He is something of a character: Thury Meier. For the past 16 years the bearded 65 year-old has worked as a lift operator at the Täli Mountain Station in Liechtenstein's ski region. Everyone knows his impish grin, everyone values his sense of duty. Malbun without Thury? Unimaginable!
The following article was published in the Liechtenstein magazine "oho" 2016/17:
The words "Hoi Thury!" ring out every few seconds - and do so from 9 in the morning until 4 in the afternoon. A friendly "Hoi!" is as frequently uttered in reply, coupled with a broad, bearded grin. Thury Meier is probably the most greeted person in Liechtenstein - at least during the winter season. For the past 16 years the Lucerne-born lift employee has worked at the Täli Mountain Station, and everyone who tries their skiing luck in Malbun is familiar with his square jaw and warm, direct manner. "Of course, I can't remember the names of every skier," says the 65 year-old with a chuckle. "But I am good at remembering faces and voices."
Technically, Thury Meier could have retired a year ago. But he's not one to twiddle his thumbs. And his links to the Täli Station are simply too strong. "Fortunately, my colleagues at the Malbun mountain lift company have never tried to take my job," says Thury with a smile. "Perhaps what keeps them at bay is the fact that the sun takes ages to reach the Mountain Station." Ages is meant here in the literal sense of the word. It is only towards the end of February that the first rays of sunlight begin to peer over the top of the mountains. The 65 year-old knows precisely when: "Ever since the modern six-seater chairlift became operational in the year 2006, the sun has appeared on 14 February. In the case of the previous two-seater station, which was slightly lower down the mountain, the sun appeared between 8 and 9 February."
Thury Meier has never missed the warming rays of sunlight, though. He doesn't like "heat". As far as he is concerned, in fact, it cannot get too cold. "In the old days, the temperatures were much more extreme," he says. "I would be at the lift when the temperature was minus 24 degrees, and I only had a tiny shelter in which to keep myself warm." No comparison with the generous cabin that has now been placed at his disposal. But despite the comforts, Thury still prefers to stand outside, directly by the lift. "I simply enjoy meeting people."
It was originally intended that employees would monitor the equipment from their place of work behind the glass panel. But because Thury wanted to work outside, a special outdoor cable was laid for him, and a stop button for the lift was fitted.
Thury Meier is a man of many abilities. When he was young, he first trained as a confectioner - an occupation that he switched for that of a truck driver as soon as he had completed his apprenticeship. In order to offset the shortage of work in the winter, at the age of 37 he began driving piste vehicles in Brigels, where the managers swiftly spotted the young man's potential. In addition to being responsible for the pistes, he was promptly put in charge of a snow bar at an altitude of 2,100 meters above sea level. Throughout the next 12 winters, the order of the day was: up into the mountains early in the morning with the piste vehicle - and then off to manage the snow bar.
When Thury Meier read that they were looking for a new lift operator in Malbun, he thought that the time had come for a change. He applied, made a good impression, and took up his new position in Liechtenstein just a few weeks later. He has been responsible for operating the Täli Mountain Station ever since - a task that he continues to pursue with the same dedication. Later, he was also deployed as a piste vehicle driver, and for around five years he actually had an all-year job with the Malbun mountain lift company.
Thury Meier is an easy-going fellow. Except where his mountain station is concerned. That's when he becomes "Mr Fastidious himself", as he likes to say. "The most exacting lift operator ever." In fact: "When I have a day off, and don't find everything just the way it should be upon my return, I can get pretty ratty," he concedes. And for a moment his face darkens. "It's just that I know precisely how everything needs to be for the lift to operate smoothly." There is certainly no shortage of tasks for him to do. The workload can be heavy, particularly when seasonal winds blast through the mountains. This can make it difficult to prepare the lift station exit. "With this work, I am beginning to notice that I'm no longer as young as I used to be," Thury Meier admits. "In the past, I would shovel the snow away all by myself. Today I have to call my colleagues in the Valley Station, and ask them for help when the snowdrifts get too high." It is "his" Täli station, "his" Malbun. Thury Meier loves his place of work so much, even after 16 years, that he is even drawn here when he is off duty - at least during the winter months. "It is simply a beautiful place," he says. "The ski resort is small, clearly structured and friendly. People don't get lost here. Irrespective of what pistes they are on, eventually they always find their way back to the centre." In the past, he was a keen skier himself. But after two hip operations, Thury Meier has begun to take things a little easier. "When I have time off, I take the lift to the Sareis mountain restaurant, where I meet up with a convivial bunch of senior citizens. We always have a whale of a time." And when evening approaches, when the other skiers clip themselves into their equipment, he simply takes the lift back down again.
And what does Thury Meier do in the summer? He certainly doesn't laze around. He helps out a friend who runs the mountain farm Maiensäss. "Anyway, it's much too warm in the valley, so I am drawn to the heights," he explains. "I love the mountain air." Above all, mountain air that smells of snow. And when autumn approaches, he itches to get back to his Täli mountain station - this is a mountain call that Thury Meier has never been able to resist.
Text: Niki Eder · Fotos: Martin Walser