The number of people who come to the Tatras is high and has a growing trend. Based on a professional estimate of the Regional tourism organisation of Región Vysoké Tatry, which follows the methodology of the State Forests of the Tatra National Park, the region of the High Tatras was visited by over 3 million people in the year of 2017. This huge number that includes clients staying for one day but also for longer causes serious traffic problems more and more often. In the winter season of 2016/2017, there were 21 critical days as for the traffic in Tatranská Lomnica and it is obvious that this winter, it will be more. Suggested transport solutions for the Tatras have been focused mainly on planning new parking capacities so far, which paradoxically makes everything only worse – new car parks motivate people to use cars around the Tatras. In order to improve the overall situation, this approach needs to be changed and the public should be offered enough high-quality ecological alternatives that would guarantee the same comfort. It is mainly mountain resorts in Switzerland that have long-time experience with integrating ecological means of transport to the system of transport services. The country uses railways a lot but also cableways and electric cars in alpine tourist resorts.
Zermatt – a resort without cars
The village of Zermatt, which welcomes 40,000 tourists every day during the season, has chosen a rather revolutionary approach. The total number of nights spent in the area per year is as high as 1.8 million. Cars with combustion engines were forbidden to enter the village based on an official decision of the local authorities already in 1961. People can get to Zermatt only by train and in the village itself, only electric cars are allowed – for local residents as well as other service staff. Zermatt is a self-sustaining resort and generates electricity by using hydroelectric power stations, the photovoltaic system and a local biogas plant. Although there are enough sports opportunities, the village is open to further development.
“Zermatt is constantly improving the cableway connection with the Italian region of Aosta, which guarantees more and more leisure time options for people,” said Christoph Bürgin, who has been the village mayor for 12 years, at the conference. “Nowadays, we are dealing with the problem of huge masses of skiers who leave our resort at the end of the day at once. There are three alternatives that are being considered: an electric railway, a chairlift and a moving pavement. We are still discussing and looking for the best solution.”
Arosa Lenzerheide confirms the trend of connecting resorts
Arosa is a small alpine village in Switzerland, located at the end of a long valley which begins at the town of Chur. The much bigger resort of Lenzerheide, which has a direct connection to access routes, is two valleys further away. The idea of interconnecting both resorts appeared already in the 1970s but was put into practice only in January 2014 after long years of discussions. The Urdenbahn cable car with the length of 1.7 kilometres connected both resorts, which created a new region called Arosa-Lenzerheide, one of TOP 5 strongest Swiss resorts with 225 kilometres of ski pistes. Modern technologies enabled a cable car connection completely without pillars.
“The path from the very first idea to the execution was difficult. It took a very long time to find a technological solution that would affect the environment to the least possible extent,” explained Peter Engler, who was coordinating the project of cableway connection between the resorts of Arosa and Lenzerheide at the Lenzerheide Bergbahnen company. Another interconnecting cable car was built in the village of Churwalden, which is passed through by all clients heading to the mountain resort of Lenzerheide. The aim was to create a new entering zone at the beginning of the valley and to motivate people to leave their cars at a car park there and continue around the valley by using ecological means of transport. “The effect is evident already after four years although it was rather difficult to combine the absolutely different visions of all three villages in question. The cable car connection has obvious and unequivocal results – 10% more clients in both resorts and a considerable decrease of car traffic,” concluded Mr. Engler.
4-Vallées counts on railways and cableways
The biggest ski region in Switzerland – 4 Vallées (four valleys) is the result of cableway connection between several neighbouring villages in the canton of Wallis. 410 kilometres of ski pistes attract 2 million winter sport fans during the winter season every year. In order to manage the masses, 4 Vallées decided to create car parks in the valleys and to combine train and cableway transport that reaches to the highest altitudes.
“To support the development of tourism, quality and satisfaction of clients are most important,” says Eric-A. Balet from the Group Téléverbier company, which operates the Swiss resort of Verbier. “If a resort wants to attract enough people, it needs to overcome a certain critical size but at the same time to create several access possibilities to alpine areas.”
Based on available data, 4 Vallées saves almost 500,000 litres of fuel per year, which is 1,300 tonnes of CO2, in the resort of La Tzoumaz by using cableways. “When compared to cars, cableways have one more big advantage in the alpine environment – to cover the same distance, they occupy 330-times less space and require cutting less than a third of the tree amount that would be necessary for building roads and car parks,” said Eric-A. Balet about the way they perceive the transport situation in Switzerland.
