The plan to blow up an Austrian glacier to merge two alpine ski resorts was met with opposition on Friday by thousands of people who took to the streets of Innsbruck.
The meltdown would involve the blasting and removal of over 750,000 cubic meters of snow, rock and ice from the mountainside to make way for new trails and services.
The project would connect two ski resorts called Pitztal Glacier and Ötztal Glacier in Tyrol, Austria.
The organizers of a petition against the plans handed over an 18-meter roll of paper bearing more than 168,000 signatures to the Tyrolean state government.
Gerd Estermann, the petition organizer and retired teacher, said: “For just five more ski runs, ski resort operators want to block three intact glaciers. In doing so, they destroy the unique natural landscape of the high mountains, already threatened by global warming. This is negligence and we want to prevent that.
Members of the local ski industry have been trying to get plans approved since 2019. Tourist numbers have declined and the industry provides one in four jobs in the state.
The director of the local ski lift company, Eberhard Schultes, told the scientific news site Phys Org: “The Pitztal glacier has hardly changed in the last 30 years in terms of the offer – the number of runs and facilities.And as this is the number one criterion for winter visitors, it is absolutely necessary to carry out this merger.
Animal species at risk
But the proposed expansion of the stations would cause significant damage to the “highly sensitive” glacial landscape.
Some of the animal species the project would endanger include ibex, chamois, ptarmigan and black grouse, bearded vulture, golden eagle, mountain hare and marmot.
Wildlife charity WWF, along with several other environmental charities, oppose plans to clear 90 football pitches for the resort.
Although the project would benefit the local ski industry, its opposition claims it would harm the area’s summer tourism industry.
The affected area is believed to include popular hiking and climbing sites, as well as a mountain hut belonging to the German Alpine Club established in 1892.
The regional news site Tiroler Tageszeitung surveyed its readers in 2020 and found that 70% of respondents opposed the project.