Landmark in the Snieznik Mountains: The Sky Walk on Králický Snežník.

Hardy Houses 1
Pimp My Mountain

What to do when less snow falls in winter sports resorts? In that case you need to provide other attractions. For example, a meandering viewing platform with a 100-meter-long slide.
by Florian Heilmeyer | 11/14/2016

Naturally climate change does not spare the traditional winter sports resorts along the Polish-Czech border. Though they are called “snowy mountains” (Czech: Králický Snežník), today that no longer means there will actually be snow here, even if the highest peak lies at an altitude of 1,425 meters. So to attract visitors all year round you need to come up with something special, because for many tourists the beauty of pristine nature alone is not enough in itself.

So the communities offering winter and walking sports are now switching to other leisure activities: “Pimp My Mountain” is the new slogan. For example, the small village of Dolní Morava, around 130 kilometers north of Brno, has had a 55-meter-high structure erected on the gentle peak of Králický Snežník. From a distance it is difficult to tell what the weird arrangement of loops, cables and girders designed by architect Zdenek Fránek is: “What the devil is that?,” climbers on the surrounding peaks must wonder, that strange construction on the mountain, some kind of scaffolding, a gigantic rollercoaster or the beginning of an invasion from outer space? 

Hidden by the snow: Boards of larch line the ascent, resting on steel girders.

A rollercoaster would be a fairly close guess. In fact, the Sky Walk is a good old-fashioned viewing platform, and such structures have been installed in the mountains for hundreds of years – but they were not so spectacularly intricate, nor did they promise as much fun as this one. Some 280 m³ of concrete holds the nine vertical trusses, which are attached to three girders and ensure the entire structure withstands wind and snow. The gently undulating pathway meanders ever higher in broad loops until you can see far beyond the treetops. Visitors standing on the slightly swaying structure can enjoy a spectacular panoramic view over the moderate slopes of the “snowy mountains” and the small skiing area, the tiny villages and the Morava river in the valley below. “It also creates a new kind of experience where people can realize better how small they are in the bosom of nature,” Fránek says of his design.

What might disturb this experience are the shrill shrieks of the other visitors. For those who find the mountain panorama too stationary and quiet there is netting on parts of the structure allowing the adventurous to experience these sheer heights in a recumbent position. Alternately, they can hurtle through the entire structure on a metal slide 101 meters long – with large windows permitting a quick glimpse of the surrounding, highly accelerated scenery before they reach the bottom.

The Sky Walk is expected to cause quite a commotion on Králický Snežník, and was designed to accommodate up to 1,400 visitors simultaneously. By comparison, at the last count the village of Dolní Morava had just 248 inhabitants.  

Between the earth and the sky: The Sky Walk offers experiences with a thrill.
A gentle rocking of the entire structure is intended; the steel cables and steel girders provide sufficient rigidity.
“I don’t know of any other timber construction with steel elements of a similar size and purpose,” Fránek says. “Ours takes on an abstract form that suggests the flight of a nocturnal butterfly whose path is seemingly chaotic.”
Even on the way to the viewing platform visitors can enjoy marvelous panoramic views of the surrounding peaks of the “snowy mountains” and look down into the valley at the Morava river.
The Sky Walk was built in just six months from April to October 2015.