Sölden in the Austrian Tirol is one of the world’s most snowsure ski areas, with high-altitude ski slopes, twin glaciers and a season that lasts from September to late April. It’s the traditional start of the annual World Cup ski tour each October.
But like all ski resorts operating some of their slopes on glaciers I is having to deal with increasingly rapid glacier melt.
In Sölden’s case the receding Rettenbach glacier had rendered the old connecting slope between the Seiterjöchl and “Rettenbachjoch/Schwarze Scheid 1 (World Cup) slopes impossible and the slope had had to be extended towards the valley in order to bypass the affected area. The problem with that though was that skiers could no longer reach the “Gletscherexpress” and “Schwarze Schneide” lifts departing from 17 vertical metres above.
The Ötztal lift company which runs the ski lifts looked at a number of different solutions to this issue, eventually opting for a 174-m-long moving carpet lift from Sunkid, which has been christened the Gletscherband, to bridge the gap.
The lift, with an hourly uplift capacity of 1,800 people, is protected by an Evolus gallery roof ensuring ease of daily operation with low maintenance even at 2,680m above sea level while protecting passengers from wind and weather. The facility was designed for maximal wind speeds of 165 km/h (103mph) and secured with special folding ground anchors on both sides every other metre.
“In light of the extreme weather situation, we have groomed the facility for the most interference-free operation possible as well as for quick start-up after precipitation. 60,000 guests used the lift in its first month of full operation, with daily peaks reaching 6,400 trips. No T-bar lift can handle such numbers. The conveyor belt can be used on skis or a snowboard, as well as by pedestrians,” said Markus Arnold, manager of operations of the Ötztaler Gletscherbahnen.