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04 October 2016

What's new in Austria for 2016/17

Austria is once again leading the way when it comes to new chairlifts and gondolas for the 2016/17 season. Here are the highlights, including the new Flexenbahn in the Arlberg, the world's highest capacity lift and to cap it off the most expensive lift project to date.

St Anton, Lech & Zürs finally link up

Three of the country’s most historic ski areas are set to be joined for the first time as the new Flexenbahn lift links St Anton to Zürs and Lech. In total four high-speed, ten-seater gondolas have been built to complete the link and transform the Ski Arlberg area into Austria’s largest. Running from Stuben and over the Flexenpass to Trittkopf, the new lifts access some of Zürs’ and Stuben’s finest off piste and make the link to Lech easily skiable. It also means that 87 lifts and 305km of pistes can now be skied without having to jump on a ski bus and by following the new “Run of Fame” you can circle the entire area in one, leg-burning 65km ski day.

Flexenbahn

Saalbach again splashes the cash

Although the Flexenbahn’s construction may have meant the Saalbach Skicircus’ crown for largest resort in the country lasted only a season, but their investment continues apace in their ambitious project to replace all old, slow lifts. The total spend since 2000 has now hit €432 million thanks to two new 10-seat gondolas and investments in snowmaking. The new lifts include a replacement for the Schönleitenbahn – Vorderglemm’s key access lift and a new link gondola at the base of the Westgipfel and Zwölferkogel mountains.

Schonleitenbahn, Saalbach

Zell am See's link to Saalbach gets closer

Zell am See’s connection to Saalbach has taken a big leap forward over the summer with the building of the first section of the Zell am See Xpress Gondola. It drops down towards Viehhofen which sits on the edge of the Skicircus, but not all the way – that final lift is set to be built in 2018/19. This will ensure the title of Austria’s biggest resort to heads back to the Salzburgerland once more, but if you can’t wait then head down the new itinerary run to the valley floor and hop on to one of the frequent shuttle buses to explore the whole area.

Sölden builds a record-breaking lift

Another of Austria’s big spenders in recent years, Sölden, has also been busy over the summer. When their replacement for the resort’s workhorse Giggijoch lift opens in December, it will become the highest capacity lift in the world - usurping the Colosses chair in La Plagne which has a 4,400 people per hour capacity. 134 ten-seat gondola cabins (all fitted with high-speed wifi) will whisk an incredible 4,500 people every hour up from Sölden town centre to Giggijoch and the heart of the ski area.

Giggijochbahn, Solden

Another 8-seater for Ischgl

Increasing capacity is also firmly in the minds of Ischgl, who are building yet another 8-seat chair. The new Flimjochbahn will replace the old 4-man above Idalp and increase capacity on one of the most important lifts in the region to 3,200 people per hour. Ischgl’s lift company claim that its 3rd pylon (shared with another 8-seater, the Höllbodenbahn) has the potential to see 6,900 people pass over it every hour – a world record.

The Stubai Glacier spends €60 million

Despite the huge investments mentioned so far, the most expensive project of the summer belongs to the Stubai Glacier – where a massive €60 million has been pumped into their new Eisgratbahn 3S gondola lift. It climbs almost 1200m in just under 11 minutes – half that of the queue-prone old lift. A new off piste ski route is also set to open under the lower section of the gondola, although you must be with a mountain guide or ski instructor to ski it. Check out the video below to see what the new lift will look like when it opens on October 22nd:

Hochfügen gets the first D-Line lift

The world’s first D-Line chairlift by manufacturer Doppelmayr, their latest and most high-tech model, has been built in the Waidoffen sector of Hochfügen. 205 new technical developments, 14 of which required brand new patents, have gone into the D-Line design, making it Doppelmayr’s largest and most complicated project in their 124-year history. As their technical director Christoph Hinteregger suggests, the D-Line brings “unique comfort, top performance, easy maintenance and low noise”, along with a sounder environmental footprint – the new station design is smaller and the lifts are much more efficient.

Hochfugen, D-Line, Waidoffen

The Ski Welt spends big once more

After spending an incredible €51 million last winter, the SkiWelt may have halved its expenditure ahead of 2016/17 – but the €27 million invested over the summer is still more than most resorts manage in a decade. Much of this has been spent on 100 new snow machines, taking the total to 1700 – all of which are powered by Tirolean renewable energy. Their only lift project of the summer was at Söll, where the new Salvenmoos gondola will make the family-friendly Hochsöll area even easier for kids to utilise than ever.

Even more fast 8-Seat Chairlifts

Elsewhere in the Alps the building of new, fast 8-seat chairs would be headline news. However, with two-thirds of the world’s total in the Austrian mountains the impact is not quite so strong! That being said, the new Schmiedingerbahn on the Kitzsteinhorn Glacier at Kaprun will have a big impact at this snowsure ski area. Similarly at Schladming, home to the world-famous night World Cup slalom each January, the new Burgstallalmbahn will significantly improve access to the summit of the iconic Planai peak. Further west above St Gallenkirch in the Silvretta Montafon ski area, the region’s fastest 8-pack has been built over the summer – the new Silvrettabahn was named after it garnered more than a thousand votes in an online Facebook competition.

Silvrettabahn, Silvretta Montafon

And more 10-Seater Gondolas

And if this isn’t enough, look out for a brand new 10-seat gondolas at Gerlos in the Zillertal, one of Austria’s best ski areas, but as yet undiscovered by most Brits. It makes linking up to neighbouring Zell im Zillertal easier than ever. Rauris in the Pinzgau region has also installed a new gondola, which is set to whisk skiers towards the summit of this pretty, family orientated resort. Another one of Austria’s hidden gems, Galtür, which lies just along the valley from Ischgl, is also getting a new 10-seat gondola. The Breitspitzbahn extends the skiing on offer at the eastern edge of the ski area and makes the resort an even more attractive day-trip option from Ischgl – especially if the snow is good.

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