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Höhenluft The Mayrhofen-Hippach Holiday Resort Magazine

2013 / Euro 5.–

The Magic of Nature This edition of Höhenluft meets living legends, embraces old tradition and introduces brand new trends.



Picture courtesy of: Paul Sürth



he Mayrhofen-Hippach holiday region tells its own story. Not necessarily with words, but through its people, its nature, its mountain huts. If you keep your eyes open, this holiday region in the Zillertal Valley will surprise and captivate, as you encounter a place full of exciting contrasts: Tradition and modernity, action and relaxation go hand in hand in these stunning landscapes that can be explored on foot or by bike. Mountain enthusiasts can take off in any direction for leisurely walks or alpine tours, constantly accompanied by the incredible scenery of the Zillertal Alps Nature Park. The region can also be explored on bike. With its myriad of trails and extensive bike programme suitable for all levels of ability, it has emerged as a top destination for cycling enthusiasts. Even in winter, the resort offers so much more than the obvious pleasures on the pistes of Action Mount Penken and Leisure Mount Ahorn. Nestled in the midst of romantic winter landscapes, Mayrhofen and Hippach surprise with countless possibilities, ranging from toboggan nights to culinary delights in unparalleled settings.

Andreas Lackner Managing Director Tourist Board, Mayrhofen-Hippach

We have compiled the Höhenluft Magazine in order for you, dear Reader, to get a feel for the diverse and unique atmosphere of the Mayrhofen-Hippach holiday region. It is intended to help you identify with our holiday resort and see it from the perspective of those who make this place so unique. Enjoy the read – we’ll see you around in Mayrhofen and Hippach!


06 Spectacular winter opening

The exciting and innovative RISE&FALL event gets this winter season off to a sporty start.

08 New Year’s Horse Racing As traditional as it is unrivalled. Mayrhofen welcomes the New Year with exciting horse races in the snow.

10 A masterpiece in technical engineering



The Ahornbahn lifts in impressive detail with numbers, facts and figures as well as a look behind the gigantic machinery scenes.

12 Traditional Delicacies Gretl Abraham reveals her (until now) carefully guarded recipes for “Tuxer Punsch” and “Schoderblattlang”.

14 On the trail of stony treasures Walter Ungerank has dedicated his life to collecting precious minerals from the “treasure trove” of Upper Zillertal.

16 Where there is song, you can safely stay ...



The Mayrhofen Men’s Choir is a harmonious cultural heritage of the holiday region.

18 Only flying gets you higher ... Mayrhofen-Hippach is one of Europe’s top paragliding destinations with perfect thermal conditions.

22 A world career that started in Zillertal We visited Olympic and World Champion, Stephan Eberharter, who now enjoys a very private life.

25 Mayrhofen of yesteryear



As local chronicler, Paul Lechner looks after the collective memory of this tourism community.

28 A breeding ground of traditional handicrafts Dedicated to tradition: Rake maker, violin maker, costume cutter and wood carver in profile.

32 Art stems from ability Margot Stöckl and Sven Heizmann present their creative works from traditional materials.

36 Adventurous alternative to walking




The via Ferrate in Mayrhofen encourages the whole family to enjoy this sporting activity on secure routes.

Höhenluft 40 Mountain biking with electronic assistance Experience the pleasure of effortlessly cycling around the picturesque landscapes of Mayrhofen and its‘ tributary valleys with the sensational CUBE EPO Reaction Pro 29.

44 Beach meets Mountains Beach volleyball in Mayrhofen-Hippach as a Mediterranean alternative to classic Alpine leisure pursuits.

48 Nostalgic delights on track Anti-stress programme: Let the picturesque landscapes of Zillertal roll on by whilst indulging in a heritage steam train ride from Jenbach to Mayrhofen.









50 The living mountaineering legend Peter Habeler, a famous son of Mayrhofen, talks movingly about his life as an extreme mountain climber.

54 The masterful root The indigenous Meisterwurz substantiates the theory that there truly is a herbal cure for every ailment.

56 Two houses, two event locations Europahaus in the heart of Mayrhofen and Freiraum on Mount Ahorn talk about their respective merits.

60 No Zillertal wedding would be complete without ... Oven baked liver loaf as an original and essential part of every wedding menu, prepared exclusively for Höhenluft.

62 Farmer’s highlight of the year The Almabtrieb home-coming festival celebrates the end of a summer spent grazing on the high alpine pastures and another chapter in the hard working lives of the farmers.

66 The Concierge plans while you relax The new Concierge service provided by the Mayrhofen-Hippach Tourist Board makes sure your holiday is every bit as relaxing as it should be.


Book review


Pictures courtesy of: Dominic Ebenbichler

Superlative Season Opener A suspense filled, hard hitting and unprecedented sporting event will be taking the stage on the 15th December 2012 in the Mayrhofen-Hippach holiday region, jam packed with technical perfection, emotion and lifestyle: RISE&FALL – the future season opener in true hardcore style is a reflection of what sporting opportunities are on offer here, followed by an after show party that will get the whole town going. 6


Event-Maker, Chris Ebenbichler

A sensational, sporting contest delivered by ski tourers, paragliders, mountain bikers and skiers or boarders.


our people, one team, no mercy – is the motto behind this spectacular and exceptional event that will be heralding the start of the winter season from now on in the Mayrhofen-Hippach resort. Ski tourers and mountain bikers will need to make the arduous ascent of 410 metres in altitude to the changeover point on Mayrhofen’s Mount Ahorn (= RISE) – Paragliders and skiers or boarders will then race back down the piste (= FALL). In a fierce competition against the clock, teams of four athletes will be doing everything in their power to clinch victory, both up and downhill. The person responsible for this crazy, yet innovative idea is project manager, Chris Ebenbichler, a distinguished sports scientist and former World Cup ski cross racer, who unfortunately had to quit his active sporting career in 2010 because of injury (three weeks before the Olympic Games in Vancouver). Born in Mayrhofen and, although he lives and works in Innsbruck at the Olympia Centre as trainer and public relations manager, his heart is still very much lodged in his hometown in the Zillertal Valley. It was him that the Mayrhofen-Hippach Tourist Board and Mayrhofner Bergbahnen Cable Car Co. turned to for assistance in creating this spectacular event concept. And now the time has come: RISE&FALL will premiere on the 15th December 2012 and the region can expect a superlative event.

Overwhelming interest Back in July – and with almost no advertising – seven teams of four had already registered to take part. On the big day, there will be 30 teams from Austria, Germany and Switzerland at the starting line. Side note: The number of applications reached 45 by the end of October – unfortunately only 30 star-

ting positions can be allocated, meaning 15 teams will have to wait until next year to take part.... The goal of 3,000 spectators turning up is realistic, believes the event maker, based on levels of interest shown during the run up to the competition. Leaving only one residual uncertainty – after all these months of preparation, will the weather Gods take pity on the organisers and play ball? Should the “Worst Case Scenario” actually occur and the skiers and boarders be prevented from riding because of lack of snow (almost unimaginable), the live concert and star studded after show parties will take place, come what may!

Order of Events The start is at 12.00 hrs at the old Ahornbahn lifts. The ski tourers will begin in a mass start and “race” up the mountain to the Gasthof Wiesenhof, change over to the paragliders who will then have to land in the target area as accurately as possible, before the mountain bikers set off up the mountain again to the Wiesenhof to pass the baton to the skiers and boarders for their downhill run, with a few obstacles thrown in for good measure. The winning team is the one whose skier or boarder crosses the finishing line first. This sporting competition will go down in history at around 14.00 hrs with the prize giving ceremony and from 15.00 hrs it’s time to clear the stage for a live concert by Sportfreunde Stiller, their support act INSTRUMENT and legendary local group, Ciela. The event ends at ca. 19.00 hrs, but will seamlessly merge into the many after-show parties in Mayrhofen. It’s “Open-end” for the first winter opening event in the Mayrhofen-Hippach holiday region, so let’s have fun ... Organisers don’t know yet who will be taking centre stage for the 2013 show. One thing is certain, though, it will definitely be something special again.

Rise&Fall From this winter season onwards, Mayrhofen will be celebrating the start of the season with an unparalleled show, both up on the mountain and down in the valley. After this sporty, unprecedented, extreme RISE&FALL spectacle and subsequent live concert within the event grounds, local bars invite you to join the even bigger after-showparty. Tickets for the winter openings in 2012 and 2013 are available under or from the Mayrhofen-Hippach tourist information offices.


Prost! New Year in inimitable sporting style á la Mayrhofen!

Galloping into the New Year Guests from around the world are all familiar with horse racing in the summer – Mayrhofen, however, offers a powerfully spectacular and unique event in the snow on New Year’s Day, where the best trotters compete in an exciting competition. 8

Höhenluft Celebratory parade by the Mayrhofen Town Band.

Adolf Fischer, chairman of the Equestrian club, was bitten many years ago by the horse racing bug.

Horse Racing

Horse racing in winter, another one of Mayrhofen’s unique specialities.

Equestrian events have been


he New Year is welcomed with a procession led by the Town Band, the riders and honorary guests in a horse drawn carriage, with drink and food stalls offering welcome refreshments in a wonderful ambience. Why this official race takes place in Mayrhofen on New Year’s Day as part of an international competition has a very pragmatic reason: Because races take place every Sunday through winter in Tyrol, the 1stof January was the only possible date left. This has since turned into – apart from a professional sporting competition – a popular fixture in visitors’ diaries and an entertaining highlight. 70 to 80 participants from Tyrol (and in some cases from the Republic of Germany as

held in Mayrhofen since the early 50s, professional races well as other Austrian provinces) meet at the starting line of this suspense-filled race. Adolf Fischer, chairman and founding member of the Mayrhofen Equestrian Association and responsible for organising this race for many years now , inherited his love of horses from his father – starting out small with his first pony in 1974. Nowadays his grandson (who has completed equestrian training) competes professionally at trotting races, and has won the Austrian Apprentice Championship title twice. His participation in the New Year’s Race is a matter of honour of course! The apple really shouldn’t fall far from the horse ...

were organised by the young farmers in the 60s and the Mayrhofen Equestrian Association have been responsible for organising this sporting fixture on New Year’s Day since 1978. Guests to the Mayrhofen-Hippach Holiday Region can experience a top class racing spectacle at first hand.


Pictures courtesy of: Mayrhofner Bergbahnen AG, Renate Linser-Sachers

A gondola floating at airy heights For technically challenged laypersons, understanding how 160 people can float seemingly effortlessly through the air and up the mountain in a cable car will test levels of comprehension to their absolute limit. Höhenluft joined the Ahorn lift operations manager to take a look behind the gigantic scenes of this cable car enterprise, and found out a few impressive facts and figures on this technical tour de force.


rom opening in December 2006 to the end of 2011, the Ahorn cable car has transported a mind boggling 1,584,000 passengers, around 320,000 persons per year, quickly and comfortably up to Mayrhofen’s Leisure Mountain and its’ ski and hiking paradise in 6.3 minutes, at 36 kilometres per hour, covering 10 metres per second (slowing to 6.8 metres per second at each support tower and a throttled speed of 24.5 kilometres per hour). The difference in altitude from the base station in the valley (668 metres above sea level) to the top station (1966 metres above sea level) is 1298 metres. The cable length of the lift system, however, is


3045 metres. The steepest vertical rise / track gradient measures 90.4 %, which represents an incline of 40 degrees, the lowest gradient measures 10.6%, an incline of circa 4.5 degrees. En route there are two support towers, the second being just before the summit station.

