Holger Gassler is Head of Tourism Marketing for Europe North, Central, West, East & Overseas and the Five Tirolean Glaciers at the Tirol Tourist Board in Austria.
Are you looking forward to skiing the new connection in the Arlberg this winter?
Yes, I’m most excited about testing out the new Flexenbahn lift, which will create Austria’s largest inter-linked ski area this season, and skiing the whole “Run of Fame”. Once the link is complete, skiers will be able to access the resorts of the Arlberg skiing area and 305km of marked ski runs without getting on a bus. The new “Run of Fame” will be an amazing circuit for skiers to try, and I can’t wait to attempt the loop from the Tirolean resort of St Anton. The name “Run of Fame” is inspired by Arlberg’s greatest ski legends (and some of my heroes), including Hannes Schneider, Karl Schranz and Mario Matt. With 65km of runs and 18,000 vertical metres, it will take the best part of a day to complete it.
What about the smaller ski areas in Tirol, how do they compete?
It really depends what you’re looking for. There are some brilliant smaller villages and ski areas that offer beautiful scenery, excellent facilities for families or are perfect for remote romantic hideaways. Galtür/Kappl, beside its big brother, Ischgl; Seefeld; St Johann in Tirol; and Axamer Lizum near Innsbruck are all fantastic skiing areas, or you could base yourself in Innsbruck, combine city and ski, and access nine different ski areas with one lift pass. The smaller resorts are usually less busy, offer a charming atmosphere and are great for beginners and families.
Have recent ski area mergers led to increased business for them?
Innovation is important but it’s not all about lifts and access. The Tirol region offers one of the greatest lift infrastructures and a high level of comfort among the ski resorts in the world. The architecture on the mountains is also changing and attracting more skiers and visitors; for instance, the new Ice Q restaurant in Sölden, which featured in the recent James Bond film, has caused a real surge of interest. The core aim is the comfort of skiers, outstanding design and minimal environmental impact. The overall experience is getting more and more important.
Are all the “secret” little ski resorts disappearing?
I still believe there are endless hidden spots to be discovered in the Tirol region – you just need to look for them or ask a local. Discovering them is part of the fun. Alternatively, you could visit in the quieter times of the season outside of school holidays, or maybe have a go at night skiing if you want to feel you have the slopes all to yourself, like in Söll in Wilder Kaiser, which is one of 29 resorts that offer it.
Do you think ski areas will keep merging until Tirol is just one huge ski area?!
No, but all 90+ ski areas and 3,500km of ski runs in Tirol can already be accessed on one ticket: the Snow Card Tirol. Of course, not all ski areas will become interconnected, because of geographical circumstances, or legal and environmental regulations, and we also wish to ensure the wonderful variety of the villages and valleys in the Tirol region remains. In Tirol, we are in the lucky position to cater for every need, from off-piste skiers to beginners, from après-ski connoisseurs to those who love silence.