Obereggen – A Sustainability Success Story
Until the 1960s the people in Val d’Ega mainly lived off farming and forestry work, with many young residents leaving the region in search of new opportunities. Today, however, the population numbers are stable and the residents of Val d’Ega can look to the future with confidence. This transformation is thanks to a number of pioneers who recognised the potential of tourism at an early stage and were the driving force behind opening up the valley to visitors in winter. Two of the main personalities behind this movement were ski resort managers Georg Weissensteiner and Siegfried Pichler. We sat down with Georg, Siegfried and PR manager Thomas Ondertoller to look back on the early beginnings of winter tourism in the region and to evaluate how it has progressed to where it is today.
Obereggen AG was founded in 1970, with the first lifts starting to run two years later. Today, the Ski Center Latemar, the result of the 1975 merger of the ski resorts of Obereggen, Pampeago and Predazzo, is extremely popular with both locals and visitors from all over the world. What has made Obereggen so successful
Georg Weissensteiner: We were all aware from the outset that the ski area could only have a long-term future if it was merged into a carousel with Pampeago and Predazzo, which already existed at the time. This was of fundamental importance.
Siegfried Pichler: The boom for Obereggen was also undoubtedly due to the fact that we actively adopted snowmaking from the very beginning. There were of course others in this field before us, but we introduced the first comprehensive snowmaking facilities here in Obereggen. And that’s how Obereggen made its name – we were one of the few ski resorts able to guarantee high-quality snow across the whole area, even during the not-so-snowy winters of the late 1980s.
Was the local population always in favour of these developments?
Georg Weissensteiner: When we founded Obereggen AG, we naturally had to raise capital. So we literally went from door to door to find shareholders – and that worked out well. People saw the ski area less as an investment and more as a kind of co-operative. In principle the development has brought this already tight-knit valley community even closer together. The shareholders from that time largely remain the same – or in some cases from the next generation, or even the one after that.
Siegfried Pichler: The small shareholders – the farmers, craftsmen, employees, workers – in particular were spread throughout the valley from the very start, precisely because the project enjoyed very wide popular support. And the fact that this was and continues to be the case may also have been because protecting the natural world of the Val d’Ega was the largest consideration in developing the area.
The Obereggen ski area has since 2004 been environmentally certified to ISO 14001 standard.
Siegfried Pichler: We have always taken care to preserve the landscape, for example when greening new pistes. The humus layer is first removed then re-laid during earthmoving. Even in the 1980s we began taking soil samples and getting our own Obereggen seed mixture produced so as to preserve the species diversity of the meadows. Sustainable water usage when snowmaking was also a central concern right from the start. Certification was logically the next step.
Is the environmental approach you practise here also noticed by visitors and guests? Do people ask you about it?
Thomas Ondertoller: We are of course aiming to communicate the ideas of environmental protection and nature conservation and yes, these also have great resonance with our guests. In addition to soft mobility, careful use of water resources and the topics of regionality and waste prevention, which are all increasingly important – especially in the hotel industry and restaurants – there are two “lighthouse projects” up here in Obereggen: the district heating plant and the Oberholz mountain hut. The former is powered by biomass from the Val d’Ega and supplies the entire area with heat, while the Oberholz mountain hut is heated with geothermal energy and was built using locally available materials, which were incidentally also used in the construction of the new après-ski building – very important for us.
And of course all the lifts and ropeway systems – including the new Reiterjoch lift – run on electricity generated from South Tyrolean hydropower.
Environmental protection and sustainability are quite simply important issues – and those who care about them in everyday life also want to spend their holidays somewhere that nature is treated with respect
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The Italian version of this text is the work of our translation wizard Serena Schiavolin, responsible for Italian content at clicktext, who brings a typical Italian touch to our stories!