Mountains are calling!

Mountains are calling!

Mountains are calling

March comes in like a lion… The Turkish version of this saying goes: In March, you have a peek outside from the door, and you’ll burn the handle of your axe and shovel. Just as the saying, March continues to act like a lion, with fierce blizzards. Last weekend, the Austrian-Turkish winter tourism sector, mainly the world’s most important mountain tourism infrastructure brands and the managers of ski resorts in Turkey came together at the two-day summit in Erciyes. While the snow did not stop outside, the future of the sector in climate change was discussed.

Ski season is short, and moreover, it is not predictable. The whole season passes with endless discussions of snow conditions, whether it snowed enough or not, whether it melted or turned mushy, and the time passes quickly, and when it is all over on the verge of spring it sometimes starts all over again. This is exactly what happened last week in Mount Erciyes, the ski resort on the slopes of the majestic mountain also known as Argaeus, just off the Central Anatolian city of Kayseri, it was like the winter season was having a second turn to make skiers happy. This unpredictability, with climate change, worry resort operators and investors, as well as ski and winter sports enthusiasts. Sometimes the season is short, and sometimes the slope satisfaction is extended with the surprise snowfalls beyond the seasonal norms, just as it happened last weekend. Luckily, it was timely as the “Turkey-Austria Winter and Mountain Tourism Infrastructure Summit” was organized for the second time by the Austrian Consulate Commercial Office, Advantage Austria, on March 17-18, led by Trade Commissioner Georg Karabaczek and Erciyes A.Ş. The event, the first of which was held in Uludağ ski resort two years ago, creates a bridge between Austria and Turkey and a basis for possible cooperation, with representatives of 12 leading 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 percent of the world’s ski tourism. Therefore, the most experienced country in the world also has the most advanced infrastructure equipment. Austrian Ambassador to Ankara Johannes Wimmer reminded that ski tourism is a very important sector in Austria, 7.5 percent of the country’s income is provided from this sector, which makes approximately 40 billion euros. Wimmer emphasized that Turkey also has considerable potential when it comes to winter tourism. The main purpose of the summit is to enable Austrian companies to cooperate with investors in Turkey and to share the latest advanced technologies with sector representatives in Turkey. Austrian companies, which provided information on important subjects 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 operators and public administrators in Turkey. As Wimmer points out, indeed Turkey has great potential not only in ski sports but also in mountain tourism year-round. Erciyes A.Ş. Board Chair Murat Cahid Cıngı also underlined that Turkey should only leave the sea-sand-sun trilogy and take the example of Austria and head towards the mountains.

This point is very true for Turkey. We have a tradition of going to the highlands in the summer. People want to escape to cool places, highlands become very festive in summer, especially those of the Black Sea region are legendary. It is also the passion of the Anatolian people to go out al-fresco and have a picnic in the open air throughout the summer, starting from the spring festivities of Nevruz and Hıdrellez. Although not necessarily skiing, many people flock to ski resorts in winter just because of this passion for the outdoors. Especially ski centers such as Erciyes and Palandöken that are close to the city center are attraction points on weekends for the masses who do not ski, but just to have some cool fresh air of snow. Hannes Triebnik, the representative of the Input company, which has 202 years of experience in the master plan of mountain resorts, emphasized that the world no longer discusses climate change but how to adapt to it. Triebnik said that only 3 percent of people ski in the EU and that it is necessary to go beyond waiting for the snow to attract people to the mountains and bring tourists by using natural beauties. Emphasizing that Turkey has great potential in this sense, he said that it is necessary to attract not only foreigners but also local tourists to the mountains. As a matter of fact, Input company has already signed some projects, especially in the Eastern Black Sea Region.

Diversifying mountain tourism and spreading it throughout the year should be the goal. At this point, another indisputable point of attraction comes into play: Gastronomy. People get hungry in the open air, and when a little movement is added, they are looking for an environment to eat well. Moreover, the local cuisine aspect is very strong in our towns. Ski resorts around the world now feature gourmet venues that are open year-round, appealing not only to large audiences but also to elite gourmet customers and those seeking a high-end luxury experience. Michelin-starred luxury restaurants are not common in European ski resorts. The important thing is to give priority to quality and to provide unique experiences to visitors. In this context, it is imperative that our ski resorts create their own unique dining experiences!

Gastronomy is an asset, especially in Kayseri. People may come only for the sizzling Kayseri cured sausages tucked in fresh bread savored al-fresco, or to dip into a bowl of minuscule dumplings, aka “mantı” - the signature dish of the city. It must be noted that “mantı” is known all around Turkey, but that of Kayseri is considered to be very special, as tiny as possible, they say in a serving spoon, 40 dumplings should fit in. What a mouthful of happiness that would be enjoyed in the view of the mighty Erciyes!