The mayors of the Almtal communities of Grünau, Scharnstein, Vorchdorf and Pettenbach actually wanted to negotiate again with the property owners on Kasberg on Thursday evening. It should be a last attempt to save the ski area.
As reported exclusively by OÖ Nachrichten, five of the ten forest owners refuse to agree to the loss-making cable car being operated in the summer. (These are Elisabeth Herring-Frankensdorf, Erhard Hüthmayr, Reinhard Kram, Johannes Stadler and the Duke of Cumberland Foundation.) The cable car currently only runs in winter. In the opinion of all experts, year-round operation of the system is the only chance of operating the cable car to cover costs.
But the five landowners surprisingly dropped the meeting. In a joint letter, they informed Grünau’s Mayor Klaus Kramesberger (SPÖ) on Tuesday that they would stick to their position and not be available for negotiations.
Hardly anyone in the Almtal doubts that the quintet fears losses in terms of hunting if tourists romp around the Kasberg all year round. In contrast to forestry, hunting leases are highly lucrative. The five themselves give other reasons for their refusal: Tourists would push the game into lower-lying protection forests where damage from browsing would result, they said in a joint press release on Wednesday. In general, the negative ecological effects of year-round operation were “not sufficiently considered”. The five senders also doubt the economic success.
Letter hit like a bomb
The letter hit the Almtal like a bomb. The mayors of the four owner communities mentioned above immediately held an emergency meeting. “We are very disappointed with this refusal to talk,” says Grünau’s Mayor Kramesberger. “We would have been flexible, one could have talked about many details of a summer operation.” Scharnstein Mayor Rudolf Raffelsberger (ÖVP) emphasizes that the other five property owners behaved “extremely constructively”.
Tourism State Councilor Markus Achleitner (ÖVP) speaks of a “new situation” and invites the mayors to a meeting next week. “The owner communities must now determine how to proceed,” he says. As is well known, the state government will take over the departures of the ski area up to an amount of one million euros per year until winter 2025/26 (the last time the minus was 1.3 million euros). In return, Grünau, Scharnstein, Vorchdorf and Pettenbach undertook to develop a new concept for year-round operation.
Achleitner and the mayors must now ask themselves how sensible it is to maintain loss-making operations until 2024/25 if there are no prospects after that. “We will check whether and which tourist offers are still possible within the specifications of the property owners,” says Provincial Councilor Achleitner.
Dismantling will be expensive
So far, no political leader has uttered the word “lock up”. But nobody can say how the end of the ski area can still be prevented.
In any case, the mayors have long been thinking about dismantling the systems on the Kasberg. According to an initial estimate, dismantling the lifts and cable cars will cost more than two million euros. Reserves have already been made for this, but the money available is far from sufficient. The fact that Scharnstein and Grünau are outbound communities does not make things any easier. “One thing must be ensured,” says Scharnstein’s Mayor Raffelsberger: “At the end of the day, we communities must not be left with financial shambles.”
On Thursday (8 p.m.) the winter sports clubs will organize a rally for the Kasberg on the town square of Grünau.