The support cables The four cables in total (each with a length of 3430 metres, 7 centimetres in diameter and weight of 97.4 tons) have an extraordinary combined weight of 389.6 tons. One cable alone has a breaking load of 592 tons – FIVE times greater than legal Central European Norm (CEN) requirements call for.

Höhenluft Impressively colourful and equipped with the very latest cable car technology, the gigantic engine room on Mount Ahorn.

Ahornbahn Reminiscent of cable cars of yesteryear: Operations manager, Klaus Hanzmann, in the historic gondola near the top station of the lifts.

The original Ahornbahn lift was built in 1967 and was an aerial tram for 50 persons. The

There is a distinction made between the haul cable and counter cable: From the cabin via the top station of the lifts (drive) to the next cabin = upper haul cable, and from the cabin via the base station of the lifts (tensioning weight) to the next cabin = lower haul cable (counter cable). The upper haul cable is 47 millimetres thick and weighs 8.63 kg per metre, which works out to 27.6 tons over the entire cable length. The maximum breaking load would be 169 tons, five times greater than safety requirements demand. The lower haul cable (counter cable) is 30 millimetres thick, weighs 3.18 kg per metre; 10.17 tons over the entre cable length. With a breaking load of 64 tons, safety limits are again five times higher than officially required!

Drive & Safety The main drive is electrically operated with two engines of 630 kilowatts each, in other words, 2 x 857 hp; 1714 hp in total. The emergency drive, a diesel hydrostatic motor, has a power output capacity of 406 kilowatts (552 hp). This is used in the event of power failure, transmission failure, or when the lifts are unable to be operated electrically for any reason. In this case, the gondola is propelled to either the top or bottom lift station – dependant on whatever the shorter route is. If the worst case scenario occurs and these two measures were to fail, two alternative rescue procedures are in place. These rescue procedures are thoroughly tested before the begin of every new season. A large scale exercise operation including rescue and fire services as well as a crisis intervention team takes place every five years.

The safety brakes.

current, state of the art cable

The tension of the haul cable is constantly monitored electronically as well as the ”Clamp heads”, technical jargon for the cable end connections between cabin and cable. Should cable tension drop, the cabin will be stopped automatically by safety brakes mounted on the drives.

car was put into operation in

The Cabin 9.38 metres long, 4.5 metres wide and 12 metres high from the floor to the bearing cables, at 40 square metres the cabin is of a similar size to a studio apartment and has a conveyance capacity of 1,200 persons per hour. The cabin capacity in winter is 160 persons, it has an unladen weight of 12.5 tons, with an additional loading capacity of 12.8 tons. Summer conveyance capacity is “only” 120 persons – as the cabin is equipped with inviting tables and bench seating. On bad weather days, the lift is transformed into the floating „Cafe Ahornbahn“ with room for maximum 88 passengers, moving at reduced speeds of only 25 kilometres per hour.

The Lift Manager Klaus Hanzmann worked for the lift company on a seasonal basis from 1987, and then all year round as an industrial electrician from 1994 onwards, followed by the position of deputy operations manager. He has been the executive operations manager since 2009, with 34 employees in winter and 19 in summer. With his expertise, he is more than capable of keeping track of this giant cable car. Höhenluft would like to take this opportunity to thank him for his patience and understanding during our visit.

2006 with an increased conveyance capacity that more than meets today’s requirements. The lift is in operation from mid December to the week after Easter providing access to this family friendly ski area, and transports nature loving walkers from the first week in June to the 26th October from 8.30 (first ascent) -17.00 hrs (final descent) . Depending on the weather, the lift opens even earlier in July and August, at 7.30 hrs and special trips in summer include a memorable sunrise breakfast. Special tip for interested techo-geeks: Every Sunday in summer at 11.00 hrs you can join the operations manager on a tour of the cable car system (perfect for bad weather days ...). Welcome to the Ahornbahn and


To warm your heart ... When it’s stormy and snowing outside, not only does the soul need a little extra nourishment, the body too could do with some typical Zillertal reinforcement. Höhenluft was delighted that Gretl Abraham chose to reveal to them her otherwise carefully guarded recipes for a (high proof) punch and sensational „Schoderblattlang“. The latter cannot be translated into English, (or high German for that matter!). They just have to be tried ...

Simple ingredients for two traditional Zillertal delicacies.



he punch has certainly got a kick to it! The editor and photographer can vouch for this as they experienced it firsthand in Gretl’s kitchen. If drunk on the first signs of flu, you can actually stop the onset of the illness. That is probably all this explosive mixture. One thing this punch certainly can do is awaken your spirits and keep you wonderfully warm in freezing temperatures. An amusing anecdote: Many years ago, Gretl Abraham actually overdosed on her own punch („I was so terribly cold“), and hasn’t touched it since. It depends – as with everything in life – on the right dosage ... „Schoderblattlang“, no one has ever found out where the name comes from (not even the cook knows the answer), is a simple, farmer’s meal which 84 year old Gretl, who is still mentally very much on the ball, remembers from childhood. Mainly eaten during the Christmas period, the whole family absolutely adored this so very simple, yet delicious meal. Given today’s culinary oversupply, „Schoderblattlang“ are still a very welcome and much requested item on the Zillertal diet plan.


The Schoderblattlang – finished in a jiffy with Gretl Abraham’s instructions

Recipe Gretl’s Punch For ca. 2 persons (depending in the size of glass) 30-40 g butter with ca. 2 desert spoons caramelised sugar, add around 1/8 l water, let the caramel boil while stirring. Add 1 shot each of (= schnapps glass) 38 % proof rum (80 % is also possible, but watch out ...!) and 1 obstler schnapps, do not allow to boil! Children’s option (or for those who can’t hold their drink), substitute the rum and obstler with apple juice. Prost – and good health! And please note the consequences of a possible overdose ... Gretl’s Schoderblattlang For 2 persons Take 3-4 stale bread rolls, cut

A pretty explosive mix; the Tuxer Punch ...

them into thin slices, heat around ½ l milk with 2 des-

A woman who stood by her man. In 1948, aged 20, Gretl Abraham stepped foot on a stage for the very first time. Her talent was soon recognised and she was described as being one of the best amateur actors in the valley. One outstanding performance was her star role in the „Die Auswanderer“ (The Emigrant), for which she achieved notoriety way beyond the borders of the Zillertal Valley. She was manager of the amateur dramatic association for 20 years and, until recently, still chose the pieces and acted on stage! Gretl joined the church choir at the age of 12. „Nowadays I only sing when I have a little “steam” (dialect for slightly tipsy), laughs Gretl mischievously. She is saddened that young people don’t sing in choirs anymore and that old songs will

inevitably be lost and forgotten. A remarkable woman who, despite a difficult twist of fate – her husband and father of her four children (then aged between 3 and 14 years) was killed in an accident aged only 39 – hasn’t let life get her down. She had to work as a cleaner and help the neighbours on their fields in order to feed and clothe her family. „But all the children turned into decent people“. Gretl is modestly proud of how she coped with a life that was anything apart from easy. That her good humour and positive attitude must have helped along the way is obvious. At the latest when you have the good fortune of being able to get to know her in her cosy wooden house whilst preparing punch and „Schoderblattlang“ - and a tasting session, of course.

sertspoons of sugar (don’t boil!), put the bread in a bowl, our the warmed milk over the top and sprinkle cinnamon over the top. If desired, you can also add cocoa or ground nuts as, for example, is preferred by the Mayrhofen cooks. Quickly prepared, delicious and, in a figurative sense of course, “to wade in”.


He who seeks will find ... It was a journey covering decades over hill and dale, from being a young lad in lederhosen holding onto his father’s hand while discovering the fascination of stones, to becoming a „bedrock“ of information and joining the ranks of the highly respected mineral expert s – and Walter Ungerank loved every step of the way. It is not by chance that the Upper Zillertal is considered to be an Alpine treasure trove and the ideal starting point for natural scientists. 14



is interest was “sparked” aged 10, when Walter Ungerank was confronted by the stone saga for the first time in his life. He quickly filled his home with stone “life”; constantly looking for places to put his precious treasures, his fantasy knew no limits. Höhenluft in conversation with this passionate collector who travels hundreds of kilometres over land every year and thousands of metres in altitude, in a constant search for new specimens.

Höhenluft: What characteristics must a mineral collector possess? Walter Ungerank: Above all, a great love for nature and the ability to go through the world with open eyes. And, despite the hard physical work (for which a good physical condition is required) be able to have fun. Höhenluft:What steps do you take? Walter Ungerank: Well, for example,

I deliberately dieted during the winter of 2010/11, so I would be able to squeeze into a small crevasse in springtime – where every extra pound of body weight would have been too much. After I managed to get my head through the hole, I was the first person ever to enter this new mountain territory. It was a dream come true for me! Because what we collectors don’t manage to salvage and bring back down to the valley, is mercilessly destructed by nature.

Höhenluft:How often would you consider your activities to be borderline? Walter Ungerank: I am often very lucky. When taking a risky jump, or when I forget the time and am grateful to get home in one piece in the dark. I dislocated my shoulder once at 2,800 metres above sea level and had to be rescued by helicopter. I have also had two hernias that needed surgery. Höhenluft: What equipment do you need when searching for stones & co? Walter Ungerank: A pickaxe, hammer and chisel as well as a snack. A bar of chocolate is very important for boosting flagging energy levels on the way down. The most I have ever carried down the mountain is 40 kilos – and you really feel it afterwards ...


is most fascinating about

your hobby?

Walter Ungerank:

The search. It pleases me when the stones are in the display cabinet and others can admire them (for example, during his exhibition at the Europahaus mid 2012). I also enjoy researching and documenting them with photos and short films.

Höhenluft:How many finds are you the proud owner of?

Walter Ungerank: I think I have gathered around 3,000 stones over the course of many years. The basement is full of glass display cabinets where my treasure collection of clear quartz crystals, smoky quartz black, red and green garnets, purple amethyst-sceptre and dark green emeralds are kept. I am quite proud to have been the first to recognise the Stone Age tools of rock crystal found in Schlegeis, which are between seven and nine thousand years old. The famous Ötzi finds, in comparison, are “only” 5,300 years old ... Höhenluft: You enjoy the highest acceptance and recognition in professional circles... Walter Ungerank: I work with geologists and archaeologists from the University of Innsbruck und am a voluntary supporter of the Mineral Collection at the Tyrolean Landesmuseum. I also attend many lectures at home and abroad, both as a guest and speaker Höhenluft:Have you kept a record of your many discoveries, adventures and experiences? Walter Ungerank: For the last 50 years I have kept a meticulous diary on every mountain tour, noting every companion that joined me, whether I found something or not, how and where I found every stone. There are 48 thick folders of mine, containing countless mineral and mining stories on the Zillertal Valley. Höhenluft:Do you actually believe in the much-quoted mystical powers of stones? Walter Ungerank: As a hobby scientist I don’t believe there to be much truth in it. If anything, I believe that mountain crystal (quartz) may have a certain “effect” on headaches. Höhenluft:

What advice would you give adventurous guests who would like to follow in your sporting footsteps? Walter Ungerank: Walk to the Berliner Hut and not far from there you will find the old garnet mill. Have a look around; there is always something to be found there - it is an ideal place for children to plunge into the pleasures of mineral collecting. I still have my first rock crystal, which I found as a ten year old boy.


does a collector “freak” like you manage to bridge the long winter months? Walter Ungerank: By cleaning the stones I have found, looking after and documenting them. And waiting for the snow to melt and for when I can finally get back out into nature and start searching all over again.