Connecting resorts makes sense also in the Tatras
TMR has been seriously thinking about reviving skiing in the settlements of Smokovce in the Tatras. Hrebienok used to be a significant ski resort in the 1970s and hosted even a skiing world cup. Today, Smokovce offer about 2,500 beds and the resort has occupancy problems mainly in winter due to substantial stagnation. The TMR company suggests building around 12 kilometres of ski pistes between the area of Jakubkova lúka, the Bellevue hotel and Hrebienok. However, the terrain profile in Starý Smokovec enables creating blue ski pistes only, which does not meet the present-day requirements of clients. That is why TMR has introduced the vision of connecting the settlements of Smokovce with Tatranská Lomnica by a cableway that would reflect the limited development possibilities of Tatranská Lomnica, which is not able to absorb such high numbers of skiers and visitors mainly in winter, and at the same time boost the development of Smokovce. Along with the cableway, TMR suggest a few so called “fast” solutions for Tatranská Lomnica and Starý Smokovec, i.e. bigger car parks that would be located on the edge of the settlements, though.
“Nowadays, the development of the settlements of Smokovce cannot be considered separately as this would result in a small ski resort that would not attract enough clients and could thus not survive from the economic point of view,” said Bohuš Hlavatý, the managing director and chairman of the board of directors of TMR, at the conference. “A comfortable and ecological cableway that would connect two attractive destinations could result in a more even distribution of clients at accommodation facilities as well as on ski pistes and at tourist attractions of both resorts regardless their place of stay – Smokovec or Tatranská Lomnica.”
In winter, a unique medium-sized ski resort with pistes of various difficulty levels would be created and throughout the year, access to various events that are held mainly in Hrebienok would be much easier. “This would give people more reasons to stay in the Tatras for a longer period all year round, which means both resorts would depend less on 1-day visitors.”
Positive impact on the traffic situation would be another significant benefit of a cableway connection between both resorts. Based on a traffic analysis that has been made by the independent Institute of Transport and Economy, the cableway has a potential to reduce the demand for car parks in Tatranská Lomnica by more than 600 parking places and to decrease the traffic between the settlements of Smokovce and Tatranská Lomnica by more than 1,000 cars per day. This means 1.1 tonnes less CO2 emissions per day.
Among other things, various development scenario simulations of the above mentioned traffic analysis showed that if no transport measurements are taken (considering the fact that 520 temporary parking places are going to be cancelled soon for the purpose of the construction of the so called Lomnica promenade), Tatranská Lomnica might face as many as 41 days with a critical traffic situation. The suggested car parks in both resorts and the interconnection cableway would reduce this number to 3 days.
When compared to other means of transport, the proposed cableway is based on safe and environmental-friendly technologies. The 3S technology suggested by TMR would require only 3 support pillars on the section between Hrebienok and Skalnaté Pleso, which implies only minimum impact on the environment. The investments in the cableway construction would reach 25-27 million EUR. The total costs that would be needed in order to build the already mentioned resort along with the cableway connection to Tatranská Lomnica would be around 70 million EUR.
“There is one general rule that applies to traffic in cities as well as tourist centres – if people are supposed to ´get out of their cars´, they need to have a better alternative at disposal. Ecological cableway connection of two smaller resorts that would be equally and comfortably accessible to the public might support their development and at the same time reduce the traffic load in both of them,” summed up Mr. Hlavatý as for the potential of the suggested interconnection cableway.
Tatry mountain resorts, a.s. (TMR) is the leader in tourism in Central and Eastern Europe; it owns and operates attractive mountain resorts, amusement parks, restaurant facilities, sports services, shops and hotels. In the Low Tatras TMR owns and operates the resort Jasná Nízke Tatry and hotels Wellness hotel Grand Jasná, Boutique Hotel Tri Studničky, Chalets Jasná De Luxe, Hotel Srdiečko, and Hotel Rotunda. TMR is also the owner of Aquapark Tatralandia, the largest Slovak aquapark with year-round operation, which besides water entertainment includes Tropical Paradise, a special tropical indoor hall with sea water, as well as Fun Park, and accommodation in bungalows and apartments of Holiday Village Tatralandia. In the High Tatras TMR owns and operates the resort Vysoké Tatry with mountain areas of Tatranská Lomnica, Starý Smokovec, and Štrbské Pleso, which TMR co-manages. In the High Tatras TMR also owns hotels Grandhotel Praha Tatranská Lomnica, Grandhotel Starý Smokovec, Hotel FIS Štrbské Pleso and Mountain hotel Hrebienok. TMR also owns a 9.5 % share in Melida, a.s., which leases and operates the resort Špindlerův Mlýn in the Czech Republic. TMR also leases and operates the ski resort Ještěd. In Poland TMR owns a 97% share in the mountain resort Szczyrkowski Ośrodek Narciarski S.A. (SON), a 75% share in a company that owns and operates Silesian Amusement Park (Śląskie Wesołe Miasteczko) and a 7.3% share in an amusementeducational project via the Polish company Korona Ziemi Sp. z.o.o. TMR also owns and leases hotels Slovakia, Kosodrevina, Liptov and Ski&Fun Záhradky a Bungalovy to third parties. By the end of 2016 EUR 230 mil. had been invested into development and modernisation of TMR’s resorts. TMR shares are traded on three European stock exchanges – in Bratislava, Prague, and Warsaw.