Good conditions during the Christmas holidays ensured full slopes in Lower Austria's ski areas.
On December 24th we shoveled snow for hours. And the next day the white splendor melted by itself,” says “JoSchi” – Johannes Putz – with a laugh. The hotelier, restaurateur and sporting goods retailer stands on the terrace of one of his businesses - the sports house at 1,500 meters in the middle of the Hochkar ski area - and looks back not only on his local mountain, but also on a good start to the winter season.
“This year we opened on December 1st due to the good snow conditions. The period before Christmas was a bit slow, the weather was bad, but the time from December 27th until the end of the holidays made up for the modest start.”
Admissions at pre-Corona level
ecoplus Alpin GmbH registered around 99,000 entries at its five locations - Annaberger Lifte, Erlebnisalm Mönichkirchen, Hochkar Bergbahnen, Ötscherlifte and Wexl Arena - from December 24, 2023 to January 6, 2024, the same number as four years ago. “We recorded more than 100,000 visits over the Christmas holidays. “This puts us in the range of 2019/2020, immediately before the outbreak of the corona pandemic,” says Managing Director Markus Redl, drawing a positive conclusion. There were 4,946 guests at Hochkar on January 5th - the highest number in seven years. More than 4,000 visits were also counted there on December 28th and 29th, 2023. But the start to the winter was not only positive for the large, higher-altitude ski areas. “Conditions were also largely ideal for the low-lying tow lift areas until Christmas – before the thaw set in and the business for lifts without snowmaking facilities dampened,” reports Michael Reichl, spokesman for the Lower Austrian Cable Cars, and adds: “The cold temperatures and the prospect of fresh snow But all companies are hoping for a good semester break.”
Booking situation promising
Johannes Putz also confirms this. “Booking situation and inquiries for the semester break are very good. February is our strongest month anyway.” Despite the great conditions, things have currently become quieter during the week, says Putz, who has expanded his ski school with a dedicated team into a comprehensive service on the mountain. In addition to the ski school where it all began, the JoSchi family includes a four-star hotel, an alpine inn, four restaurants on the mountain, the castle tavern in Lunz am See, a sports shop and ski rental.
“The guests still like to stay in the huts and also consume. Although I notice in the hotel that some people pay a little more attention to the stock market. But Christmas business was also very good in the catering and hotel industries.” As was the case in ski shops and rentals: “Compared to December 2022, we achieved around 15 to 20 percent more sales in this segment in December 2023,” Putz calculates. “The trend of borrowing or re-equipping equipment on site is still unbroken and is even increasing,” says the expert, citing concrete figures. “We rent out more than 15,000 skis and around 2,500 snowboards every season.”
Optimistic look ahead
The Lower Austrian sporting goods retailer looks back on the first half of the season with mixed feelings. “The start at the beginning of December was sensational, the anticipation of a great winter was great. But then the thaw came,” says Michael Nendwich, spokesman for the Lower Austrian sporting goods trade, taking stock. While the alpine sector did well, the touring, cross-country skiing and textile segments were difficult. “Assuming fresh snow and good weather, we are confident about a promising second half of the season,” emphasizes Nendwich.