The Zillertal Alps have always been a mineralogical treasure. At the end of the 17th Century, trade merchants enjoyed a lucrative little side business with these precious finds. Some lads from the mountain huts were fortunate enough to find a crystal and sell it to one of these tradesmen – earning more than was ever possible working on a farm in one fell swoop. And that is how natural scientists and mineralogists came to be some of the first summer guests to the Zillertal Valley.


A song on their lips It is quite impossible to imagine the Zillertal Valley without music. At numerous musical events, the enormous popularity of its’ musicians is very apparent. They, namely, are the people to thank that this region has the internationally renowned title of, “The Valley of Music”. An indispensable part of this scene is the “Männergesangverein - Mayrhofen Men’s Choir”, who have become a popular institution, not least because of their performances at „Advent at the Forest Festival Area“.


ans Rainer, conductor of the powerfully-voiced men’s choir (as well as the Mayrhofen and Tux church choirs), is the man with the know-how and the baton. As a former professional singer and permanently engaged with the Innsbruck State Theatre Choir, with many guest appearances and concerts at home and abroad, he is a master of his art. Since taking


over as choir director in 2010, the 22 members of the Mayrhofen Men’s Choir perform with even more polish. A 90% attendance rate at the many rehearsals and performances is proof of its’ remarkable popularity. Around 60 turn-outs last year testify to the widespread acceptance of the Men’s Choir by locals and guests alike. One winter highlight is the very popular Christmas story musical, “Silent Night”,

Höhenluft People like to linger when they hear the Men’s Choir sing.

which is performed four times during Advent at the Forest Festival Area in Mayrhofen. Additional performances include carol singing, supporting Holy Mass in the church as well as on the mountain, birthday serenades for members of local associations, Tyrolean evenings at the Europahaus and more; which certainly keeps them on their musical toes for the rest of the year!

the ability to lead people (he smiles: I am more often a psychotherapist than I am a choir master). In addition, one should have a balanced nature, be able to empathise and select the right pieces for the choir. And of course, it is important to be able to motivate and encourage the singers – the hidden depths I have found in “my men” is amazing, and they are now on absolute top form!

Höhenluft in conversation with Hans Rainer, for whom music plays the leading role in life. Höhenluft: What were your goals when you took on managing the Mayrhofen Men’s Choir three years ago? Hans Rainer: The Zillertal Valley has indeed many entertaining dance and music bands, which has made it famous the world over. In my opinion, however, traditional folk music has fallen somewhat by the wayside. As I had to take a creative break for health reasons, I have more time now to dedicate to folk music; church music in particular.

Höhenluft: When were you kissed by the musi-

Höhenluft: What are the requirements needed

Höhenluft: What is your greatest concern? Hans Rainer: The promotion of young talent.

to become choir conductor? Hans Rainer: It is very difficult, nigh on impossible actually, to find a choral director with the basic qualifications. The skills required are many, ranging from conducting to harmonising, the ability to play a keyboard instrument (piano, organ), keep an overview of the repertoire and choral literature as well as

cal muse (bitten by the musical bug)? I started originally with entertainment music and, as a late starter aged 28, began to study singing properly. After four years of opera training in Innsbruck, I graduated with state approved qualifications. I then travelled to Dresden monthly for a further five years to complete my vocatioanal training. I was engaged as a member of the Innsbruck State Theatre Choir for 20 years and was cast in numerous guest roles in Switzerland, Germany and South Tyrol. I didn’t manage to stay anywhere for very long, though, because I just have to live in Tyrol!

Hans Rainer:

I dream of a „Mayrhofen Boys Choir“ one day. Although it is hard to motivate young people to sing, heaven alone knows why. The average age of a member of the men’s choir is 60 years. There would be so much potential amongst the very young. 

The Men’s Choir

The Mayrhofen Men’s Choir can look back over 83 years of existence. As choir director, Hans Rainer has given this singing association a huge boost and its’ acceptance by locals and guests alike has intensified enormously since his engagement. These singers perform at over 70 events a year and are an integral part of the musical life in Mayrhofen. More musical delights in Mayrhofen can be found on




Professional preparation is everything, before the freedom of flight puts wind beneath your wings.

The ultimate thrill with a bird’s eye view Guests to the Mayrhofen holiday region can indulge in the magic of flying in all year round. As a thrilling alternative to skiing in winter, a tandem flight in the capable hands of a qualified pilot offers the chance to discover unparalleled views. A heady holiday experience for people of all ages, because there’s simply nothing better than flying ...


he geographical location and thermal conditions at Mayrhofen’s Mount Penken are some of the very best (!) in Europe and flying is almost always possible. None other than Thomas Walder, Austrian paragliding champion with 20 years experience and over 11,000 accident free flights under his belt, offers the chance to participate in this spectacular and popular sport (along with four other providers) in the form of a tandem flight. For most passengers that means taking to the

skies for the very first time, although the number of “repeat offenders” is definitely on the increase! Some enthusiastic guests have already flown up to 20 times with this paragliding champion and have been thoroughly infected by the flying bug. It is interesting to note that, with the youngest passenger being a tiny tot of 4 and the oldest (thus far) a ripe old age of 92, there are seemingly no age limits to taking part. Whilst in winter it is generally the sporty skiers that make the most of this “downhill service“


Do you fancy a taste of the high mountain air? Information under: - Costs depend on the flight duration and height - ca. Euro 70,- to Euro 130,Enjoy your flight!


Self timer: Thomas Walder with Höhenluft phtographer Julia Türtscher in secure tandem mode.

The „Höhenluft“ photographer after her very first tandem flight: „I felt totally safe – a wonderfully exciting feeling. I’m not afraid of making a parachute jump now.“


and (still strapped into their skis or board) fly down to the valley rather than taking the cable car, increasing numbers of adventurous summer guests aged around 70 are taking the opportunity to have a go at flying tandem. „People with a fear of heights feel more comfortable flying than they do in a gondola – it doesn’t matter if you are one meter, or 1,000 metres above the ground – the feeling is just the same “, explains Thomas Walder. And after all, he should know.

Flying as raison d’être For Thomas Walder, flying is comparative to a drug addiction, and he is most certainly dependant. 8 x Austrian champion, world record in 2008 when he flew 255 kilometres one way in ten hours and – in the paragliding supreme discipline – flew back, mak-

ing the record “one way” flight in eight and a half hours (and, after landing in a private garden was chased away by the owner with a rolling pin), are just some of the highlights of a long career interspersed with some outstanding triumphs. In good thermal conditions, he is able to reach altitudes of up to 4,000 metres, where the environment is pretty cool and freezing point is reached. When flying for fun, he likes to soar far and high, seeking direct contact with the eagles and co. „It is an indescribable feeling and the ultimate endorphin hit when I am whisked from zero to 10 metres high in only a second“, enthuses Walder. At the tender age of 16, and with the necessary permission from his parents, he passed his flying examinations. For the last 15 years his greatest passion has also been his full time employer. 


On your starters, get ready and go, go, go to greater heights ...

Info What to observe before “takeoff”: • The passenger, regardless of age, should be healthy, have no circulatory or heart problems and be physically able to run around 20 metres downhill at the start. • Participants are given comprehensive information when filling out the flight ticket (which, incidentally, is governed by the same Federation Aviation Act as, for example, Lufthansa ...) • Passenger safety is of utmost priority – use of a helmet, back protector and safety parachute is mandatory. • „Board service“ – communication is always possible with the pilot during the flight! • Sturdy shoes, winter ski and summer hiking clothing are a must and sunglasses are essential! Everything else required will be provided, including a sunny disposition! • Optimum flight conditions occur at 10 km/h upwind (sunny or cloudy regardless) and good visibility (the landing site should be visible from the launch site). The maximum speed is circa 40 km/h. • Start preparations: Issue of helmet and harness, preparation of the chute – pilot positions him/herself behind the passenger. On the command „1, 2, 3“ run, whereby one feels lighter with every step and then all of a sudden, the unparalleled sensation of flying ...


Stephan Eberharter: A man, a global career.

From Mayrhofen to Olympia It all started back in the 70’s by winning an U10 race in Mayrhofen and developed into a terrific career on the international ski circuit for Stephan Eberharter. The iconic ski region of Mayrhofen can certainly boast of fertile ground ...


n keeping with his calm, matter of fact and unpretentious style, „Steff“ ended his remarkable career in September 2004. A career that spanned 20 years of competing at World Cup level and marked by many highs and lows. From his first taste of international competition at the Jun-


ior World Championships in 1987, inclusion in the Austrian National Ski Squad in 1988 and his meteoric breakthrough in 1991, winning the double world champion title at the tender age of 21 years old (and Austrian Sportsman of the Year title), he was dogged by injury until his comeback in 1997/98 and yet an-


other highlight in his career, World Cup victory. To persevere, fall down and always get back up again is the sporting motto of introverted Stephan Eberharter who, after so many years of endless travel and being permanently in the (for him unwelcome) spotlight, longs for only one thing: To build a house and create a nest for him and his family in which he can live a normal life in peace. Höhenluft was allowed to visit Stephan Eberharter in his private home, for which the editors would like to express their sincere thanks. Höhenluft: What significance does skiing have in your life now? Stephan Eberharter: It no longer has much in common with my present day life. During my competitive years, it was up early, off to the slopes, train, eat, train, compete, and travel around the world – a full time job. Now skiing is a purely private pleasure, with welcome breaks for refreshments at a mountain hut and fun ... However, I’m always happy to be part of the action when my ex-colleague and good friend, Leonhard Stock, issues his annual invitation to his „Champions-Week“ at the end of March on Mount Penken for a great day in the snow with his guests and former ski colleagues. That is always great fun.

Höhenluft: Have you suffered any withdrawal symptoms since retiring in 2004? Stephan Eberharter: No, never. Since my first world cup race in 1990 I often had to endure long injury-related dry spells. I was forced to confront the retirement issue back then, as well as the risk of being eliminated from the Austrian squad. With lots of perseverance, I was still able to keep going until the Olympics and my World Cup win – at 33 years old, incidentally the oldest sportsperson to do so in history. So you see, I have already experienced all the highs and lows and am able to put my ski career behind me and concentrate now on my private life. Höhenluft: On the technical side of things, a lot has happened over the last few years – the skis of yesteryear have been replaced by carvers and rocker skis. Where do your preferences lie? Stephan Eberharter: Ski manufacturers must always, of course, keep finding ways to open up new markets and fill new niches. With this in mind, new developments are in full swing and today you can find something to suit every style. Of course I try everything out. The new Rocker-Ski (revolutionary free-ride ski) combines turning with acceleration and carving in one, and is not so aggressive. I actually prefer the carver personally, in which I am able to stand better and parallel turns of the old school are made easier.

