A project called “Europe‘s largest contiguous glacier ski resort” has the potential to destroy some of the last wild places in the continent – but people are committed to stopping the development.
The megaproject to connect two ski resorts called Pitztal Glacier and Ötztal Glacier/Sölden in Tyrol, Austria puts already threatened glaciers at risk of disappearing. Climate change has already accelerated the melting of the glaciers in the Alps, endangering the biodiversity relying on them.
The six-year construction would dramatically change the natural landscape. Some of it would have to happen directly on the glacier on over 2,800 metres altitude.
WWF Austria states in a report that the project aims to build three new ski lifts, restaurants and bars (for up to 1600 guests), a tunnel (600 m length, 7 m diameter) and additional artificial snow systems among others. It would require the use of 35.000 m³ of concrete and blasting away 750.000 m³ of rocks, soil and ice.
The enormous construction project would stretch up to the Linker Fernerkogel, a pristine mountain with three glaciers.
“If you carry out construction projects of this size up there, you change a wild, pristine high mountain landscape into an industrial landscape,” says an employee of Austrian Alpine Association Benjamin Stern.
He is an active member of the growing civil resistance that is tackling the project. Outdoor clothing brand Patagonia has also joined the cause by releasing a documentary about the movement.
“Once this destruction happens, this natural alpine area will be lost forever: lost to nature, to us and to the next generations, ” says the brand’s snow ambassador and backcountry snowboarder Mitch Tölderer.
The vast biodiversity in danger includes springs, streams and rivers as well as alpine species such as the ibex, the snow grouse and the black grouse, the bearded vulture and the golden eagle, among others. Many of the alpine turfs and forests are endangered habitats, protected by EU regulations.
The severe intrusions would cause the total loss of many habitats. “If high Alpine zones disappeared, a very large number of species would also disappear, ” says Dr Brigit Sattler from the Research department for limnology at Innsbruck University. “This is a real horror scenario.”
Watch the video above to learn more about the glaciers at risk.