Ski vacation: winter sports industry fears complete failure

Munich Snow as far as the eye can see: A dream for hoteliers on the edge of the Alps in a normal winter. This year, however, the white splendor is just a burden. “The generous facilities have to be maintained”, complains Sybille Wiedenmann, managing director of Pro Allgäu GmbH.

80 hotels from the Allgäu have joined forces in the marketing cooperation. These are houses with three to five stars that have not been allowed to host a single guest for almost three months – but which still have to be heated and maintained. That devours money and the account continues to empty every day. “The air is getting thinner,” says the manager.

Just like the innkeepers in the foothills of the Alps, the winter sports industry is doing everywhere in Germany. Hoteliers, sports retailers and ski lift operators have costs, but so far no income. Worse still, it is becoming more and more likely that they will have to tick off the season completely. Because there is no end to the lockdown in sight, on the contrary: further restrictions on daily life are becoming apparent in the coming weeks.

“We are sitting on mountains of goods that we can basically no longer sell,” says Martin Kerner from the outdoor shop Basecamp in Karlsruhe.

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This is all the more annoying as there is finally enough snow again this winter in the nearby Black Forest for alpine skiing, winter hiking and cross-country skiing. So people would have a reason to get new equipment.

Lots of winter goods in the shops

Instead, Kerner doesn’t know how to pay his bills: “We urgently need liquidity to be able to pay for the planned goods that are coming in a few weeks.” Pallet truck with the spring collections.

Kerner is even lucky in bad luck. Because he doesn’t have any skis in his range. Sport Schuster in Munich is completely different. In normal years, alpine skis are one of the biggest sales drivers of the traditional company in the best inner city location. The family company has 3000 pairs in stock. At the moment they are as good as unsaleable.

Already in the weeks before the beginning of the lockdown for retail in December, this business had practically come to a complete standstill, says managing director Konstantin Rentrop.

The manager expects the winter season to be largely canceled: “We have to be prepared for a lockdown by Easter.” The expensive skis weigh heavily on Schuster. At best they can be sold again next winter, but only with huge discounts. After all, the new collections will already be in stores by then.

The ski areas in this country are dense, making trips abroad difficult. Who needs new ski equipment?

The mountain railways are in operation in Austria and Switzerland. But the hurdles for a ski holiday are high. It is important to observe quarantine rules and all kinds of hygiene measures on site. In addition, the inns and hotels are tight in Austria. In Italy the ski season will start again on February 15th at the earliest.

Skier in Switzerland

In the Swiss ski resort of Verbier, the athletes line up at the gondola. In the neighboring countries of France, Italy and Germany, the ski areas are still closed.

(Photo: dpa)

The German lift operators could get started at any time. Where there was not enough snow, the railway companies have made enough snow. But machine snow is expensive, and in the past few weeks the companies have only earned from the park fees paid by the excursionists. It is now questionable whether they will even sell one ski pass by the end of the Easter season.

At least in Saxony, they can remove the hangers of the tow lifts anyway. Tourism Minister Barbara Klepsch announced last week: “Our Saxon ski areas have to start artificially snowing their slopes in order to have enough snow for the rest of the season. The current corona situation in Saxony is still very serious. We therefore agreed with a heavy heart to end the alpine winter season for tourism. ”This should give the lift operators planning security so that they can avoid unnecessary costs.


The ski and snowboard schools in this country are particularly affected by the lockdown. “In the four winter months they generate the sales with which they pay their fixed costs all year round, feed their families and invest in the development of their companies,” said the German Ski Instructors Association in an open letter to politicians in this country. “If the entire 2020/21 winter season is canceled, exactly this income will be missing.”

Without further government aid, many businesses would no longer exist next winter, warns the merger of the ski schools. The previous support would not be enough to survive the summer. Because: The next sales would not come back to the till in December.

According to their own statements, the commercial ski schools in Germany look after half a million guests in a normal winter. You book an average of three course days each.

The association has not given up hope of being able to hold courses at least in areas little affected by the virus – even if the ski areas remain closed: on separate slopes, on lifts that are specially open for them, with a few customers.

Not only the ski schools are fighting for survival. If the lockdown lasts until Easter, “this will drastically increase the risk of insolvency in the entire retail environment – and we will see business tasks as a result,” says Alexander von Preen, head of the sports retailer association Intersport.

“Have to learn to live with the virus”

Hotelier representative Wiedenmann sees a particular threat to those businesses that are not entitled to state subsidies under the current conditions. That affects a fifth of all members of Pro Allgäu. “The promises all sounded good at first, but the expectations were hardly met,” says the manager. “There is still a big step to take.”

In addition, she demands a date from politicians when the houses are allowed to open. “The perspective is missing,” says Wiedenmann. With the hygiene concepts it is possible to safely accommodate the guests – even if the number of infections has not fallen below the limit values. Wiedenmann: “We have to learn to live with the virus.”

Until recently, the hoteliers would have hoped to open up on Mardi Gras. Nobody expects that anymore. The entrepreneurs are meanwhile impatient: “They don’t want to sit in a deck chair.” Even if they have to keep the pools warm anyway.

More: Dealers are preparing for corona lockdown by Easter – and fear bankruptcies.


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