de en

Hier kommt das User Feedback

Phone E-Mail Info
Snow how: Keeping a small family ski resort alive

Snow how: Keeping a small family ski resort alive

Snow how: Keeping a small family ski resort alive

Though just twenty-three years old, he’s already a ski-resort owner: Mathias Metzler, a full-time service technician for snow groomers and agricultural machinery, took over the Haldenlifte family ski resort above Schwarzenberg two years ago. During the winter season, he works up to 16 hours per day and his hopes rest on the weather forecast. Please let it snow!

Do you long for the good old days of skiing? Well, at the Hadenlifte ski area above Schwarzenberg, you can turn back the hand of time. Here, a long surface lift winds uphill between spruces and weather-beaten hay barns. At the top, a wide, glorious piste awaits. Did we mention there’s also a baby lift, a valley ski run to the village, and panoramic views from the Kanisfluh massif to the Hochhäderich mountain?

When long-time owner Florian Berchtold decided to retire, the Hadenlifte ski area was faced with closure. That is, of course, if it hadn’t been for Mathias Metzler. In 2020, the twenty-three-year-old from Schwarzenberg took over the reigns at this small family ski resort. As a result, the company was able to celebrate its fiftieth anniversary in 2021. Whenever he got a chance, the current owner of the lift would spend his free time here. When he wasn’t skiing himself, he’d lend a hand and was allowed to ride on the snow groomer. During his apprenticeship as a vehicle mechanic and hydraulic technician, he helped out during the autumn lift overhaul and the servicing of snow groomers. When Berchtold asked him if he wouldn’t like to take over ownership of the Hadenlifte ski area, Mathias said, “What’s the worst that can happen?”

After passing his head of operations exam in the autumn of 2020, he subsequently completed his first successful winter season. Though the project seemed quite bold, Metzler’s extensive know-how gave him confidence: After completing his apprenticeship, he spent three years as a mechanic responsible for the slope equipment at the Diedamskopf, Warth and Jöchelspitze in the Lechtal valley ski resorts. Today, he works full-time as a service technician for snow groomers and agricultural machinery for the Vorarlberg-based contract partner of the Kässbohrer company.

Could it be that it wasn’t skiing so much as his passion for snow groomers that pushed him to become a lift owner? Mathias grins mischievously and remains silent. At the Hadenlifte ski area, the season starts when there is snow, regardless of whether it’s the end of November or mid-April. The Hadenlifte ski area’s manageable size makes it an ideal ski resort for families and children: “Home from school, off to the ski lift: that which used to be my life back then is still possible here for the kids!” Skiing is open on Wednesday afternoons and weekends. “On Wednesdays, the kids have the afternoon off from school, plus the Bregenzerwald ski clubs come to train.” The latter really appreciate the mini-ski resort because the slope is actually quite challenging: in 1987, there was even a Ski World Cup race here. Those who are looking for something special, even nostalgic, visit on the weekends.

“We are a real insider tip, and not just for locals. Plenty of surface lift fans also visit us from Germany and Switzerland.” During the season, Mathias employs up to five people and the whole family also lends a hand. His working day often lasts more than 16 hours: If it has snowed overnight, he has to start up his snow groomer at five o’clock in the morning to prepare the valley ski run down to the village centre. The lifts open at nine o’clock, and then Mathias has to be in many places at once, i.e. wherever he is needed. When night falls, the ski day ends for the guests but not for Mathias. After all, the slope has to be groomed for the next day as well. And when the snow cannon is running at night, Mathias has to get up every two hours to check on the slope: “If something breaks and the pipes freeze, I have to deal with a pile of ice the next morning, which is a huge problem!”

The Halden surface lifts have operated as a private company since their very first day in 1971. To cover costs, the slopes have to be open at least 20 days per season with 1,000 rides each. The municipality of Schwarzenberg supports Mathias by covering costs for easements, i.e. payments for the right to use the properties of various landowners. Mathias takes care of everything else himself, including repairs, overhauls and slope maintenance. Keeping the Haldenlifte ski area open requires every bit of his expertise, practical skills, and seemingly inexhaustible supply of energy. What it all comes down to, however, is the snow conditions: “If there is enough snow, things work great. But between November and April, there is little that shapes my life to such a degree as snow: whether it comes, whether it goes, and how long it stays. Whether I like it or not, the fate of the Hadenlifte ski area is up to the weather.”

Author: Babette Karner
Travel Magazine Issue: Winter 2022-23