Chair lift on a sunny day, with Italy's Dolemites in the background. Resterhohe's Pass Thurn opened on Oct. 30 with recycled snow; (photo/Julia Lopatina)

Ski Season Opens at Austria’s Resterhöhe — On Last Winter’s Snow

This season, no snow has yet fallen at Austria’s Pass Thurn ski area, just up the road from Kitzbühel. But in late October, skiers cut their first turns there anyway — on snow kept under foil since last winter.

The verdant slopes of the 6,213-foot Resterhöhe, near Salzburg, Austria, still don’t have their winter coat. But thanks to an audacious snow recycling technique involving high-tech foil sheets, skiers showed up in droves for opening day on Oct. 30.

ORF, Austria’s national public service broadcaster, reported a busy day on Pass Thurn’s single, straight-line stripe of brilliant white snow. The outlet said skiers showed up from both nearby and all over the world. Notably, the Indian National team arrived to start training for the 2022 Beijing Winter Olympics in February.

“It’s cool,” Team India athlete Aanchal Thakur said. “Today is our first day on the Resterhöhe at Pass Thurn. No snow all around and especially for us skiers this great slope band — many thanks to Austria!”

Thakur’s observation hits you right in the eyes: a 2,300-foot-long, 200-foot-wide snow streak blazing straight down the green hillside. The obvious question is: how?

The answer hides pretty much in plain sight. According to ORF, the Resterhöhe’s northern aspect gets very little sunlight. Therefore, it’s possible to preserve snow from one winter to the next by applying an (unspecified) insulating film over it during the summer.

The ski area’s managers noted that the process can preserve “90 percent of the total [snow] mass over the summer.”

Coverage, while not exactly deep, is adequate at an estimated 19-30 inches.

It may not be fresh powder, but first turns are first turns. And the Salzburg region needs all the skiers it can get. COVID-19 has hit the Austrian skiing scene hard in the last two seasons, and it may happen again this year. The state of Tyrol, home to the Resterhöhe, Kitzbühel, and many other renowned destinations, recently tightened restrictions in the wake of increasing cases.

Sam Anderson

Sam has roamed the American continent to follow adventures, explore natural wonders, and find good stories. After going to college to be a writer, he got distracted (or saved) by rock climbing and spent most of the next decade on the road, supporting himself with trade work. He's had addresses in the Adirondack Mountains, Las Vegas, and somehow Kansas, but his heart belongs in the Texas hill country.