In our area, in Neusiedl, we don’t have trails like this. children.”

Starting last June, a new T-bar lift that takes cyclists up the slopes was opened, as the shuttle bus service to the top of the hill was no longer able to meet this need. The T-bar lift system was invented by Simon Hanl, a local mountain biker.

Inspire

Mountain bikers ride bicycles in Wexl Trails area, St.  Corona am Wechsel, Lower Austria, 23 July 2021.

Mountain bikers ride bicycles in the Wexl Trails area, St. Corona am Wechsel, Lower Austria, 23 July 2021.

Delegates from some of the world’s largest ski resorts visited Sankt Corona, to find out how this small village can adapt well to a possible snowless future.

Marlene Krug, who is responsible for the development of cycling activities from Saalbach, Austria, which often hosts the mountain bike world championship, said that what was being done in Sankt Corona was very inspiring. Saalbach is now imitating a children’s playground in Sankt Corona.

Ski resorts initially responded to snow loss by investing in artificial snow manufacture.

But temperatures have warmed so much that resorts across the Alps have had to look for other options, said Robert Steiger, an expert on the impact of climate change on tourism at the University of Innsbruck.

“Diversifying into summer is necessary for all of them, and mountain biking is definitely something that everyone is passionate about,” he continued. [uh/ab]

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