Always on the move

Sarah Meraner
Winter , Skiing , History

Always on the move

A portrait of Walther Pichler

Walther Pichler’s blue ski suit – which he is also wearing today – is probably more than a few years old, as he takes the ski piste to work each day and has done for decades! How many other people can make such a claim? :-) His workplace, the Ganischgeralm, is where others come to rest or party! But Walther is not just the sociable warden of this mountain hut: he is an institution in the Val d’Ega and has been there from the very outset. From the outset? Yes, as Walther Pichler and the Ski Center Latemar practically “grew up” together…

The man behind the cult destination

“I grew up with tourism. My parents too owned an inn that we then converted into the Hotel Ganischgeralm when the first ski area was opened here in 1970, and we expanded it several times. And I have just grown up with the way it all developed here,” says Deutschnofen-born Walther, with his snow-white hair and sunny outlook. He built the Ganischgeralm in 1976 and, over the years, it has evolved into a cult destination that is today just as popular as it ever was. He is there almost every day from morning until late afternoon, usually working on the till in the self-service area. “I used to work seven days a week. Now, let’s say for the past ten years, I allow myself one day off a week. Then we prefer to go hiking – both in summer and winter – often locally, for example to the Latemar Hut, but also up to the Seiser Alm, to the Pustertal or Vinschgau valleys.” Today one of his sons now supports him at the Ganischgeralm. But his wife and three other sons are also actively involved in “Gani’s World”, with everyone playing their part. As well as the Ganischgerhof and Ganischgeralm, the family also runs the Platzl, Gardona and now also the Loox huts. Today, the 77-year-old’s sons work in one big company and look after the businesses, the marketing and administration. “I am very happy and grateful that everyone helps out because... without them none of this would be possible!”

Memories and a glimpse into the future

Walther’s 43 years at the Ganischgeralm represent a lifetime in tourism. Untiring in his work, he is happy about the way it has all developed in Obereggen – and that he has grown up as part of it. There is at any rate no sign of a slowdown in the case of the two “Gani’s”, with something new added somewhere every 5-6 years, he says enthusiastically. The biggest challenge for him over the years was the major hotel renovation of 2000, when the old building was completely demolished and a brand-new four-star-S hotel built in its place. Additions are still being made: “My sons are always the driving force – I often have to put the brakes on!” he laughs. Born in 1942, he also worked as a parish officer for 25 years and has been a committed member of the Obereggen tourism council.

His eyes light up as he tells his stories. Today, Walther Pichler is visibly proud of what he has achieved. After all, it is not so easy to set up a single business in this way, let alone so many. “We had make a lot of calculations, but a slice of good luck was definitely part of it.” 
The clientele has changed considerably over the years, he says, and thinks back to the times before après-ski: “We used to party differently, we would play the guitar and sing along, young people don’t do that anymore – they listen to completely different music. I remember the good old times very well. We certainly sang a lot.” For a moment – or indeed two – he quietly revels in his memories.
And as for the future? The future looks pretty good, because tourism here in the Val d’Ega is booming. “The biggest difficulty for the future will be finding good staff,” Walther suspects, but he himself is at the moment happy with his employees – up to 115 of them in the winter season! And many of them have been with us for almost 20 years. “It is vital to have employees who are motivated and committed, but who also have a sense of responsibility. We have very friendly relationships with our team members. It’s good to know everything will run smoothly even when you’re not there.”

A lust for life… and no slouch on his skis

“I’m an optimist. Without optimism you won’t get anywhere in life! Even when it didn’t go as planned, I always thought: we’ll manage somehow.” And so it proved. At the age of 77 Walther Pichler has had a highly eventful and above all busy life – you can see it from his face. He has after all built up tourism in an entire ski area and made it what it is today. Of course nowadays he is looking for more peace and quiet and finishes earlier for the evening. But there is no end in sight to his life at the hut! “I could just stay at home,” he admits with a laugh., “but I don’t want to. I’m so used to being up here every day, among all these people, that I never want to give it up. As long as I’m healthy and able to stand on my own two feet, I’ll carry on as before.”

Walther Pichler puts on his gloves, which perfectly match his blue ski suit, says goodbye and – with his ski boots on his feet – heads for the chairlift – and up to the Ganischgeralm! :-)

Sarah Meraner

is responsible for Digital Storytelling at clicktext, the South Tyrolean agency for corporate content and blogger of “Geschichten im Kopf [Stories on my mind]”. Making use of every one of her senses to experience the world, she can tell us all about it in words, stories and images.

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!