Höhenluft: Keyword: free-riding – have you jumped on this bandwagon too? Stephan Eberharter: It’s great, and young people especially are attracted to it. At my age, I am perhaps a little more apprehensive about it. I jumped over the “Hausbergkante” on the legendary “Streif” World Cup course in Kitzbühel for 25 years on the trot; I don’t need those kinds of kicks anymore. Höhenluft: How will skiing develop in the future? Stephan Eberharter: I hope very much that there will be enough snow in twenty years time. The effects of global warming mean that the snowline is constantly moving upwards ...


What is it about Mayrhofen that makes it a cult ski destination? Stephan Eberharter: Skiing is a strong mainstay for the Tyrolean economy in winter, the Zillertal Valley especially, in which the Mayrhofen region plays a leading role model, especially with regards to the infrastructure. Think of Action Mount Penken (Vans-Penken-Park was awarded Europe’s Best Fun-Park title in 2011) and the family friendly Mount Ahorn. There is always something going on in Mayrhofen, tourism is very active here and covers more or less everything. From skiing to hiking, it is a fantastic starting base.

Höhenluft: The Familie Spieß from Mayrhofen made their indelible mark in the annals of Mayrhofen sporting history. Your paths must have practically crossed ... Stephan Eberharter: Not directly. But Ulli Spieß, son of Riki who was a successful ski racer before my time during the 50’s, was the first person ever to jump over the infamous “Camel hump” on the downhill in Val Gardena, for which he trained long and hard at the 70 metre ski jump in Mayrhofen! Nowadays, this hair raising section of the route in Alpine World Cup has been defused to such an extent that it is quite normal to jump over it. Höhenluft: How did you deal with your success? Stephan Eberharter: It was a case of “learning by doing”. After my initial success I lost my anonymity overnight – and it wasn’t easy. But I had to learn how to deal with it. I have always kept my private life strictly separated from the ski circuit, as it was (and still is) the last place I can retreat to. Private is private. It wasn’t just at home in Zillertal that I suddenly achieved idol status and had to sign thousands of autographs. For as long as there are good skiers in Austria, children and young people will have an incentive to develop their ambitions and follow our lead. Such as Marcel Hirscher, who inspires the youngsters of today.

Stephan Eberharter

This local hero from Zillertal won 29 World Cup races, 2 x overall World Cup, was Olympic champion and 3 x World Champion. He has experienced in equal measures success and victory as well as setbacks and deep lows. He knows, like no other, how to overcome crisis and setbacks. Strengthened from all these experiences, he lives quietly with his family in Stumm, where he has achieved his dream of living a normal life and where skiing has become one of the nicest of trivial pursuits.



Pictures courtesy of: Paul S端rth


The Hours of the Chronicler One man knows the history of Mayrhofen like no other: Paul Lechner. A chronicler who looks after the collective memory of this market town and, if need be, talks to its‘ conscience. 25

Old photos from Paul Lechner’s collection also demonstrate how nature in the Zillertal Valley has changed over the decades. These two images show still mighty glaciers. The chronicler’s most important treasure, however, is his fire-proof safe.


The man Paul Lechner was engaged for many years by the Mayrhofen Tourist Board – most recently as local chronicler. Before taking well deserved retirement in 2011 he presented his meticulously researched Mayrhofen Town Chronicle, which includes many historical milestones. The second edition was published only a few months later. His successor, Astrid Holzer, will continue to record the local affairs of Mayrhofen with equal dedication.


here are two prominent places in Mayrhofen that are essential for Paul Lechner’s voluntary work. The sunnier of the two is under the canopy outside Konditorei Kostner, right next to the promenade and just across from the Town Hall. A traditional café, where guests and locals often meet to enjoy a delicious cup of coffee with homemade cakes; and those who don’t make it inside, ride or walk past at least once a day: The local exchange for all information on Mayrhofen. When asked by community leaders if he would take over the task of chronicler, Lechner agreed, but not before first demanding a few basic conditions: The digital age had already begun and Lechner wanted to meet the world on equal terms in his new, somewhat anachronistic, post. To do that he was going to need an office, computer, scanner, external hard drives, the full digital monty. This modern archive technology can be found in the chronicler’s official office in the tennis club house, where Paul Lechner hoards these seemingly innocuous treasures. In fact, they are incredibly informative to those who can actually read them. And he can. „I can quite easily decipher the old German script, even if they did scribble terribly in the old days.“ Like, for example, the „Storm Roll“; an old town enlistment book from the 19th Century, beginning with the year of the revolution in 1848. „The professions specified are demonstrative of the economic situation back then – the young men appear primarily to be servants or labourers,“

explains the master of deciphering. The situation changed very little, until one day a certain Dr. Lambert Reitmayr took on the post as Mayrhofen’s first “Medicus” and gave new impetus to the early onset of tourism. He supported, amongst others, the construction of water mains, was involved with the Raiffeisen Bank, voted for the Zillertalbahn Railway and was a founding member of the “Beautification Association”. The forerunner of today’s Tourist Board shook Mayrhofen awake out of hibernation and in no time at all, the first guests arrived and needed somewhere to stay. Initially it was the daring mountaineers from faraway England that travelled here, but they were soon joined by summer visitors from the big cities belonging to the Habsburg monarchy and Germany – nowadays there are always guests here from somewhere or another, regardless of the season. Lechner inherited his interest in history from his father and, with that, a penchant for keeping records. The former school master was the first to research old records and documents on a large scale and, while searching for early photographs and contemporary posters, amassed a considerable collection. It was the task of his son to sift through and sort the documents systematically. “Of course I made mistakes at the start, filed things under the wrong title and inevitably couldn’t find them again, but everything’s fine now. Whether letter or picture, I scan all the originals, copy the data onto CDs, save them on an external hard drive and keep them in a safe.“ And they grey box he is talking about is made


Only folklore? On the contrary! Posters document the long tradition of festival culture in Mayrhofen.

from iron can even withstand fire.It was the fire of love that led Kirsten Christiansen and her new husband to Zillertal on their honeymoon over 70 years ago. Only recently, the sprightly pensioner sent her impressive memories back to Mayrhofen in the form of black and white photos, which bear witness to the history of the time and are wealth of information. „One is able to see exactly just how far down the Waxeggkees (glacier) once extended. When I was young, we were able to walk to the tip of the glacier tongue in 30 minutes from the Berliner Hut. Now it takes two hours.“ Such sensational finds by former guests keep on finding their way back to Zillertal.

Testimonies of the past tell their own stories.

What becomes of all the treasures Lechner has amassed until now on his many visits to the National Archives, or the box loads that have been given to him by the locals? Using these varied of sources of Mayrhofen history, Lechner has already written a book titled „Ein Dorf im Wandel der Zeit – A village in Changing Times“, and a second will follow this summer. „The book will include lots of “new” old pictures, as there are so many beautiful motifs,“ he says, in the hope that he will one day be able to make a permanent exhibition „I am not thinking of a museum in the classic sense, but a room that represents the rich history of Mayrhofen,“ says Lechner. Could the recently built Europahaus be the right venue? The name would fit perfectly. „It would have to,“ says the Chronicler, who thinks for a moment before adding: „Okay, not have to – but it ought to“, a sign that he too is willing to go with the times and make a compromise. 

Bundles of paper, well sorted and catalogued are hoarded by the town chronicler.


The Rake Maker Johann Fankhauser is doing his best to save an old Zillertal craftsmanship from extinction: He makes wooden rakes that are used as much today as they were in the old days by local farmers working on their fields and meadows.

Wooden rakes The progressively mechanized cultivation of fields and the cheaper costs of mechanically


tured rakes have resulted in virtual extinction of the rare skill of rake making. Johann Fankhauser belongs to a small group of traditionalists (not only) in Zillertal that still nurture and cherish this ancient craft.



e is a real „wood-worm“ and it is certainly no coincidence that Hans Fankhauser worked as a carpenter for 38 years of his life. Wood is his life and his workshop is sacrosanct where, accompanied by jolly music in the background, he spends most of his time working with his favourite material; wood. Time seems to have stood still within these four walls, with the incomparable and calming scent of timber in the air. Hans Fankhauser started out as a rake maker after the war, working up on a mountain farm whose owner had a workbench and an urgent need for rakes to work on his fields. Fankhauser inherited his rake making talents from his father, who was able to pass this now rare skill on to him. The materials required need to be gathered from the forest – a time consuming activity. Young ash trees are best suited for the teeth of the rake (old

wood rots too quickly) and these can be found growing near water on mossy underground. The rake pole is best made from a spruce top, wood that dries quickly. „Otherwise you run the risk of being wasteful of nature’s resources“, explains the rake maker. Hans can only rely on an old planer machine, which he purchased in 1958, to provide a little mechanical assistance in smoothing out the rough edges of the pole and teeth. The yoke is painstakingly created by hand and pierced with holes in which to anchor the teeth. Around 50 of these rakes are made in meticulous detail annually by this sprightly retiree – a hobby really, but one from which the neighbouring farmers profit. For now, at least – as his enthusiasm unfortunately isn’t shared by the young people of Zillertal. „This kind of work takes too long and there is no real money to be made from it ...“, is Hans Fankhauser’s laconic, if slightly resigned observation. 


It is a question of tone Violin playing musicians – and not just from the Zillertal Valley – appreciate the craftsmanship of „their“ violin maker, Nicole Neussl, who has been practising this rare craft in her workshop in Kaltenbach for twelve years now. Harmoniously combining her passion with her career.


here are only a handful of luthiers, or violin makers, in Tyrol – which underlines just how rare this craft actually is. Interest in learning how to play the instrument, however, is steadily on the increase in the “Valley of Music“. Many violin students attend the Zillertal County Music School, from where Nicole Neussl (who began playing the violin herself aged ten) will probably receive more work in the future. This delicate string instrument ideally needs to be checked over every one to two years and the bow requires regular rehairing – with good quality, unbleached horse hair – to maintain the best quality of sound and responsiveness. The sound of a violin is based on the type of wood it is made of and how it is finished. Thus mountain pine is used for the upper and lower body, and maple for the bottom, neck and sides. Many parameters must be adhered to when

constructing a violin; even the type of varnish used plays a significant role. The cost of this delicate handiwork ranges from 800 Euros for a simple instrument, to millions for a Stradivarius, the most supreme of violins. Bad musicians, incidentally, can actually diminish the quality of sound of a string instrument, just as a violin tone can improve when played by the right hands. Violins that have been played over hundreds (!) of years by top violinists are “well oiled” and correspondingly valuable and melodious. The name says it all: the whole Neussl family are musically talented; husband Stefan is an academic musician and music teacher, involved in the development of trumpets and flugelhorn and both daughters play the cello and flute. The Neussl’s have, without doubt, one of the highest musical reputations in the Zillertal Valley.

The sky in Zillertal is full of violins.


A costume that unites a valley

Traditional Costume

Franz Knauer has dedicated his professional life to the Zillertal men’s costume. „One would hope that tailors will continue to exist, to carry on creating these original garments“, Knauer wonders what the future will hold. Guests, incidentally, aren’t able to place orders with “Mr Dress Maker”, even though there is a demand. The Zillertal costume is a work of art and reserved only for the people of Zillertal in celebration of their national identity. It’s a matter of pride ...


