Stuben’s concierge

Interview with Rudi Pichler

Rudi Pichler is a true institution in Stuben. The bustling persona from the Arlberg has been tourism director in his home village since 1984 and he knows the village like no other. Locals trust his word and long-time regulars come to visit him in his office every day. In his talk with LA LOUPE he tells us what makes “his” Stuben so unique and how he sees the future of the up-and-coming village.

L.L.

People lovingly call you Stuben’s concierge. How did that nickname happen?

R.P.

I was working at Hotel Post since 1984 and later took over the job of manager. The Hotel’s reception was also the seat of the tourism association, until we got a “proper” tourism office in 1995. But even there I felt more like a host than a tourism director. I’ve always envisioned Stuben as one large hotel where there are different types of beds and restaurants. I know each and every host in the village well and I know where, in times of high occupancy, there might be the one or the other free bed. In the past some even came to me to ask me to put their price list together for them. Up until a few years ago I personally knew around 60 percent of the guests. And even today not a day goes by without a long-time guest of Stuben coming by to see me.

L.L.

What is it that makes the 110-people village so special?

R.P.

Stuben still is a place with a very rural character. Despite the fact that the groups of regulars that used to meet after Sunday mass have unfortunately disappeared people still know and trust each other – or not. And this personal and authentic touch ensures that the guests feel at home here. I think our target group will continue to be made up of athletic people who love nature, good food and drink but who do not need the highest degree of luxury. But they’ll certainly have top-notch skiing gear. Families like to come here, too, because they tend to save around 30 percent compared to what they’d spend in the more exclusive villages on the Arlberg. However, Stuben is not a place for “cheapo-tourists” either.

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L.L.

Give us a short summary of the village’s history …

R.P.

One prominent citizen of Stuben is “our” Hannes Schneider, a personality our advertising still makes frequent use of. In his time the slopes weren’t groomed and one had to climb up the hill on foot. That might be the reason why people from Stuben are such good skiers. In the late 1950 everybody rented out a few rooms, there were only two hotels at the time. In 1981 came the connection of our Albona-cable car with the ski area around St. Anton, Zürs and Lech. From then on it went uphill. Today Stuben offers a healthy mix of B’n’Bs, hotels and apartments. Compared with other winter sports destinations  the village has only grown very slowly. Maybe that’s the reason why everyone is still very down-to-earth.

L.L.

What opportunities do Stuben’s mountains offer the skiers?

R.P.

Albona, our local mountain, is 2,400 m high, Stuben lies at 1,400 m above sea level. That means a total of 1,000 altitude metres of treeless skiing area. The lifts can be reached on foot in two minutes from all our accommodation businesses. Albona is particularly popular in the freerider scene. Of course families will find everything they need here, too, but for the most part the offer is used by good skiers. Stuben is the western door to the Arlberg. As a result we have lots of fine powder snow. On Albona the northern slope is used for skiing. Which means that there is little sun until March and we have the perfect firn slopes in spring. As a result many skiing instructors from Lech and St. Anton like to organise skiing their courses here in spring.

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L.L.

Stuben invests a lot in new infrastructure. Would you give us a few examples?

R.P.

Well the reason for the many simultaneous construction projects are the new lifts that we are going to build in the near future. Next summer a new cable car from Alpe Rauz, which is part of Stuben’s local area, to Zürs will be built; as a result the transport of guests between the skiing areas of Lech Zürs and St. Anton / Stuben will finally be a thing of the past. Many of the local businesses are currently seeing a change in generations. The young people are courageous and they dare to invest a lot in order to survive on the market. With the many investments that are being made in the development of the infrastructure, are lot of things are going to change. But changes don’t have to be negative. Nature limits the development of capacities. We currently have around 800 beds and more than 1,000 are simply not possible.

L.L.

Do you have further visions for the future of Stuben?

R.P.

There need to be more alternatives to skiing. Which is why I’d really plead for the renovation of Albona 1, the lift that takes you from Stuben up to a beautiful plateau where it’s possible to offer modern cross country skiing tracks and winter hiking paths. At the moment financing is a problem though. And extending the season obviously also is a main goal of our newly founded tourism association. We’re in the process of analysing which opportunities summer offers for us. However I do think that all topics we can offer are already present in the other regions in a good quality. Still, stimulating the season in July, August and September should be possible anyway. My vision is to have a common tourism association for the entire Arlberg with guest service points in every village.

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L.L.

How do you market your village? Are there common marketing initiatives?

R.P.

We are an active member of Arlberg marketing and despite the fact that we’re a small village we feel good there. The Arlberg is made up of five villages and each and every one of them offers something special. We embody the comfy, authentic part and we see ourselves as a link between the “rivals” Lech and St. Anton. It’s becoming increasingly obvious to us that our chances lie with intact nature. The locals have always been taking great care of this valuable resource. In terms of advertising we’re planning on increasing our presence in the media.

L.L.

What’s your message for young tourism officials?

R.P.

Well what comes to mind here is the sentence: “Walk in your customers’ shoes”. It’s not always about numbers, data, and facts. For gastronomy and for tourism alike it’s most important for success to see what it is the guests want from you. And precisely that need is what we need to try and fulfil.

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Rudi Pichler’s Wordrap

My next holiday destination?

The same for almost 20 years: a small apartment in the South of France.

I live according to the motto …

Live and let live.

For me Stuben is …

my home in the past and in the future.

One accomplishment that I’m proud of …

is that I’ve always managed to keep the people of Stuben united and to have them agree as a village.

What’s so special about my job …

is that every day is different, always fun and sometimes frustrating which is something you have to overcome yourself.