This week, our founder was invited out to visit Salewa’s headquarters in Bolzano, Italy to tour Europe for some via ferrata, some product testing, and to check out a surprise unveiling. Here’s his account of what happened.
After 25 hours of travel (5 hours of driving, 15 flying, and 4 on a train), I found myself in Italy, driving up to Salewa’s compound in the small picturesque town of Bolzano. The completely self-sustaining building looks like it was designed by a Bond villain who chose to abandon world domination to pursue a love of outdoor sports. The whole deal, complete with a glass and vented metal exterior is designed to be totally carbon neutral. The hole-filled metallic shell is actually a venting system designed to move air through the building without an energy-sucking HVAC system, and the solar panels don’t just provide a bower boost, they actually produce more than the building needs and puts the excess energy back into the city’s system. Boom.
BONUS POINTS: The building is 48 meters tall. Salewa was approved for 51 meters, but Reiner Gerstner, Salewa’s owner and CEO, decided to cap it at 48 meters so that Bolzano’s church could remain the tallest building at 50 meters. Respect.
When I arrived at the complex, it looked like a party was in full swing. The East side of the building is a fully operational public climbing gym aka “The Cube” with 50-foot overhanging walls and a bouldering section. The outer wall was rolled up, opening the gym to the cool weather and a view of the not-too-distant hills. Facing the crag was a small bar/restaurant called Bivac, where several dozen picnic tables were crammed with locals enjoying some post-climb barbecue. After a quick tour and a dinner of ribs and Bavarian sausage and beer, we went upstairs to the cube where Melissa Arnot , who’d just flown in from Nepal, had set up a slideshow presentation on her time in Everest over the years, including her firsthand experience as was one of the first responders at the avalanche that claimed 13 sherpas’ lives and effectively shut down the 2014 climbing season, her attempts to summit sans oxygen, and the Juniper Project, a program she started to provide financial aid to the widows of Everest sherpas who are killed while guiding. Melissa is an impressive individual, to say the least. Check out her website here.
After the presentation, it was back to the hotel for a few hours of jet-lagged sleep before the bus ride to Montebelluna for the factory visit and some very legit pizza. More updates on that tomorrow.