The Zillertal costume is unique in its kind. It is an impressive sight when the whole valley turns out in the same dress, displaying a concerted front in splendid harmony. Right down to the smallest detail, these distinctive loden jackets & Co represent a united image, guaranteed for many years by Mayrhofen’s master tailor, Franz Knauer.


he rules are strict and the costumes of Zillertal leave no doubt as to what is original and what is not. The clothing guidelines for the Town Band and the Home Guard Riflemen are scrupulously adhered to, in order to honour and preserve the cultural heritage of Zillertal. The basis of the costume is a loden jacket, a tunic and traditional velvet trousers – whereby the affiliation or rank is differentiated by various stripes, immediately visible to the discerning eye. Many metres of original Zillertal loden fabric and red lining cloth are required every year by master tailor, Franz Knauer, to be processed into 20 to 30 handmade pieces in his workshop in Mayrhofen, inherited

from his father in 1985. It takes two people around two to three days to create just one jacket, made with the same loving care as the trousers and tunic. A distinction is made between the small costume with jacket, “ranzen” (= traditional Tyrolean belt), collared shirt, tie, black waistcoat, trousers and felt hat compared to the full costume, which includes the indispensable loden jacket, with tunic, breeches, ranzen, special shirt with an upturned collar with a black, narrow tie (stuffed under the left arm of the tunic) and a black, wide-brimmed felt hat with a gold tassel. With this attire, one is perfectly dressed for any festive occasion in the Zillertal Valley, perfect, original and with all of its unique characteristics. Just like a real Zillertaler ...


By no means wooden ... The distinctive scent of local timber wafts through Hannes Eder’s inviting workshop in Mayrhofen, where the carving tradition is as deeply ingrained as the attention to detail. Even though there is probably nothing this wood sculptor can’t fashion from his favourite material, it is predominantly classic nativity figures and ibex mountain goat – Mayrhofen’s official emblem – in all sizes that he painstakingly creates within these walls.


lmost exclusively local stone pine – and four to five cubic metres of it per year – will be turned by Hannes Eder into exquisite works of art. His father opened the carver’s shop 50 years ago and for the last 30 Hannes has found personal fulfilment in this handicraft. He learned his trade from scratch at the famous Elbigenalp School of Carving in the Tyrolean Lech Valley (the founder of this school was from Mayrhofen) and, with his acquired skills, took over the workshop back home. Many guests of the Zillertal Valley are proud owners of nativity scenes and figures that have been crafted by his talented hands. Guests often return year after year on holiday and add figures to their collection over long periods of time and even over generations. Ibex in all sizes are a real “hit” with guests and locals alike. Around 50 units are carved to order per year – whereby everything created by this gifted man has to be pre-ordered. The finished pieces exhibited in the workshop serve merely as a guide on which people

Woodcarving can base their own personal wishes and ideas. Many visitors order well in advance so they can pick up their new piece the following year. Mayrhofen’s loyal guests are also rewarded with one of these carved wooden ibex – this popular official emblem of Mayrhofen has been presented to hundreds of Mayrhofen’s regular guests, to honour their loyalty to the town. A carving marathon for the sculptor, given the pleasing fact that 50 and even 100 repeat visits to Mayrhofen are not uncommon ... Animals seem to be conquering this world of wood, in addition to the classic nativity and holy figures and crucifixes. Whether frogs, spiders or hippos (an example of the latter is on display at the Berlin Zoo, for which an enthusiastic collector assumed patronage), there is no limit to his imagination or unusual requests. „Wood is very versatile, I can make anything with it“, is this passionate “Woodworm’s” succinct definition of what it is exactly about wood that fascinates him. 

The wood used for his sculpture work is generally local stone pine, which grows very slowly at around 1,800 metres above sea level (joined only at these altitudes by Alpine rose and larch) and have a life span of between 300 and 400 years. Swiss stone pine is very soft and therefore perfect for carving. This way, guests can take a lasting piece of Mayrhofen back home with them and enjoy it for many years and generations to come.


Headstrong Art Her style is straightforward, from elegant to blunt (and not for the faint hearted) and she finds her inspiration in the sensitive observation of people: Margot Stöckl, a freelance artist who doesn’t allow herself to be restricted by set styles or methods, just the materials she uses – largely found in the forests of Zillertal.

Margot Stöckl The art of turning a combination of personal characteristics and old tools into a work of art is the unconventional, creative ability of Margot Stöckl, whose works will not leave you untouched. In her individual style, way off the long beaten track of conventionalism and the norm. Simply made in Zillertal.



rained as a carpenter and graduate of the Technical College for Arts, Crafts and Woodwork, she began experimenting early on in her artistic career with the very familiar material of wood, quickly moving to clay as her sculpting talents became more apparent. This formed the basis for her large and vividly formed head sculptures, whose characters intrinsically express different world cultures. Figures crisscrossed by deep furrows - similar to the rugged rock formations of the Zillertal, coupled with worn out, discarded farming implements such as scythes, shovels and sickles which, in their misapplied use, emanate a very unique and special aesthetic. After a brief look in Margot Stöckl’s workshop it becomes quickly apparent that she has a soft spot for old tools, piled high as they await integration into her works of art. The ambivalence of these heads is quite remarkable, with the reverse side being an independent work of art and thus, a very deliberate contrast. The famous two faces of man impressively

recorded in one poignant figure. These ceramic figurines are then refined in a further creative process to become imposing bronze or aluminium sculptures. With „Tara“, this artist from Zillertal won the annual award at the Life-goes-on-Charity Event in Vienna’s Hofburg, for her pioneering and consistently progressive development of figurative sculptures. Her busts are generally cast in bronze, whereby Margot employs an ancient method from the 2nd millennia BC to create perfectly formed shapes from copper and tin. Her latest commission is to design a large sculpture for a roundabout at Lake Constance. Open minded and constantly looking for new creative challenges, the mentality and nature of Zillertal provide her with inspiration for these remarkable ideas, waiting to be brought to life by Margot Stöckl. PS: Already celebrated as an exhibitor at the Europahaus in Mayrhofen, it is thanks to her contact with Swiss artist Sven Heizmann that he will now be presenting his wood sculptures in an exhibition in 2013.

Picture courtesy of: Sir Robin Photography


Made of the right stuff Since retiring, Sven Heizmann (born 1939) has devoted his time to realising his creative dreams in his gallery in Aare. As a creative designer, he makes wooden sculptures from timber found predominantly in his local area. Visitors to Zillertal have the opportunity to admire his works of art at the Europahaus in Mayrhofen from August 2013.


o start with, I tried woodturning on a small scale and gradually, the dimensions got bigger and bigger», Sven Heizmann explains how it all began. He specialises in working with wet wood, because he finds it exciting to see what happens to the wood during the drying process, how it changes. „I don’t mind at all if it bends or splits. I don’t remove these so-called flaws, on the contrary, I welcome them.“

The wood decides how it will turn out Sven Heizmann has known for years where to find the “right” wood for his work. “Freshly cut maple, beech, sycamore, ash and oak trees, for example, are all suitable. My inspiration and ideas for what the wood can be turned into only emerge after I have taken its’ “shirt off”, he explains with a wink. The wood always decides for itself what it is willing to

Exhibition 2013 in Mayrhofen share. Creative art is the ability to discover the hidden, bring it to the fore and accentuate its’ beauty.

The inherent power of nature and creative powers of the artist unite as one. Professor Félix Stampfli, lecturer for fine and media arts at the University of Applied Sciences Northwestern Switzerland, School of Art and Design, describes Heizmann’s creations as follows: «Sven Heizmann carefully analyses selected, natural pieces of wood for „meaningful“ and „intriguing“ relationships. He reduces the wood to its’ basic essence. The inherent power of nature and creative powers of the artist form – with both minimal and distinct intervention - a newly created entity. His sculptures unite elements of the figurative and abstract forms into a seamless whole, for which the perception and interpretation lie in the eye of the beholder.

Many completed pieces have been accumulating at the Aare-Gallery over recent years. And Sven Heizmann’s creative works have not gone unnoticed. He was delighted to receive the invitation to exhibit his works in the Europahaus Mayrhofen from the 1st August 2013 for a month. Around 25 sculptures will be on show on an exhibition area covering 320 m2


Pictures courtesy of: Paul S端rth



The magic of the challenge Those who find walking to be bland or monotonous and prefer to seek the thrill of a (structured) adventure, will find just that in Mayrhofen with the three well marked and secured via ferrate climbing routes in varying levels of difficulty. 36

Höhenluft Professional equipment is an absolute „Must“.

Everyone is capable of attaching two carabiners and therefore able to climb without a partner.


limbing „light“ on these specially adapted routes is enjoying increasing popularity with all age groups. Children aged around eight to ten years - who are generally inquisitive and carefree by nature - plunge fearlessly into this new adventure (yes, climbing is so much cooler than hiking ...). There are virtually no limits as to who can take part; the sport attracts all types of people with all types of fitness levels. Apart from needing a relatively good head for heights, there is one other priority that must be observed while indulging in these vertical delights: Safety. i.e. the use of approved safety equipment.

Höhenluft met up with Michael Knauer, co-builder of the Mayrhofen via ferrate, member of the Red Cross and Mountain Rescue Team on the sun terrace of the idyllic mountain guest house, Zimmereben, where climbers meet to swap stories and enjoy some welcome refreshments after a climbing tour. Höhenluft: You are a multitalented expert and passionate mountaineer and were very involved with the construction of these via Ferrate. Who is this sport suitable for? Michael Knauer: I would like to start by saying that, as builders of the via ferrate, the Mountain Rescue Association has taken all the necessary precautions to ensure that safety regulations have been

met. After all, we know best from experience! Here in Mayrhofen (as on Mount Penken and in Ginzling), optimal conditions and a perfect infrastructure have been created in varying levels of difficulty. It brings me great pleasure to see just how popular these climbing routes have become. Young people in particular and a remarkably high proportion of women are enthusiastically participating in this sport. Children are motivated to get physically active in our wonderful natural environment by this special challenge. Not so sporty and/or heavily built people find it easier to climb the via ferrate (as opposed to participating in alternative endurance sports, such as running) and their self confidence is boosted as a result. This type of movement is also good for the spine (in healthy people), as it is constantly being stretched, as are legs, arms and joints. More or less anyone can get into via ferrate climbing; whereby self-affirmation and having fun is important, and positive side effects are guaranteed.


What is the difference between via ferrate and “real” climbing? Michael Knauer: Via ferrate are basically walked, which is not synonymous with climbing! To climb I need a partner to secure me and a correspondingly different type of equipment. In contrast, via ferrate can be climbed alone – everyone is capable of attaching two carabiners. The routes are

Michael Knauer: „A helmet is essential“.


The best views from the Mayrhofen via ferrate.

equipped with secure treads and therefore have a pre-given course, the level of difficulty is described in detail and access is easy without the need for specific alpine experience. But don’t forget the golden rule: Equipment should be purchased from a specialised store and not put together yourself! Harness, helmet and via ferrate sets cost around Euro 100,They can, of course, be hired (for around Euro 15,to Euro 20,-). Via ferrate provide the opportunity to get a feel for rocky terrain. The logical consequence is, or could be, that you would like to get more involved in climbing sport.

