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Why skiing is becoming more and more of a sport for the rich

The sun tickles my skin. Each breath ventilates my city-contaminated lungs like an old carpet that has been knocked out for years. With every swing I pull new tracks in the fresh snow and feel a little bit freer. The snow crunches loud under my board as I pull down the runway. After every jump and subsequent impact on the ground, my heart leaps. This time, not only do I see the snow fleetingly as in the morning on the way to the office, where he already said goodbye, although I have not even greeted him. This time the snow stays and above all: I stay in the snow. One day, several days, maybe even a week.

Skiing is freedom for me, makes me feel the snow and nature and in the first place feel myself better. "Schifoan" as it is called in dialect in Austria, "is the leiwandste, what you can imagine," sang the Austrian singer Wolfgang Ambros and thousands of people bellow the chorus today.

Myth skiing, the Austrian folk sport

Peasants drove the mountains down to something like skis as early as the 17th century. Norwegians spread skiing in Europe. At the same time the first skiing clubs were built – in Germany in 1891 in Todtnau, in Switzerland in 1893 in Glarus and in Austria in 1901 in St. Christoph am Arlberg. In the 1920s, alpine skiing experienced a first big boom. Films from the Alps brought mountains and snow into the cinema and some people saw mountains of this size for the first time. After the two world wars, many countries invested in the development of ski slopes with cable cars and ski lifts, thus laying the foundation for skiing becoming a popular sport. More and more people started to roll down the slopes – with skis or boards.

According to Statista, around 14.6 million Germans and around three million Austrians were on the slopes in 2017 and 2018. The skiing experience is about much more than just sport. Wikipedia describes it as follows: "The emphasis is not so much on performance (as in alpine skiing competition), but on the movement experience, the immediate experience of nature, social contacts and, most of all, Austrian Entertainment, the après-ski. "Skiing is one of the most Austrian things to do. It is cultural property, popular sport and tradition. But the myth has long been less present. Since the abolition of the school ski course requirement in Austria over 20 years ago, the number of newcomers has fallen steadily. According to a study by the institute meinungsraum.at, in 2013 only 38 percent of Austrians at least occasionally ski and only 22 percent do so every winter.

The fact that fewer and fewer people are skiing is not due to the crowds, the constant sweating, the constant waiting, the annoying tourists, traumatizing ambitious parents or bad weather – but the money. When asked why they no longer ski, almost half of the respondents to the study cited the cost of winter holidays as the main reason. Many people can not afford skiing or even a skiing holiday. Equipment, day pass, access and accommodation: Skiing costs a lot of money.

Who can afford ski holidays today?

"It has always been an offer for the upper middle class, such as the upper third," says tourism researcher Peter Zellmann the Austrian research platform addendum, But that's not quite so clear, because prices are also rising due to climate change. As there is less and less snow, more and more slopes and slopes have to be artificially snowed. It costs. addendum has looked in detail at how the prices have changed: clearly the lift tickets in Austria have become more expensive. In Ischgl, for example, the day ticket has increased by 130 percent in the last 30 years.

And with the lift ticket alone, it has not been done yet: A high-quality ski costs a good 500 euros, plus ski suit, underwear, helmet, glasses and gloves. "1,000 euros for a complete ski equipment are therefore far from the noble variant, but actually rather the lowest limit," it says on the blog alps-journal, If you book low in advance, you get skis, boots and poles between 20 and 50 euros per day. The German ski portal Snowplaza has calculated that a ski holiday in the Alps costs between € 3,000 and € 5,100 for a family of four including travel, accommodation, borrowed equipment, lift tickets and ski lessons for the children in February. If you drive alone, you have to expect around 800 euros for a week in the mountains.

Although fewer and fewer people can afford a ski holiday, winter and ski tourism is becoming more and more expensive: heated lifts, four-star ski huts, perfect slopes and new wellness hotels instead of self-catering huts. The slopes are getting longer and more perfect. The food around always more expensive. To find buyers for the luxury, many regions and hotels with influencers advertise on Instagram. Her pictures are hard to handle, not only for passionate skiers with a lot of irony:

Memories of skiing

When I think back to my school days, I mainly remember my ski course. Not only because I got my first kiss there and my first relationship was broken, but because we had a lot of fun. It was the school time event. Even if it was the opposite of luxury: We slept in an old guesthouse in bunk beds six in a room, ate alphabet soup and celebrated in a lounge theme nights, which we were not allowed to call parties. The money for the ski course and especially the equipment could raise all children, because there were subsidies. This has to do with the fact that I attended a private high school. In my class, there was not a single child with migration history back then. All of us learned skiing, got equipment, it was a matter of course. Most could ski before they could ride a bike.

Melisa Erkurt describes in the Austrian city newspaper butterflyWhat it feels like to be one of the few children with a history of migration in the ski course and not be able to ski. While her classmates were on the boards most vacations and holidays, she had to fight off the red track. Because her Bosnian parents could neither ski, nor could they have afforded, as she tells.

Skiing symbolized something for me that was reserved for real Austrians.

Melisa Erkurt

This year, the journalist and teacher gave skiing another chance and enjoyed it. "I felt brave, free, arrived and above all – really Austrian," she writes. Nevertheless, they are saddened that so many children are different and they are excluded from it.

It needs more inclusion in skiing!

Skiing is a social sport that is fun and connects – or rather it should be. As prices continue to rise, tourism regions become more expensive and exclusive, there is less and less snow and fewer regions for skiing, skiing becomes a sport only for the rich. This is already the case in the USA. In the Aspen ski area, a 6-day ski pass costs a whopping $ 894, which translates into approximately € 759.

So that the ski trips do not continue to increase, it would be important that the ski areas are not always further developed. No one needs even longer runs, even more modern lifts or a luxury ski lodge for the lunch break. A reduction of all luxury would not only be good for the environment, but also for the prices. I prefer the slope with an old chairlift and affordably up. In addition, it needs more offers especially for families. Some ski resorts already offer discounted tickets, but to make the ski holiday affordable for families again, the accommodation in the ski areas and the food must be cheaper. In short, it just needs more ideas of inclusion in winter sports.

Precisely because skiing has a long tradition in Austria and is still seen by many as a popular sport, I think it is important that this is not reserved for the privileged of the upper middle class. Skiing must become affordable again, so that all children who want it, for example, can go to the ski course and not just the "real" Austrians, as Melisa Erkurt wrote. At this point I can not help but have to quote Wolfgang Ambros again, he sings: "I stand at the summit, look up into the valley. Everyone is happy, everyone feels good. "For this moment to happen to those who want to ski, skiing must also be affordable for" a everybody "and" a everyone "because" Schifoan is that Leiwandste, what you can imagine ".

"What's up with Austria?" Our correspondent and exile Austrian Eva Reisinger deals with this question in her series. She lives half in Berlin and half in Vienna and tells you what you have to hear each month about Austria, about what the country argues about or what is typically Austrian. If you subscribe to our Austria newsletter, you will receive it every two weeks in your mailbox.

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