From next summer, helicopters are set to drop hardcore cyclists on a few mountain peaks in canton Valais, southwest Switzerland. However, a nature protection organisation warns of negative consequences for the alpine world, its inhabitants and conflicts that heli-biking will trigger.
Bern-based Mountain Wilderness Switzerland has criticised the fact that such cyclists, having worked their way through the snow, will join hiking paths to make their way down the valleys.
“Many hikers are already negatively disposed towards cyclists. If heli-biking establishes itself, this antagonism will just increase,” the organisation said in a statementexternal link on Monday, referring to the “absurd trend” that has already reached Italy, Romania, New Zealand and the Americas.
The group also criticised the noise and carbon dioxide emissions of the helicopters.
There are 40 mountain landing spots for helicopters in Switzerland, 19 of which are in canton Valais. It is not yet clear which will be used for heli-biking.
According to Katharina Conradin, director of Mountain Wilderness Switzerland, around 28,000 landings are made to these helipads every year, with the number of passengers estimated at 25,000 and rising. The increase in passengers is primarily connected to tourism, she said.
Mountain Wilderness also slammed Switzerland Tourismexternal link, a “public service body which on behalf of the government markets Switzerland as a tourist destination and which is promoting heli-tourism”. This, Mountain Wilderness says, “creates additional acceptance of using helicopters as a form of transport for ‘sporting’ activities”.
In response, Switzerland Tourism told swissinfo.ch that Mountain Wilderness’s criticism of heli-skiing or other outdoor sports linked to transport by helicopter was not new.
“The fact is that heli-skiing is allowed in Switzerland within clear legal regulations, and that there is a demand for this offer and thus a corresponding guest segment. Individual local service providers operate heli-ski flights within the existing strict legal framework,” spokesman André Aschwanden told swissinfo.ch.
“Switzerland Tourism’s mission is to provide an unbiased overview of the diversity of tourism offers in Switzerland.”
swissinfo.ch and agencies/ts