Höhenluft: Is it advisable to use a professional guide when trying via ferrate for the first time?

Michael Knauer: It makes sense to employ the services of a trained mountain guide if you are unfamiliar with the sport or unsure how to use the equipment. There are a number of reputable Alpine Schools here that offer courses. If you ask me, I would advise people to take advantage of the services of these competent specialists! Those with the appropriate gear and necessary confidence can, based on their level of ability, have a go at the via ferrate alone. That is something people have to decide for themselves.

The (rocky) journey to the top is the reward.


Höhenluft: What personally attracts you to via ferrate? Michael Knauer: I am an Alpinist, not a classic climber and joined the mountain rescue services as a boy. After around twelve years of the Alpine

Association, via ferrate is a good recreational sport for me and a way of venting pent up frustrations. I appreciate the fact that we have the facilities so close to the village.

Höhenluft: A summary of the advantages of the Mayrhofen via ferrate?

Michael Knauer:

Our via ferrate are open almost all year round – because of their excellent sunny location they can be climbed for most of the winter. They don’t take up too much time either – around one to one and a half hours per route. Increasing numbers of locals are taking advantage of these facilities and squeezing a climb in after work. The access point is not even five minutes away from the car park and I can quickly and easily do something good for myself and boost my self-confidence in the process – as can other people who perhaps don’t have such great sporting ambitions. The infrastructure is super, and is popular with both locals and guests alike. PS.: An ideal combination for the whole family – the via ferrate splits at a certain point and you have the choice of either continuing up the steep route, or taking the easy hiking path to the top. You can meet up again at the mountain guest house at the top for some well earned refreshments and Tyrolean specialities, served by the welcoming hosts Hansjörg und Kristin, with magnificent views of Mayrhofen and the Zillertal Alps.

Höhenluft The via ferrate demand a certain head for heights ...

Via Ferrate

The via ferrate in Mayrhofen are divided into three different levels of difficulty.

The via ferrate experience naturally includes signing the “Summit register”.

The „Huterlaner“ is a family friendly route most suitable for beginners and children. The slightly more difficult „Pfeilspitzwand“ is classed as moderate, 700 climbing metres long with an ascent of 245 metres in altitude and cable length of 440 metres. The „Zimmereben“ route (450 metres of cable, 239 metres of altitude difference) starts close to the mountain guest house and has already made a real impression on many sport climbers. In any case – having the right equipment is the essential basis for this fun and thrilling via ferrate adventure (in addition to those in Mayrhofen, there is another at Knorren on Mount Penken, the Nasenwand in Ginzling and at Gerlosstein). Route details can be found in the via ferrate folder under

The end of the tour is the beginning of a pleasant visit to Kristin and Hansjörg at their mountain hut (pictured right with Michael Knauer).


The ease of mountain cycling The pleasure of effortlessly cycling around the picturesque landscapes of Mayrhofen and its‘ tributary valleys on a Mountain-E-Bike is hard to beat. The revolutionary EPO Reaction Pro 29 from the CUBE-range is not only lots of fun to ride, it also enables more or less every cyclist to surmount the idyllic (mountain) routes. 40


e eye.

ink of an E-Bik

bl All data in the

Das CUBE EPU Reaction Pro 29 convinces with its’ many technical refinements.


s discovered by this couple from Zillertal, Kathrin und Roland, who put the new Mountain-E-Bike-Generation through its’ paces on the road to the Stilluptal Reservoir for a photo shoot for Höhenluft. While Kathrin prefers to apply the „Dolce far niente“ (the pleasure of doing nothing) attitude to her precious leisure time, her other half likes to really get moving on a racing cycle. Until now, that is. Because this first and exciting contact with these very special Mountain-E-Bikes has shed a whole new light on cycling for both of them. And with good reason, as now they can effortlessly cycle to the other two reservoirs in Schlegeis and Zillergrund in equally pleasing fashion ... Visitors to the Mayrhofen-Hippach holiday region, that until now have had a healthy respect for the more challenging mountain routes, will appreciate the facts on this EPO Reaction Pro 29, and can look forward to a whole new mountain biking experience:

• 29“ tyres provide enormous grip and easy rolling over obstacles. Even over bumpy roads, the rider can instantly extend his/her operating range with the rear wheel motor. • Perfect for sport, family excursions or day tours, whether up or downhill. • The sporty, yet balanced seating position facilitates both tours and electrically assisted riding fun in open terrain. • Comfort and safety is guaranteed by 100 millimetre suspension fork, RT Rockshox Reba RL 29, with motion control and pop lock. • With proven good function and durability, with Shimano Deore XT/SLX shift components and, thanks to 30 gears, a high transmission range.   So hurry up and try the EPO Reaction Pro 29, and explore the subsidiary valleys of Mayrhofen in all their inimitable glory. 

In your pedals, get ready and off you go into the side valleys of Mayrhofen.


The Stilluptal, with its’ magnificent mountain scenery and many eateries offering welcome refreshment.

Priceless Slow down in Stilluptal At 17 kilometres in length, it is the shortest of Mayrhofen’s tributary valleys and nestles within the boundaries of the Zillertal Alps National Park. Following a road with gradients of up to 15%, the Stillup Reservoir is reached at an altitude of 1116 metres. This scenic idyll provides weary souls the perfect ambience to enjoy the revitalising Alpine air.

All needs are satisfied in Zillergrund

With a length of 25 kilometres, the source valley of Zillertal extends from the Austro/Italian border to Mayrhofen. A reservoir going by the same name fills the upper valley, which begins at an altitude of 2658 metres and flows into an easily accessible and wooded ravine in Mayrhofen.

Paradisiacal conditions in the Schlegeisgrund

The Schlegeis Reservoir lies at an altitude of 1800 metres, the waters of which are imprisoned by a 131 metre high dam wall – an imposing technical structure which can be inspected during a guided tour. Forests of Swiss pine, the sparkling waters and glacier ice provide lasting impressions of untouched nature. PS: Many Eateries with local delicacies line the streets of the Alpine valleys and invite for comfortable rest. The toll roads (attractive discounts with the guest card) are open from May to October. With the Z-Card or the mobility ticket, the side valleys also easily reached by public transport.


Hรถhenluft Simply delightful, discover with ease the stunning natural landscapes of the Zillertal Alps.

Mountain E-Bikes The new generation of Mountain-E-Bikes (such as the CUBE EPO Reaction Pro 29) make it possible to discover the stunning alpine valleys surrounding Mayrhofen and far beyond. Up, up and away Detailed information on the CUBE EPO Reaction Pro 29 under


Beach Feeling in the Zillertal Mountains Although beach volleyball probably isn’t a sport that one would immediately associate with the Alpine Zillertal Valley, it is a popular sport with a strong following and has been the breeding ground for two exceptional talents to flourish. The Mayrhofen-Hippach holiday region, with its’ seemingly inexhaustible range of attractions, makes even this possible ... 44



wenty-three year old twin sisters, Sabrina und Tatjana Csrnko practically grew up on a volleyball court, played at club level aged eleven, came second in their very first tournament and chose to train exclusively on sand from the age of 16. After their father and coach, Werner (a former amateur tournament player himself) brought the Austrian Championships for the U 16, U 18 and U 20 Teams to the Zillertal Valley as organiser eight years ago, it triggered a boom in the region. Over 100 teams from all over Austria turned up again to com-

pete in this exciting contest and were blessed with perfect weather and fabulous conditions. Although Sabrina and Tatjana are unable to participate any more due to “age reasons”, they have been supporting and encouraging young talent for the last five years and were on hand to offer practical advice and support.

Fun, games and excitement at the Austrian championships.

Their ambitions have now clearly shifted towards a pro career and, for this reason, have both been training hard for three years now with their profes-


Mayrhofen-Hippach Holiday Region with Southern beach feeling


sional coach and sport scientist, Chris Ebenbichler (organiser of this winter season’s opening event, the RISE&FALL) according to a strict high-performance training plan. They play in Austria’s highest league, the A-Cup and are internationally “on tour” every weekend during the summer months, from Brazil to Moscow, Anaya, Bulgaria, Varna and Liechtenstein. Supported, supervised and taken care of by Papa Werner, who accompanies them everywhere as manager. It is these fortunate circumstances that enable the two exceptionally talented athletes to continue their pedagogic studies in Innsbruck parallel to their hard training plan. In this

respect, the twins are also in agreement. The intended and realistic goal for both of them is a professional sporting career. PS: Prerequisites for (beach) volleyball players are good coordination, stamina, speed, feel for the ball and a minimum height of 170 centimetres. With regards to the latter, the two girls from Zillertal have proven to be the exception to the rule – again in splendid harmony – „U 170“, which is why jumping ability is even more important, stress Sabrina and Tatjana unanimously. And, judging by their success it seems they can ...


„The next Generation“, trained by the successful beach volleyball twins

Beach Volleyball

The beach volleyball courts at Mayrhofen’s Leisure Park, Erlebnisbad Mayrhofen Pool and at the Hippach outdoor pool are open, depending on the weather, from the end of April to October – families with children especially are enthusiastic spectators during training or at tournaments. Anyone can have a go – and if required, be introduced to the right technique. So slip off those shoes and into the soft sand, Mediterranean beach feeling included – in the midst of the imposing mountains of Zillertal. More information on this barefoot fun under www.erlebnisbad.mayrhofen. at und

Sabrina and Tatjana Csrnko in accustomed victory pose.


A charming and leisurely ride through Zillertal Travelling down the Zillertal Valley from Jenbach to Mayrhofen on the nostalgic steam train is a truly memorable experience for both young and old. Surrounded by the charm of times long past, visitors can chug along down the historic narrow gauge railway line, watching the idyllic landscapes roll on by. 48


The good old times have stood still, in the nostalgic steam train.


n 1899 after many years of negotiations, the „Ziller-thalbahn Actiengesellschaft“ (Zillertal Railway Co.) was established, followed a year later by construction of the first section of the route to Fügen. Passengers then had to change to a horse drawn carriage, which made the onward journey to Mayrhofen three times a day. Difficult to imagine today, but because of the bad state of the roads at the turn of a century, an overnight stay in Zell am Ziller sometimes had to be scheduled if travellers wanted to get to Mayrhofen ... Successive expansion took place in 1902 and the long yearned for steam rail network was finally connected to Mayrhofen and the whole of the Zillertal Valley was “on track”. The history and development of the Zillertal Valley has always been inextricably linked to the Zillertal Railway. The steam train was a key factor in the valley’s growing prosperity and contributed greatly to Zillertal’s reputation as being one of the best known and most active destinations in the Alps. The development of summer tourism in particular would have been unthinkable, had the people of those days not had the foresight to build a valley railway system. In addition to the wonderful nostalgic adventure the steam train provides, it also has other attractions: The fully serviced (!) Kristall Wagon is decorated with 62,000 Swarovski crystals that treat passengers to

a fascinating display of prismatic colours on sunny days and provides a wonderful ambience for special occasions. Outdoor fanatics will enjoy taking the open goods wagon and an “al fresco” journey down the Zillertal Valley. And aspiring engine drivers who have always harboured the dream of talking the helm of one of these locomotives can do just that on various sections of the route every Friday from the beginning of June to mid September.

