The glaciers have always exerted a draw on mankind, so it’s not surprising that the Kaunertal and the glacier were a well known and popular mountaineering destination in the early 1900s. Alpinists and climbers from all over Europe, but particularly the German and English-speaking countries, came to Kaunertal to chase adventure and live their dream in the high mountains. The first Austrian alpine hut – the Gepatschhaus – was built by the Frankfurt Section of the German Alpine Club in 1873 at an altitude of 1928 metres.
Bottle message found on the glacier from 1911
While crossing the Gepatschferner glacial area in the summer of 2003 local Alois Gfall came across a surprising discovery – a green bottle frozen in the ice! It contained well-preserved, handwritten notes from the Arlberg skiclub and Munich skiclubs, who had been summer skiing in earlier times on the Gepatschferner glacier.
A whole chapel and beds built entirely of wood
The Gepatschhaus was the ideal starting point for tours over the glacier past dangerous crevasses or during high alpine tours to the surrounding 3000m summits. In 1895 the chapel known as ‘Maria im Schnee’ was built next to the Gepatschhaus. Fairs were held for the mountain guides and their guests so they could ask for the protection of the Virgin Mary when on the mountain, so all would return safe and unharmed from their adventures. The chapel, built entirely of wood, has a curious feature: behind the altar are small rooms with beds. Following the boom in climbing and alpine tourism the Gepatschhaus (with its 90 beds) often didn’t have enough sleeping space for everyone, so for practical reasons a few guest rooms were built into the chapel.
The Kaunertal - The cradle of snowboarding
More than 30 years ago Jake Burton unleashed the snowboard hype in America. When it spread to Europe, the Kaunertal Glacier was one of the first ski resorts in Austria to welcome the young rebels with open arms. The lift company managers themselves learned to snowboard to test how easy it was to ride the lifts with the crazy new boards; they also built one of the first halfpipes in the Alps, as well as a shaping attachment for Pistenbullys to build jumps and kickers.