Three become one: The three ski resorts of Engelberg-Titlis, Melchsee-Frutt and Meiringen-Hasliberg in Central Switzerland are planning to merge into one large ski resort. As a joint adventure region, the main aim is to boost winter tourism in the region. The economic, technical and ecological feasibility of the mega project is now being examined.
Opportunities for ski resorts
The ski resorts of Engelberg-Titlis and Melchsee-Frutt in Obwalden and Meiringen-Hasliberg in the Bernese Oberland plan to merge in the future. The aim of a connection is not necessarily to attract more tourists to the region, but to ensure that guests stay longer. The towns hope to attract more weekly guests and fewer cold beds.
Moreover, the aim of a merger is not to create many additional kilometres of pistes, but merely to connect the existing ski areas with each other and thus jointly be able to offer a larger and wider range of winter sports.
Size and variety are decisive factors for guests when choosing a ski resort. This is why the project is especially important for the two smaller ski areas Melchsee-Frutt and Meiringen-Hasliberg in order to keep up with the competition. But the larger and (also financially) stronger ski area Engelberg-Titlis, with 82 kilometres of slopes, is not a giant ski area either and could benefit from such a link in the long term.
More information about the three ski areas:
Project failed over 15 years ago
The idea of connecting the three ski areas of Engelberg-Titlis, Melchsee-Frutt and Meiringen-Hasliberg is not new. The project was already the subject of discussion in 2003 under the name "Schneeparadies". The plan was to merge 51 lifts and over 200 kilometres of slopes.
However, the plans quickly failed due to nature conservation, as the ski lift connection was to lead over the protected landscape of Engstlenalp. Around 10,000 signatures were collected against the plan at the time.
New approaches are being examined
A second attempt is now being made to implement the ski area link, this time under the name "Erlebnisregion". The new project is also not without controversy. Criticism comes primarily from environmental associations and the Swiss Foundation for Landscape Protection. The financing could also be a stumbling block.
For this reason, the three mountain railways and the cantons of Obwalden, Nidwalden and Berne have launched a feasibility study with the New Regional Policy (NRP) in summer 2018. The claim: a connection between the ski areas must be profitable but also environmentally friendly.
At the end of May, the mountain railways of the three ski areas and the government of Obwalden presented the first results of the study on the economic viability of a merger. The study puts the total benefit of the link at CHF 7.1 million.
Furthermore, it is clear that a merger has potential primarily for winter and ski tourism. Although there are also new opportunities for summer tourism, these play a subordinate role economically. More precise results on profitability are expected by the end of 2020.
Final results by 2021
Within the framework of the study, various connection variants are also to be examined with regard to environmental compatibility and technical feasibility. It should clarify whether a connection is financially, touristically and ecologically feasible at all.
The feasibility study will be completed by the end of 2021 at the latest, at which point a decision will be made on the basis of the results as to whether the "Erlebnisregion" project can be realised. Concrete plans as to what the link should look like or where it could be built are not yet known.