Steam Train

In today‘s hectic and stressful times, deliberately slow

For those interested in technical details:

and leisurely trips like these

The Zillertal Railway is an Austrian narrow gauge railway with a Bosnian gauge of 760 millimetres. A steam engine with an empty weight of 31.2 tons holds 7.5 cubic meters of water and three cubic meters of coal. The stoker has to shovel 2,000 kilogrammes of coal for the journey from Jenbach to Mayrhofen and back (in temperatures up to 50° Celsius). A further 5,000 litres of water are required to reach the maximum speed of 35 kilometres per hour and transport up to 550 passengers. This tradition of steam travel is a rare treat in Austria – there are only handful of steam trains still in operation. So get on board and let the wonderfully evocative and monotonous chuff, chuff, chuff rhythm of the engine cast its’ magic spell over you ...

going through a renaissance.

in a nostalgic steam train are This is a long forgotten feeling of travelling at snail’s pace, with all the time in the world whilst savouring the stunning natural landscapes of the Zillertal Valley. This unique journey can be enjoyed from the 1st June to 30th September 2013, according to the scheduled timetable. Information:


Peter Habeler, on the go in his beloved Zillertal Alps

One of Mayrhofen’s Great Sons Peter Habeler – the epitome of extreme mountaineering, who with Reinhold Messner, was the first to climb Mount Everest without oxygen and has since made it his „speciality“, has had a hut to hut hiking trail named after him by the Mayrhofen-Hippach Tourist Board. Walking in Peter Habeler’s footsteps will be a new pleasure that guests to the region can experience from summer 2013 onwards. 50



ount Everest was not conquered, nor defeated. He merely tolerated me for a while. And if we can speak of a victory at all, then of a victory over one’s physical limits, over fear“ – were the humble words this mountaineering legend, Peter Habeler, used last July at his 70th birthday celebrations (at the Europahaus, by invitation of the Mayrhofen-Hippach Tourist Board), attended by many well wishers from near and far. This man from Mayrhofen, who now runs an Alpine School with his son Christian, certainly does not look his years. Mountaineering appears to keep one young and physically and mentally fresh – even under extreme conditions ... Between giving lectures at home and abroad as well as many other official duties, the Höhenluft editor managed to grab a rare moment of his precious time for an interview.

Höhenluft: When and why were you gripped by mountaineering fever? While growing up in the mountains, I was always drawn to them. I made my first tour aged 11, started the more challenging rock and ice climbing aged 16, qualified as a state approved ski guide and instructor aged 21 and was head of the Austrian Mountain and Ski Guide Training for many years. I made my first big climbing tours with the two years younger Horst Fankhauser, who became my first proper partner. Our teacher was East Tyrolean

Peter Habeler:

Sepp Mayerl, vulgo „Blasl“, one of Austria’s most prominent mountaineers and an extraordinary icon, who also came to Mayrhofen for my 70th birthday (sad note: Sepp Mayerl, aged 75, tragically fell to his death in his beloved mountains only a few days after the celebrations and this interview).


You achieved great notoriety in 1978 with the sensational first ascent of Mount Everest without oxygen, together with Reinhold Messner. Was that your personal greatest success? Peter Habeler: At that time, everyone considered it to be impossible, but we made it. But no, it wasn’t my greatest personal success. However, it opened many doors – and enabled me to make a little money from mountaineering. Many subsequent tours were much more difficult, such as the Kangchenjunga at 8585 metres, the Nanga Parbat at 8126 metres or the Hidden Peak at 8080 metres. I have to say, it has always been important to me to climb in small teams – or as with Reinhold Messner on Mount Everest, in a constellation of only two, when we were able to be the first to get away and up the mountain. With less people you are faster; it is cheaper, simpler and there is less friction within the group. We preferred to do it West Alpine style, and carried food, tents and everything you could possibly need in rucksacks, with no external help. Young people are copying this style again nowadays, in keeping with the, „Back to the roots“ theme.

70 years young and fitter than ever: Extreme mountaineer, Peter Habeler.



„My way“ – Following in the footsteps of this famous man from Mayrhofen, along the trail named after him: The Peter-Habeler-Runde


Meanwhile, increasing numbers of mountaineers are attempting to climb the “eight thousanders” (regardless of the consequences) – what do you think about this form of mass tourism? Peter Habeler: Mount Everest shares first place with Cho Oyu with regards to these unpleasant developments. It is not only mountaineers now that are attempting to climb these peaks. Although those participating may be fit and possess the necessary finances – one ascent costs around 60.000 Euros! This has become a lucrative business, a marketplace has opened up that promises to fulfil dreams. 600 people and more (!) are often waiting at the base camp to make their ascent. What bothers me is that so many people head off up the mountain the moment the weather forecast is good. Around 6000 people have made the ascent with oxygen, around 150 without. Whether male or female, fat or thin, regardless of race or creed – everyone feels entitled to participate. Another problem is that these teams are not even personally acquainted; they generally meet for the first time on the plane ride over. The Japanese, Americans and Upper Austrians have, quite simply, nothing in common which is why people then only look after themselves – a fatal situation! Some just step over others that are dying, in their quest to reach the summit, come what may. And yet, the positive thing about mountain climbing is that you learn to help one another, look after each other and, if necessary, forgo the summit

attempt. There is always the possibility of turning back; the mountains aren’t going to go away. This is nothing to be ashamed of, rather more, it is a sign of strength.

Höhenluft: So fairness and fair play are top priorities? Peter Habeler: Yes, and thank God it is still the case. The „Save yourself if you can“ mentality must never be allowed to prevail.

Höhenluft: In which dangerous situations have you found yourself in? Peter Habeler: It was borderline a few times, I am fortunate to have escaped with my life. I have been incredibly lucky, of that I am very much aware. Around 1985 I fell around 400 metres down the Großen Möseler with a rope team of nine people, we all survived. Many colleagues of mine have died while climbing, or froze to death. Cold, avalanches, chunks of ice falling from a glacier are some of the greater dangers, and then of course the risk of altitude related lung, heart or brain oedema – which I personally am most afraid of, because they are only obvious at a late stage. They creep up on you and before you know it you can’t breathe. Höhenluft: What advice would you like to give to “normal” mountaineers? Peter Habeler: “Joe Average” must always stay on the designated trails, and show the mountain discipline and respect! Good equipment is not


Peter Habeler Tour

The Peter Habeler Tour covers around 60 kilometres and seven mountain huts with individual distances of between 3.5 and 13 kilometres, with or without summit ascents. The respective routes are divided into walking times of between 2.5 and 8 hours in various levels of difficulty and terrain, from alpine meadows and gravel paths to block stones, moraines and boulders. It is Pater Habeler’s authenticity with the Zillertal Alps that led the Mayrhofen-Hipenough, mountain climbers need to be physically and mentally fit before attempting difficult tours and be informed – which is often neglected. Most alpine accidents, by the way, occur in easy terrain on alpine trails, especially in spring on frozen paths. You feel safe, and in the blink of an eye you’re gone ...

Höhenluft:What would you never do again? Peter Habeler: (thinks for a long time): Luck was always on my side, my partners were good, I regret nothing, it was always great. But I should have spent more time with my family – I was a man possessed. My sons coped well with the

situation and, I hope, have remained unscathed. I was always on the road, was far too egoistic and followed my passion (too) excessively.

pach Tourist Boaard to give

Höhenluft: The „Peter Habeler Runde“ will be

emotional character and per-

opening in summer 2013 – a very original birthday present from the tourist board and local community. What does this mean for you? Peter Habeler: This has a huge amount of sentimental value for me! I know all the seven huts on this tour incredibly well and can tell a story about every one of them. Mountain huts are very important providers of refreshments “on tour” and part and parcel of our alpine culture.

sonal connection with one of

his name to this new trail, one that is distinguished by its’

Mayrofen’s great sons. Opening in summer 2013, further information under:


Pictures courtesy of:

Roman Erler, casting his masterful, expert eye on this elixir from Zillertal.

May we introduce, the Master of the Root A toast to regional alternative medicine!



Pharmacist and outdoorsman in perfect symbiosis: Marlies and Roman Erler.


The meisterwurz (for academic interest: peucedanum ostruthium) is a typical regional medicinal plant, belongs to the

„ Quite simply, all you need is a sip of meisterwurz “


Zillertaler Schürzenjäger, from their song „Der Meisterwurz”

aracelsus was convinced that there is a herbal remedy to cure more or less every illness. Nature blessed Upper Zillertal with the Meisterwurz (masterwort,), which is widely recognised for its‘ curative properties and used to naturally relieve a whole plethora of aches and pains. And who says that medicine can’t taste nice? Roman Erler, the „Master of the Root“, inherited his knowledge of natural medicine from his grandmother and has always been keenly interested in the healing properties of this indigenous plant, spending much time digging for its’ healing root and keeping others informed of its’ uses. Together with his pharmacist wife, Marlies who covers the necessary scientific aspects, they form the perfect symbiosis in educating both locals and visitors about this medicinal plant. Years ago the Meisterwurz was rumoured to have magical powers, nowadays the people of Zillertal swear by its’ proven effectiveness. And not just the Zillertal folk: this medicinal plant has been officially recognised by the Federal Department of Health as having a positive monograph. Official studies from laboratory analysis have confirmed the healing, medicinal properties of the Meisterwurz, with no deceptive placebo effect.

Experience the magic root with all your senses. As a genuine Tyrolean outdoorsman, Roman Erler is at home in the mountains and knows every square metre here like the back of his hand. And of course, the many spots where “his” meisterwurz thrives at

umbellifer family, achieves a growth of 30 to 100 centimetres and is reminiscent in its intense flavor of carrots, celery

altitudes of 1,500 metres and over. During hikes through these stunning Alpine landscapes he is an informative guide, digs this healing plant up in front of his guests, and lets them smell it, bite into it and give them a taste of pure, unadulterated nature. There’s something special about that, when holidaymakers come so directly into contact with the basic product which, amongst others, is distilled into a high proof, appetising aperitif, to be drunk after dinner to combat bloating, for liver and gallbladder complaints and as an expectorant for bronchitis in the form of tea. This healing, aromatic “national drink” of the Zillertal Valley with all its’ positive side effects (see fact box) is useful in the treatment of many ailments and diseases. Ask your doctor or pharmacist – or better still, the “Master of the Root”, Roman Erler.

and pineapple. It loves shady, moist, deep places, grows in alpine areas and is easy to find. But beware! The risk of confusion with other poisonous (!) umbellifers is high if you don’t know what you’re doing, so please do not attempt this on your own, or dig out roots! Proven effectiveness against bronchitis asthma,

(expectorant!), stomach


bloating, toothache, bile and

Meisterwurz is on everyone’s lips

liver diseases as well as for

It’s no coincidence that Conrad Genser, Swiss physician and natural biologist, recommended cultivation of the meisterwurz back in 1560. First mentions were registered in the Middle Ages, by Hildegard von Bingen, whose far sighted theories from then are enjoying renewed interest today in these health conscious times. Even the Zillertaler Schürzenjäger (popular local band) dedicated a song to this medicinal plant. They sing of an elixir, that will cure all ailments, lift the mood and banish stress.. „Alles, was du schlicht und einfach brauchst, ist ein Schlückerl Meisterwurz – Quite simply, all you need is a sip of meisterwurz”, is the catchy refrain from this song by Zillertal’s most famous band, which really kind of says it all ...

treating wounds. The Meisterwurz can be consumed in the form of a strong schnapps, but also as a tea (1 tablespoon grated, or dried, and add to boiling water – for one large cup) and healing ointment. Meisterwurz is hung up to dry and thereby preserved.


