21st Century Tirol

When we think of the Austrian Tirol we tend to think of cosy villages, friendly people and snowy slopes … and we’re not wrong. But this timeless reputation for traditional charm does tend to mask another part of the Tirol ski holiday experience – the high technology.

The truth is that while the Tiroleans know it’s worth preserving their architecture, their traditions and all that we love about spending our ski holidays there, they don’t live in the past. In fact, tens of millions of euros are spent each year on buying in the very latest tech.

So, whether you’re on the slopes riding the latest designer chairlift or in resort enjoying the warmth provided by an ultra-modern communal green heating system, you benefit from the very latest innovations, while enjoying those traditional values, on a ski holiday in Tirol.

Kitzbühel has a visible network of fast, comfortable modern lifts, but what’s less obvious to the visiting skier is that there are around 1,100 of the latest snow cannons covering the slopes too, taking their water from 101 especially created water-storage lakes.

The lift company uses a fleet of 31 GPS-controlled piste-groomers each night to ensure the slopes are smoothed to a pristine condition as efficiently as possible.

Kitzbühel has in fact got so clever with its snow management in recent years that it actually stockpiles large amounts of snow at the end of each ski season, protecting it using conventional insulation material, such as white fleece and foil, to save it from the summer heat. About 20% of the snow melts through the spring and summer months, but in October each year, the snow is re-used to form the base for the next winter’s skiing. The start of this season (2017/18) was the earliest opening yet, with thousands of recreational skiers, as well as professionals who could use the snow for early training, being welcomed on 14 October.

In Innsbruck, the new Hungerburg Funicular, which opened last year, is a design marvel created by British-born architect Zaha Hadid. Each of the four stations have been designed to resemble icy glaciers, giving the impression that the nearby mountain is right in the heart of the city. The contrast between the arched shape of the roofs and the firmly anchored concrete bases makes the stations unique, and gives them an almost magical sense of weightlessness.

The latest thinking covers almost every aspect of ski are operations too, not just the biggest projects. SkiWelt Wilder Kaiser-Brixental already has a fleet of the latest ski lifts, but this year a sizable chunk of its latest €4.5 million spend has gone on a revolution in slope grooming: a new snow measuring system, which uses GPS to measure snow depth to within a few centimetres. During slope grooming work, this information is passed on in real time to the drivers, who therefore know precisely how much snow is currently sitting beneath their high-performance machines enabling more targeted use of manmade snow and consequently less water and energy consumption, less fuel and shorter operating times for the fleet of 65 snow groomers, seven of which are new this year.

It’s not just about the big things either. SkiWelt Wilder Kaiser-Brixental already has a fleet of the latest ski lifts, but this year a chunk of its latest €4.5 million spend has gone on installing 300 heated ski storage units at the base of the mountain, at the SkiWeltbahn lift in SkiWelt Brixen, so après-ski goers can kick back and party, safe in the knowledge that their equipment is protected. Money has also gone on expanding and improving the area’s huge snowmaking system, and on seven new piste-bashers to ensure even smoother slopes.

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