Presenting the new study on ecological piste management for Schmitten at Haus der Natur (from the left): Dr Erich Egger (Chairman of Schmittenhöhebahn AG), Dr Helmut Wittmann (study author, research associate at the biodiversity centre of Haus der Natur), University Prof Dipl. Ing. Dr Ulrike Pröbstl-Haider (University of Natural Resources and Life Sciences, Vienna) and Ing. Hannes Mayer (authorised representative of Schmittenhöhebahn AG) Photos: ProMedia / Schmittenhöhe
Biodiversity and Ecological piste management
Schmittenhöhebahn AG has long relied on ecological piste management. The people of Salzburg regard a strict environmental policy as the basis for ski sports and the mountain hiking experience. This objective is pursued consistently and monitored constantly to provide the best possible protection for the local flora and fauna, including on the ski slopes.
To this end, Schmitten also established an ecological council in 2011 and was additionally certified under the EMAS (Eco-Management and Audit Scheme) in 2015. It is therefore the only cable car company in Europe with such certification.
Last year, the cable car company commissioned critical studies to investigate the biodiversity on its ski slopes and thus to determine the benefit to biodiversity on the Schmittenhöhe of the many efforts in the field of ecological piste management.
Major contribution to preservation of biodiversity
The study results are unequivocal, as Ulrike Pröbstl-Haider from the University of Natural Resources and Life Sciences in Vienna confirms. The scientist concludes that the common preconception of pistes being hostile to life is outdated. The research work confirms that in many locations the local conditions and
management method are much more critical than the knock-on effects of snowmaking.
Pröbstl-Haider points out that the series of studies commissioned is not a single survey but rather that piste maintenance is integrated into the certified environmental management system in the Schmittenhöhe ski resort. During the survey, the study authors identified that, with appropriate extensive management and maintenance, piste areas make a valuable contribution to the preservation of biodiversity. The unfertilised piste meadows have a high level of biodiversity and offer a home to creatures that are already on the Red List of Threatened Species in other regions.
“Ecological piste management is already on a good course in Austria, and Schmitten represents a worthy pioneer,” Pröbstl-Haider says. However, the experts also agree that there is still plenty of potential for improvement with respect to nature-oriented piste maintenance not only in Austria but also worldwide. However, we must first get the idea of the “mountain in bloom” into people’s minds and create new awareness among the people responsible.
For the Schmittenhöhe mountain railways, these results are a good reason to improve this nature-oriented piste maintenance even further.