A million Rhinelanders with a desire for snow
Ten years ago people were very skeptical: a hall with snow for skiing? Won't that be too expensive? Will it attract skiers? Today the "Jever Skihalle" in Neuss-Grefrath is an uninterrupted success story. Over a million visitors come each year; many drive for up to an hour to get a taste of a winter holiday in the hall, built on a former waste dump and home to a 300-meter-long and up to 100-meter-wide ski slope. For the Neuss city council the quick and unbureaucratic support of the project has paid off. Today the old Roman city on the Rhine is known all over Germany for its ski hall.
The "Jever Skihalle" is a wonderful example of an innovative idea coupled with enthusiasm and experience as well as entrepreneurial initiative. Johannes Janz and August Pollen had the courage and the vision to build this ski hall in 2001. And it has been non-stop ever since. From the very beginning the ski hall was also kitted out with restaurants and cafes, ski rental, a ski school and specialist retail. There is now also a climbing park and the sports and conference hotel "Fire & Ice" rounding off the ski hall into an "allround mountain resort". In 2011 a smaller, hundred-meter long, 40 meter-wide ski slope was added especially for children and beginners to practice on. And the ski hall in Neuss has had positive effects on the entire region. For instance, allrounder is the initiator and organizer of the FIS world cup in cross-country skiing in Düsseldorf and has also been filling the ski slopes with 3,000 – 4,000 cubic meters of snow each year since 2002.
The two men who came up with the idea of the ski hall and its realization are both skiing and mountaineering enthusiasts – but they come from the Lower Rhine region. Johannes Janz and August Pollen, 48 and 47 respectively, were born in Nettetal. They fell in love with the mountains at a young age. While still content with hiking at the age of 10 or 12, at 15 and 16 they began mountain climbing. And since they were the only mountaineers from the flat Nettetal countryside, they got to know each other and became a team. But things didn't really get going until after they left school. They financed their studies in business studies at the university of applied sciences in Mönchengladbach by working as skiing and mountain climbing instructors. They simply turned their hobby into their occupation. In 1987 they founded the skiing holidays specialist "Allrounder Reisen und Sport". In the beginning they ran the company as a small GbR company from their parent's living room. In 1990 the travel agency was turned into a GmbH and they rented their first office in Mönchengladbach. That was later accompanied by – what else – their own ski school and in 1993 the sports business run by Ralf Kühlkamp. They originally had the idea of turning the slightly precipitous main shopping street in the Mönchengladbach city center, Hindenburgstraße, into a ski slope for an advertising promotion. Johannes Janz remembers how people often said to them, "you are crazy". But not everyone found the event "totally daft": with 250,000 spectators, the opening was a huge public event. That was how they hit upon the idea of a skiing hall, of turning what was a temporary event into a place where people can ski 365 days a year in the flat countryside. They found enthusiastic support and financing from Bernd, Michael, Eugen and Klaus Viehof from Vibro-Beteiligungs GmbH in Mönchengladbach. Eugen Viehof had sold the Allkauf chain to Metro in 1998 and invested the proceeds in his four sons' business, Vibro-Beteiligungs GmbH. They looked around for suitable grounds in Mönchengladbach and Krefeld – and ended up in Neuss. At the town hall they found the idea "so crazy" that they wanted to be part of it. The ski hall was erected on individual adjustable stilts on the former waste dump in Grefrath so that if subsistence were ever to occur they could make adjustments. After around two years of planning and nine months of construction, in January 2001 the first German ski hall opened its doors.
However, the two founders didn't appear in the newspaper for the first time with the ski hall in Neuss, but at a much younger age. When they were at school they disappeared for a whole week during a snow storm while on a skiing holiday with their Latin teacher in Engadin. But that didn't spoil their enthusiasm for snow and mountains. Janz and Pollen worked in the Alps for ten years as ski instructors. They are very familiar with the huts and hotels of the Alpine country and know exactly what the guests want, what is possible and what is not. Their experiences were incorporated into the ski hall's restaurants and cafes. With a great love of detail and a strong sense of style, they created an artificial world of huts, which doesn't, however, feel like a Disneyworld sort of resort; indeed, it has a very authentic feel. For example, the roof shingles on the restaurant Salzburger Hochalm are 300 years old. And the guests like it. Only 7 to 8 percent of the population actively takes part in winter sports. But Alpine gastronomy pulls in a much wider circle. It creates a feel-good atmosphere and rekindles memories of holidays. When it's time for a party in the allrounder mountain resort Almabtrieb or for the October Festival, 80 percent of the guests appear in traditional costumes.
A long-year partnership with the Salzburg region adds to the authenticity. While some Austrian winter sports regions initially regarded the ski hall as competition, the people of Salzburg saw the potential in the idea at an early stage. It was not just a place to train young people, but also to conduct marketing in an important metropolitan region. The latest highlight is the conference hotel "Fire & Ice", which opened in September 2011. The 4-star hotel costing twelve million euros is well-frequented. After all, it is a special brand of conference hotel. The rooms are decorated according to various different mountain regions and themes. In cooperation with Willi Bogner, the fire and ice theme has been incorporated into the entire design concept. A coal fire roars in the breakfast restaurant, which looks out on to the ski slopes, at the bar the beer taps are covered in a thick coating of real ice, and deer antler lamps hang from the ceiling. The wooden furniture consists of individually made pieces, and photo motifs of Willi Bogner decorate the walls. Hence the many celebrities who have already visited the ski hall or the cafes and restaurants are likely to be joined by many more. Some famous people who have already visited include the cabaret artist Dieter Nuhr, who completed a snowboarding course with his daughter. Jürgen Drews, Michael Wendler and DJ Ötzi have appeared at parties. André Agassi also stopped by once on the spur of the moment out of curiosity. And, of course, the guests – more than ten million in eleven years – include many winter sports athletes such as ski jumper Dieter Thoma and Sven Hannawald, Rodler Georg Hackl and of course Rosi Mittermaier and Christian Neureuther as well as cross-country-skiing national coach Jochen Behle.
allrounder mountain resort GmbH & Co. KG
An der Skihalle 1
Tel.: 02131 1244-0