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New Directions: The Mountain Guide

Updated on 22.07.2021 in People, Photos: Verena Kathrein

Money vs. mountains: Tourism or nature? Mountain guide Martina Mrak is in favour of steering towards the middle ground: Tourism in harmony with nature.
Money vs. mountains: Tourism or nature? Mountain guide Martina Mrak is in favour of steering towards the middle ground: Tourism in harmony with nature.

Martina Mrak recognises a similar desire in all her clients: a longing for unspoiled nature. But for Tirol to preserve its pristine mountain landscape, there needs to be a willingness to compromise. 

“When the pandemic hit in spring 2020, it was a challenging time for me and my colleagues: Right in the middle of the season the number of guests plummeted to zero overnight. Most ski and mountain guides work freelance, so that meant that we were left with zero income.

Do our guests really expect high-tech infrastructure everywhere they go? Or would they be equally as happy, if not happier, if they could simply dive into nature?

As soon as the restrictions were lifted and we were allowed to head back into the mountains, we were straight back to work. Our job involves small groups and the outdoors, and on top of that, many more individuals had rediscovered an appreciation for freedom and nature after going through periods of lockdown. And that’s often the case: We only notice what’s really important to us when it’s suddenly missing.

The humbleness of the mountain: The sight of the rugged Schlicker Seespitze peak and Riepenwand mountain can make you feel quite small.
The humbleness of the mountain: The sight of the rugged Schlicker Seespitze peak and Riepenwand mountain can make you feel quite small.

The guests I spend time with are looking for pristine nature. They book a mountain guide because they want us to show them the tranquil places, the ones that are far off the beaten track. I think that this kind of longing is becoming a social trend on a larger scale. The question is: Do our guests really expect high-tech infrastructure everywhere they go? Or would they be equally as happy, if not happier, if they could simply dive into nature? Working in the tourism industry, I recognise that this is a controversial topic. I wish we could find some middle ground. It’s not just about us humans, it’s also about the flora and fauna.

“In the future we have to work together on becoming more sustainable,” says mountain guide Martina Mrak.
“In the future we have to work together on becoming more sustainable,” says mountain guide Martina Mrak.

Compromises are possible: I, for example, think it’s good that individuals climb a mountain using an e-bike. Otherwise, they might never be able to reach that summit. But out of consideration to other trail users, hikers, and the environment, there should be designated e-bike trails – these already exist in many areas.

Looking Ahead

This article is part of the “Looking Ahead” series, which dives into the minds of individuals who have dared to step into the future, their story, and their views on Tirol.

This past year has taught us that we can achieve a lot if we work together. We have to work together on becoming more sustainable in the future – especially up here in the mountains but also in the valleys. It’s not only because nature makes us healthier and happier, but also because we cannot live without it.”

Mountain Guide

Martina Mrak

Mountain guide Martina Mrak, born 1970, has been out and about in the Alps ever since she can remember. She’s a very experienced sport climbing trainer and also works as a translator for German, English and Spanish for the Austrian Association of Mountain and Ski Guides.

Wolfgang Westermeier rides to the office every morning. On the weekends he likes nothing more than trying out new sports in the mountains – from hot-balloon rides in winter to trailrunning races in summer.

Wolfgang
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