There’s something truly magical about the village lift in Hittisau: Once school is out for the day, kids chuck their rucksacks into the corner, grab their gear and hit the slopes. Homework can wait. Here, local kids shovel the fun park themselves, refreshments come from the vending machine and nobody is in it for the money. It’s the kind of place where lifelong friendships and shared memories are made that stand the test of time. “Our lift has an important social function in the village,” says Head of Operations Stefan Bechter, who has worked here for over 20 years.
As he studies the weather radar, families all over the village eagerly await his verdict: “Will Stefan open up today or not?” No matter the conditions, from slushy thaw to heavy snowfall or a wind storm, it’s Stefan’s job to make the call, which is not always easy. When the conditions are right, Hittisau is transformed into a glittering winter wonderland. On such mornings, Stefan climbs into his snow groomer early. He then sets up the safety nets,
checks the equipment, shovels the entrance way and steps inside his ski shack. You’ll be unsurprised to learn that this is a small-time operation as opposed to a state-of-the-art command post. Inside, Stefan makes himself comfortable in his ageing office chair, pulls up the screen, opens the cash register and leafs through his company diary. “In the winter of 2008/2009, we were open for 88 days,” says Stefan.“And yet we weren’t open for a single day in the winter of 2019/2020.”