• Backstage

Ski tickets past and present

From paper point cards to high-tech chip cards

First of all „pinching“ the points card... this was the motto for all lift users in the early years of skiing. This meant gettinmg out of your glove, reaching into your pocket and showing the paper card which has been crumpled by the snow and heavy use. The "Liftler" was then standing at the entrance in front of his little lift-house to validate the corresponding field on the map with a small pair of pincers....

Today you have your ski ticket safely stored in your pocket and the information is read out contact-free as you glide smoothly past the terminal. But one after the other... 

From 1945/46 the first lift at Kohlmais in Saalbach provided a comfortable ascent. "In the beginning you paid directly at the lift in a small box office for every single ascent," recalls Wilfried Höller, former operations manager of the Saalbach mountain railways. In the following years, the so-called point cards were a little more advanced. Ten runs were printed as individual fields on a cardboard card. At the entrance to the lift, a field was pinched and invalidated by a cable car employee, colloquially known as a "liftler", using a pair of pliers. The pliers were additionally equipped with a mechanical number wheel, so that at the end of the day one could see how many trips were pinched at each lift. 

The card on a rubber band

Around 1975 plastic cards with embossed serial numbers were used for the first time. They were usually used in combination with an innovative „ski zip“ - a plastic holder with a roll-out rubber band to which the lift card was attached. For every lift in the ski resort, the card had to be inserted through the window of the lift house into a registration printer. "But the permanent pulling out of the card was annoying and on the ski zip the plastic card flew painfully around the nose on fast descents, so in 1980, when the skicircus really picked up speed, the ticket was again subjected to a pure visual check. Coloured paper cards in a simple plastic cover with rubber band around the neck were only checked once at the bottom station at the entrance," recalls Wilfried Höller.


Cows as role models for the new system

In 1988 Wilfried Höller had an innovative idea: "I knew from American farmers that their cows were equipped with a chip in their ear that showed whether they had already been milked and whether they had already been to the feeding trough. I wanted an access system based on this for the Skicircus. The company SKIDATA developed such a chip card for the first time - the KeyCard. When using the card at the lift entrance, however, you had to hold it directly to the reader to get the green light for the lift entrance." 

Dreams of the future 

Franz Holzer is Managing Director of the Salzburg company SKIDATA and reveals: "The status quo is contactless access to the lifts with a chip card in the pocket. But we are already composing the music of the future! In one to three years a smartphone app will be able to replace the smart card! Forgetting or losing your ski ticket will then be a thing of the past".

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