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Klaus Hepp The man from the Erbeskopf in the Hunsrück
The Erbeskopf is surrounded by fog. There is no sign of snow on the highest elevation in Rhineland-Palatinate shortly before Christmas, not to mention skiers. They are not allowed to come this year anyway because of the corona lockdown. A fact that makes Klaus Hepp sad. He has been the head of the winter sports center on the Erbeskopf for over 20 years.
"If there is really something going on here, then the whole Erbeskopf is littered with people, there is nothing free downstairs in the large parking lot. Now, of course, it looks different".Klaus Hepp, operations manager of the winter sports center on the Erbeskopf
He looks at the empty runway, which is littered with muddy puddles instead of snow. Since there is currently no snow anyway, skiing would not be possible anyway - regardless of Corona, says Hepp.
Klaus Hepp works around the clock
The 71-year-old ensures that there is always enough snow on the slopes in winter. When the temperature is below zero, he turns on the yellow snow cannons. He also makes sure that the lifts run. Hepp keeps the shop going. If a lot of snow falls, it can mean that it is on duty for 12 hours a day, seven days a week.
A job that the man from Hunsrück would still not want to miss, he says: "I am happy when the people here have fun."
It is the grandparents who want to photograph the grandchildren in the ski gear they received for Christmas. Mainz people who would flee here on Rose Monday. And then of course there would be his big appearance every year when he can open the slopes for the first time.
"The best thing is when I can say: Winter sports are open. And then all the hustle and bustle can start."Klaus Hepp
This year, the association wanted to be ready for corona-compliant skiing with a hygiene concept before the start of winter. However, the district of Bernkastel-Wittlich made improvements to the concept. For example, tickets can only be sold online, and there are no bar tables or benches on the premises. At the beginning of next year, when hopefully snow will also fall, the association intends to revise the concept.
Hepp has been operations manager since 2014
When the Zweckverband took over the winter sports center from the district of Bernkastel-Wittlich in 1997, Klaus Hepp was appointed managing director. He has been officially retired since 2014. Nevertheless, he cannot give up his inheritance and continues to work on a voluntary basis. Klaus Hepp is part of the inventory.
Operation of three lifts possible
Winter sports on the Erbeskopf have grown with Klaus Hepp. He proudly shows old photos. He picks up heavy, old snow cannons that look like weapons and shows "his" ticket booth. It is the control center and the heart of the winter sports center. He guides the staff from the little house at the foot of the Erbeskopf. From here it is checked whether everything is in order at the lifts and where there is no snow on the slopes and the snow cannons need to be used. When the three lifts run, 22 people are in action.
Despite climate change, Hepp assumes that there will be winter sports on the Erbeskopf for a long time, even if there have been fewer lift days in recent years.
"If we can keep between 35 and 40 lift days in the next 20 to 25 years, we should be satisfied. The number of visitors is then also strong. The problem is that winter moves back into February and March." The maximum number of lift days in winters with heavy snow is 86 lift days, says Hepp.
Nevertheless, Hepp would like to have a chairlift in the future that runs all year round: "Then everything would be barrier-free and accessible for wheelchair users. Hikers, bikers and skiers would also benefit." It is not the only wish that Hepp has when looking towards the summit:
"A panorama restaurant up there, that would be something!"Klaus Hepp
The development of winter sports on the Erbeskopf in the Hunsrück
1930s: First skiers and ski hikers
from1950: First runs on a groomed slope
1968: Acquisition of the first snow cannon and opening of the ticket booth
1969: Construction of the first lift
1971: Construction of the second lift
1972: Construction of the third lift
1997: The Bernkastel-Wittlich district hands over the winter sports center to the winter sports association
2000: Central family or children's slope will be built on the hill near the Hunsrückhaus. Because of the increasing traffic on the slopes, the skiers should be separated from the tobogganists
2005: Gastronomy tent and summer toboggan run are built
2018: Bike courses are created on slope two. With the toboggan run and the bike course, the winter sports center is also becoming more and more attractive for visitors in summer.
2020: No winter sports possible at the end of the year due to the corona pandemic
Source: Erbeskopf winter sports center
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