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Irene Heisz

Valley Life: Ötztal

Updated on 08.07.2020 in Arts & Culture

Ötztal Valley
Ötztal Valley

This summer, I wrote about the various Tirolean valleys and told stories of so much life in so little space in the series “Valley Life". I want to introduce visitors from all over the world to Tirol and open local people’s eyes to the very special aspects of their otherwise familiar environment. This time: The Ötztal Valley.

Ötztal is everything that defines Tirol. The landscape, the people, the tourism. Everything this little country in the middle of the Alps represents can be experienced in Ötztal.

Those who turn southwards from the Inntal Valley at Ötztal Railway Station can look forward to varied, fascinating and challenging landscapes. Ötztal is 65 kilometres long, longer than any other lateral valley in the Eastern Alps. The valley’s appearance has been shaped through millions of years, by the persistent relentlessness of natural forces. Changes of only millimetres in some years, but sometimes massive and sudden transformations caused by the liberating powers of monstrous landslides.

Ötztal is 65 kilometres long, longer than any other lateral valley in the Eastern Alps.Ötztal is 65 kilometres long, longer than any other lateral valley in the Eastern Alps.

Ötztal is home to mighty glaciers, known here as “Ferner”, as well as mild climate zones, that allow the cultivation of cereals and fruit, as well as healthy and restful summer holidays, very similar to the good-old “summer retreat” holidays of yesteryear. Sölden is located in Ötztal, Austria’s largest municipality and by far the most frequented tourist resort in Tirol. Only the metropolis of Vienna tops this Tirolean village in the rankings for overnight stays in Austria. The village of only around 3,300 residents boasts of 15,000 guest beds and almost 2.2 million overnight stays per year. An essential prerequisite for this is a highly professional tourism industry with every conceivable amenity to satiate the needs and desires of all holidaymakers looking for either thrills and spills, or rest and Relaxation.

Sölden covers an area of 466.97 square kilometres. This makes it Austria’s largest municipality, ahead of the Austrian capital Vienna, which has 414.89 square kilometres.Sölden covers an area of 466.97 square kilometres. This makes it Austria’s largest municipality, ahead of the Austrian capital Vienna, which has 414.89 square kilometres.

A valley landscape, of which only 5 percent is habitable, could quite justifiably be described as inhospitable. However, Neolithic hunters roamed through this region an incredible 9,000 years ago – around 4,000 years before the infamous Ötzi. And despite the well-rehearsed routine in international tourism services, the people of Ötztal are still a stubborn breed – and proud of it. This manifests itself not least in the local dialect, which has been recognised by UNSECO as an “intangible” cultural heritage. Here, an example: one word, which is recognised more or less the whole world over. What do you think this person from Ötztal wants to drink when they order this in a guesthouse?

The Ötztal valley is characterized by a valley landscape, of which only 5 percent is habitable. The Ötztal valley is characterized by a valley landscape, of which only 5 percent is habitable. 

Witty and sharp-tongued, Irene Heisz is a journalist and author who writes blog posts about Tirol, Tiroleans and their peculiarities – and there are many of them!

Irene Heisz
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