It is late August, and Italy is in the middle of its third record-setting heat wave of the summer, but at the bottom of the slopes in Fai della Paganella, a small ski resort in the Dolomites, a queue is forming for the chairlift. Instead of ski jackets and bobble hats, the people waiting are dressed like 21st-century gladiators—with knees, chests, and elbows covered in plastic body armor. Instead of skis, their weapons of choice are downhill mountain bikes: elaborate machines that look like off-road motorcycles and often cost as much as a small car.
Scenes like this are becoming increasingly common across Europe as ski resorts, feeling the impact of the climate crisis, look to diversify their appeal and tap into alternative sources of income. Paganella is remarkable in that it now attracts more bikers in summer than skiers in winter.
"Sixty-five percent of our visitors now come outside of the ski season—between April and November," said Luca d'Angelo, the resort's destination manager.
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