Since Tuesday, the ski lifts around Winterberg are now in operation. Located in the state of NRW, Winterberg is a major winter sport resort in Sauerland. But skiing is only possible with a ticket booked in advance. How is that working in the first few days? And what do winter sports enthusiasts have to say about it?
Before heading down the Waldschneise, a 1,500-meter blue ski piste that runs from the top station down to the valley, Marius Ziegler takes a short break. "It's wonderful," he says. "We've been here since 9 a.m. and haven't skied one run twice yet." He left Wuppertal at 6 a.m. with his friends Maren Ehrke and Pia Goldner to spend a day skiing in the Sauerland region. On Tuesday, they booked their day passes online. "I put in for a vacation day right away," says Pia Goldner. "It's such a nice change from the daily routine in the home office." Actually, they would have been in Ischgl, Austria right now.
During these pandemic days, a trip to Winterberg is a wonderful thing for ski enthusiasts. Since Tuesday, skiers and snowboarders have been allowed back on Winterberg's slopes - under strict corona restrictions. Twelve of 29 lifts are open in Winterberg, 5.4 kilometers of cross-country ski trails are groomed. Visitors must wear FFP2 or medical masks at the ski rental area, in the ticket office and in the vicinity of cable cars, and on chairlifts. Those who want to get out to the snow must book an online ticket in advance at the Winterberger Skiliftkarussells (Winterberg Ski Lift Carousel) site. A few hundred half-day and day tickets are available daily, the weekend is already fully booked.
Slopes are empty, lots of artificial snow
Up at the Kappe cable car station, Jannis in the operations booth makes sure people are wearing their masks and social distancing. "So far, though, I've only had to approach two skiers," says the 24-year-old. He has been on short-time work since Christmas. "When we heard we were allowed to reopen, some co-workers immediately put in a night shift so we could open as early as possible.”
Those who have booked a ticket will enjoy an empty slope. But the snow from the winter is as good as gone, there is still real snow only on the northern sides of the highest mountains - all other slopes have artificial snow. 34 slopes are groomed, and winter sports will be possible until April.
In December and early January, the snow had attracted crowds of day-trippers to the Sauerland region - even though the ski area was closed. Winterberg's mayor Michael Beckmann repeatedly appealed to people to stay at home. That won't be necessary now, Beckmann says. "We assume that this time no snow tourists will come to Winterberg, but instead skiers," he says. The season is just ending, there is no more snow on the grassy areas. "So we're not expecting any tobogganers or people who just want to see snow.”
Hoping for a good weekend
Already last summer, the mayor already had the safety and hygiene concept for Winterberg's slopes in place. "But then from mid-November we were not allowed to open anything." Looking ahead to this first weekend with ski lifts in operation, Beckmann says, "Let's hope it will be a good weekend." The coming days will show whether the safety measures work, he says. "And if it works for us, it will help show that outdoor exercise can work well with a good hygiene concept." In the meantime, the Association of German Cable Cars has called on politicians to open ski resorts in other countries as well.
While skiers in Winterberg can already enjoy the late ski season, people in Bavaria and Baden-Württemberg still have to wait. Or just start skiing. Like the three Bavarians Udo Hastenstab, Stefan Löber and Mathias Haun. They drove 180 kilometers from Aschaffenburg to Winterberg and are now taking a lunch break. They are eating from the trunk of their car. "I've been on standby all winter, finally wanting to go skiing," he says. "When I heard Winterberg was opening, I called these two right away." Löber says they didn't realize the slopes in Sauerland would be so good. "We still want to go to the glacier in April, maybe that will work out.”
(Orig. text: Claudia Hauser, Translation: ck)