Faster up hill, slower down it?

It was in Stuben am Arlberg a couple of seasons ago when I was discussing with a local the mooted developments to the lift system in Stuben.

A dated twin chair that connected with another dated twin chair - certainly not something that would grace the cover of an Arlberg ski area brochure. So when the local told me that he (and just about every skier or snowboarder in Stuben) was dead against the idea of upgrading the lift capacity of this peripheral gem in the Arlberg ski region, capacity was something that St Anton am Arlberg and Lech am Arlberg needed, not Stuben am Arlberg. He pointed across the ski piste to the lift queue and it amounted to maybe 10 people or 5 chairs worth in real terms. That was as bad as it got according to the local - doubtful of course but the point was clear. Resistance to the idea of a lift upgrade continued - 'and where are all these people going to fit?' The Arlberg is not terrain where one normally feels claustrophobia but when the pristine land of the Albona is concerned then every line down this famous ridge represents pleasure that is almost off the scale and memories that can last a lifetime - yes the Albona really is that good. So whilst we both gazed up at the massive ridge and the countless lines that had been cut in the latest powder deposit it was clear that the pleasure on offer was finite and more lift capacity means more people going up, this invariably means more coming down. On a piste this means less area to turn, stop, schuss or fall, whatever floats ones' boat. Off-piste it means more competition for fresh lines and a diminished sense of escapism. Whilst we as skiers and snowboarders curse the queue, itching to get up and onto the piste or the powder, it is fact that anyone in a queue isn't on the piste or in the off-piste powder. Lift queues a great regulator? - well maybe not the best way of managing the pressures or pistes or powder but the idea that higher capacity lifts are in the interest of all skiers and snowboarders in all ski regions is a fallacy. Hoteliers, ski shops and lift companies need more and more people to maximise profits but for the local who has grown used to a 10 person queue and familiar faces competing for powder lines, then the expansion of lifts and facilities into a ski area is understandably unimpressed. Higher capacity lifts with comfort such as heated seats are sure to arrive in most thriving ski regions, just don't mention how good they are to a local over a schnapps!

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