The mountains are calling!


Mars is coming like a lion… The Turkish version of this saying says: In March you peek through the door and you will burn the handle of your ax and shovel. As the saying goes, Mars continues to act like a lion, with severe blizzards. Last weekend, the Austrian-Turkish winter tourism sector, mainly the world’s leading mountain tourism infrastructure brands and ski resort managers in Turkey gathered at the two-day summit in Erciye. While the snow didn’t stop outside, the sector’s future in climate change was discussed.

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The ski season is short, and moreover, it is not predictable. The whole season goes by with endless discussions about the snow conditions, whether it has snowed enough or not, whether it has melted or become soft, and time flies, and when it’s all over at the Spring is approaching, everything starts again sometimes. That’s exactly what happened last week at Mount Erciyes, the ski resort on the slopes of the majestic mountain also known as Argaeus, just outside the central Anatolian town of Kayseri, it was as if the winter season had a second turn to make skiers happy. This unpredictability, along with climate change, worries resort operators and investors, as well as ski and winter sports enthusiasts. Sometimes the season is short, and sometimes the satisfaction of the slopes is prolonged with surprise snowfall beyond seasonal norms, as happened last weekend. Fortunately, this was timely as the “Turkey-Austria Summit on Winter and Mountain Tourism Infrastructure” was organized for the second time by the Austrian Consulate’s trade office, Advantage Austria, on March 17-18, under the leadership of Trade Commissioner Georg Karabaczek and Erciyes A. Ş. The event, the first of which was held in the Uludağ ski resort two years ago, creates a bridge between Austria and Turkey and a basis for possible cooperation, with representatives from 12 major companies Austrian companies and representatives of the winter tourism sector from all over Turkey.

Austria has a 150 year history in ski tourism and dominates 75% of global ski tourism. Therefore, the most experienced country in the world also has the most advanced infrastructure equipment. The Austrian Ambassador to Ankara, Johannes Wimmer, recalled that ski tourism is a very important sector in Austria, 7.5% of the country’s income comes from this sector, which represents around 40 billion euros. Wimmer pointed out that Turkey also has considerable potential for winter tourism. The main objective of the summit is to enable Austrian companies to cooperate with investors in Turkey and to share the latest cutting-edge technologies with industry representatives in Turkey. Austrian companies, which provided information on important topics ranging from artificial snow to cable car systems, from panoramic viewing and interactive information systems to modern turnstiles, from fun snow vehicles that can be used in summer conditions to theme park ideas, held bilateral meetings with public operators and administrators in Turkey. As Wimmer points out, Turkey indeed has great potential not only in ski sports but also in mountain tourism all year round. Erciyes A.Ş. Board Chairman Murat Cahid Cıngı also stressed that Turkey should not abandon the sea-sand-sun trilogy and take Austria’s example and head for the mountains.

This point is very true for Turkey. We have a tradition of going to the highlands in the summer. We want to escape to cool places, the highlands become very festive in summer, especially those of the Black Sea region which are legendary. It is also the passion of Anatolians to go outdoors and have outdoor picnics throughout the summer, starting with the spring festivities of Nevruz and Hıdrellez. Although they don’t necessarily ski, many people flock to ski resorts in the winter simply because of this passion for the outdoors. Ski resorts such as Erciyes and Palandöken, close to the city center, are hotspots on weekends for the non-skiing masses who simply want to get some fresh air from the snow. Hannes Triebnik, the representative of the company Input, who has 202 years of experience in the master planning of mountain resorts, pointed out that the world is no longer discussing climate change but how to adapt to it. Triebnik said that only 3% of people ski in the EU and there is a need to go beyond the expectation of snow to attract people to the mountains and attract tourists using the natural beauties. Stressing that Turkey has great potential in this direction, he said it was necessary to attract not only foreigners but also local tourists to the mountains. In fact, the Input company has already signed some projects, especially in the Eastern Black Sea region.

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The objective must be to diversify mountain tourism and spread it throughout the year. At this stage, another indisputable point of attraction comes into play: gastronomy. People get hungry outdoors, and when you add a bit of movement, they crave an environment to eat well. In addition, the local cuisine aspect is very strong in our municipalities. Ski resorts around the world now offer year-round dining venues, appealing not only to a wide audience, but also to an elite foodie clientele and those seeking a high-end luxury experience. Michelin-starred luxury restaurants are not common in European ski resorts. The important thing is to focus on quality and offer unique experiences to visitors. In this context, it is imperative that our ski resorts create their own unique culinary experiences!

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Gastronomy is an asset, especially in Kayseri. People may come just for the sizzling Kayseri jerky sausages nestled in fresh bread savored al fresco, or to dunk in a bowl of tiny dumplings, aka “mantı” — the city’s signature dish. It must be said that the “mantı” is known throughout Turkey, but that of Kayseri is considered very special, the smallest possible, it is said in a serving spoon, 40 dumplings should fit in it. What a mouthful of happiness it would be appreciated at the sight of mighty Erciyes!

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