Europahaus & Freiraum

56 Picture courtesy of:


“Freiraum” in the inventor’s sense – Transparency and lounge atmosphere high on Mount Ahorn.

Europahaus & Freiraum

Discover fantastic events in Mayrhofen’s two stunning event locations with their optimal facilities for all kinds of occasions and tastes.


nce upon a time there were two houses in Mayrhofen. One at ground level and the other on the „first floor“ on Mount Ahorn, and both – in their own individual way – equipped to provide the perfect venue for all kinds of events. And because their busy schedules and geographic location mean they seldom get to see each other, when they eventually do, they have plenty to say about this, that and everything in the world of events. Psst, don’t tell anyone, but Höhenluft eavesdropped for a bit ...

Freiraum: How are you getting on down there in the heart of Mayrhofen?


Everything’s fine, thanks. We haven’t seen each other since re-opening after my conversion and extension in May 2010. My God, how time flies! But I have been very busy – no

From small scale family celebrations to art exhibitions and international congress, wonder, with being open 365 days of the year and home to over 650 events and all the organisation that entails. Meetings, conventions, music events, corporate events, exhibitions and what have you. My central location is just too good and easy to access. People come to visit me by plane, car, train and bus and I make sure that everything is ready and waiting – right down to the smallest detail. All visitors need to do is turn up and celebrate, meet and enjoy their time with me. That is the consequence of being so flexible! But enough about me, how’s it going up on the mountain?

the entire organisation and


Your interest and dialogue is

I enjoy fabulous views of the Zillertal Alps each day anew and like most of all to be on the 56 metre long, seemingly floating, fully glazed viewing platform. It is with good reason that my innovative architecture won the Austrian Property Developer prize from the Federation of Austrian Ar-

implementation with gourmet cuisine and excellent service are provided. Welcome



Mayrhofen Zillertal Congress, and a hearty “Grüß Gott” in the floating Freiraum on Ahorn!

appreciated under.


Inspiring “Freiraum” with magnificent panoramic views.

Original seminar concepts with sophisticated ambience to pause for thought in the Europahaus.

chitects in2011, one of the most prestigious awards in the country. That is something I am very proud of. Up here, I have finally discovered the “Freiraum – Freedom” that I need. I found it to be too narrow and loud down in the valley, I don’t know how you put up with it. With me, it’s all much quieter and I am visited by people looking for exactly that solitude and tranquillity I can provide. My stylish lounge atmosphere and interesting mix of no frills architecture and unique views is perfect for weddings, birthdays, family celebrations and events of all sizes. Thank God we both exist, because now people can choose their ideal venue for themselves. How much space can you offer since your extension?


I can accommodate anything from 10 to 1,600 persons and if I include the im-


mediately adjacent Berghof Event Hall, can increase capacity to 3,000 (congress) attendees. There is no end to what I can offer: 10 seminar and executive meeting rooms, seminar and conference rooms flooded with natural light and views of the Zillertal Valley, 2 exhibition areas of up to 1,200 square metres, 4 stages from 14 to 140 square metres, my Café-Restaurant with terrace and in-house caterer and store room. Then of course there are the extensive parking facilities with direct access, flexible floor planning according to customer requirement, state of the art lighting, audio engineering and air conditioning and technical assistance with qualified staff permanently on hand. So you can already see that I have plenty to offer at Europahaus Zillertal Congress.


Well, I take my hat off to you and


Europahaus Mayrhofen Zillertal Congress: Meet in the most active valley in the world with all amenities and optimal infrastructure.

all you are getting up to! My location is, as you well know, not as big but none the less inspiring for all kinds of events, seminars, product launches and creative solutions for new ideas. With various space and seating concepts I can arrange individual variations for groups of 24 to 240 persons and my seminar rooms measure 45, 93 or 245 square metres. And not to mention the inimitable flair at dizzying heights ... I also have the “Freiraum” for winter sports enthusiasts to conveniently store all their gear. This added comfort is available all ski season long, whenever required. Winter sports equipment can also be tested or conveniently hired at my ski depot station and, as one would expect, everything you need for a successful ski holiday can be purchased from my in-house shop. I am well able to respond to the very

different demands and requirements mountain life presents.

Europahaus: That is why it’s good that we are so different and why we complement each other so beautifully. Our visitors all benefit from tailor made arrangements in summer as in winter and the many leisure facilities in the stunning natural landscapes of the Zillertal, literally on our doorstep. Anyhow, I would love to meet up again for a coffee. What do you think?

Freiraum: Definitely, long overdue! So “Servus” (colloquial farewell) and see you soon!


Looking forward to seeing you again soon, either at my place or yours. See you around ...


Practice makes perfect, if you want to make great oven liver: Hans-Peter Hauser (centre) with students of the Zillertaler Tourism School.

„Yes“ to oven liver, yes to tradition What does a wedding have in common with oven liver? Just about everything in the Zillertal Valley. On the day of all days, a “proper” wedding feast is absolutely unthinkable without this traditional dish. In a place where so many locals have sworn undying love, and now increasing numbers of guests from far and wide have discovered as a romantic wedding destination. The Zillertal.


reflection of culinary tradition in Zillertal, „She“ is an essential part of every wedding feast: The “Ofenleber” (oven baked liver loaf), whose history and preparation have been uncovered by the Höhenluft. Since early times, Zillertal “Ofenleber” has been an important part of local farming cuisine. This hearty meal is eaten on special occasions – such as weddings – and is characteristically served with roast pork and potatoes.

Why oven liver at a wedding? And into the oven with the liver ...


The family pig was normally slaughtered in celebration of this joyous occasion, however, the roasting joints and “schnitzel” meat weren’t sufficient for the number of invited guests. So the liver and offal were processed into a meat loaf. As all the ingredients (see recipe) were mixed together and roasted in the oven, it was known as “Oven Liver - Ofenleber” in the rural vernacular form. Hans-Peter Hauser, a Mayrhofen man and specialist teacher for chef training


Hmm ..., oven liver, and its’ classic accompaniment of roast pork and potatoes.

Oven Liver Increasing numbers of couples from all over the world are choosing to tie the knot in the Zillertal Valley. A dreamy, romantic setting, music that gets you going and of course the wonderful cuisine will inspire the most beautiful day of your life. Talking of food: Those wanting to “go native” and have a traditional wedding feast


will need to bring a good appetite with them. After the

Zillertaler “Ofenleber - Oven Liver” Recipe for 4-5 persons Ingredients: 250 g liver, lung and heart 200 g minced belly of pork 3 eggs ca. 200 g white bread 100 g boiled potatoes ca. 1/8 l warm milk 60 g onions ½ clove of garlic Salt, pepper, marjoram, parsley A little butter 1 pork caul

Zillertal wedding soup – a clear soup with noodle or Preparation: Fry the roughly chopped onion, garlic, marjoram and parsley in a pan with the butter until slightly brown. Allow to cool. Mix the offal, meal, potatoes and onion together. Put these ingredients in a bowl and mix well with the bread, eggs, milk, season and allow to soak. Put this meat mixture into a buttered casserole dish, cover completely with pork caul and bake in the oven for around 1.5 hours at 160° C. Serve with tasty brown gravy, roast pork, potatoes and cabbage salad or potato salad. Good luck!

pancake strips – guests are served with roasted pork and veal with oven liver, potatoes and cabbage salad, a Wiener Schnitzel with potato salad is served at midnight (often a toned down version nowadays of goulash soup with sausage) followed by coffee and cakes at two o’clock in the morning. But, as previously mentioned, this wedding menu is only re-

since 1983 at the Zillertaler Tourism School in Zell am Ziller, worked as a chef in hotels in Switzerland, Germany and Zillertal before returning to impart his expertise to (currently) 610 students. So what could be more logical than a visit to this expert, to watch him and his students at work preparing the legendary oven liver. And find out more, not just about the wedding customs on a culinary level, but the sometimes bizarre surprises

Zillertal holds for its’ newlyweds. The “ingredients” of a real Zillertal wedding range from tarring and feathering the groom, to moving the marital bed to the middle of a field , filling the bath up with earth and stealing the bride, which, incidentally can get pretty expensive for the best man and maid of honour. After starting married life in such a manner, there’s not much left that can faze newlyweds in their future life together ... 

served for “hard core” guests and weddings are often being held now with a little less on the menu ... Just one thing must not be missing when getting married in Zillertal: The oven liver.



Almabtrieb – Cattle Drive Although the return of the animals that have been grazing on the lush alpine pastures in summer is accompanied by much colourful hustle and bustle – a much deeper significance lies in this farming tradition, practised today as it was in yesteryear, and is a sign of gratitude by the farmers for the healthy return of their cattle. 62


The cheerful sound of bells accompanies the Almabtrieb as a very audible sign of a good summer.

Many hours of work and attention to detail are invested in festively decorating the cattle with ornate headdresses.


he first Saturday in October is dedicated to a long tradition. Decorated with flowers and bells, the cows are herded back down to the valley from their summer grazing pastures and received with great festivities in Mayrhofen. People, animals and nature in a close farming community that has been shaped over centuries. „The festivities surrounding the Almabtrieb are sensational! Up to 17,000 visitors take part in this spectacle, there is music playing all over town, great food and drink on offer and local produce for sale“, says young farmer, Georg Rahm, who is proud to call 25 of the 300 to 400 head of cattle that pass through town his own. He started out as a “Hiaterbua“ (=little shepherd) aged 10, spending his school holidays on the high alpine pastures and farm (Alp) belonging to his grandfather. Höhenluft spoke to him about the true reasons behind this festival and its’ deep significance to the farming community. After an initiative by the Tourist Board in 1998, it has developed into a popular Folks Festival.

Höhenluft: Why are the animals herded up to the higher grazing pastures in springtime? Georg Rahm: Because the grazing area at home is too small, we need the hay it produces for winter, otherwise we would have to buy it in. More-

over, the young fresh grass on the high pastures is healthier, and higher quality milk is the logical consequence. We are four farmers, and share an Alp that has the capacity to feed 84 head of cattle. It is important that the forage area is evenly distributed, which is determined by the units of livestock. Each of us has a „Grasln“ (= grazing area), that is calculated according to the feed consumption of a cow or calf. Previously, the cattle were herded on foot from the valley up to the Alp at 1,600 metres above sea level. These days, we transport them in a lorry to the lower grazing pastures where, unfortunately, the road stops.

The Alp

During the summer months, the Alp (from around 20th May the lower Alp at 1,100 metres above sea level and, from around 20th June, the high Alp at 1,600 metres) is a mountain grazing area

Höhenluft: What is life like on an Alp? Georg Rahm: Pretty lonely, arduous and

just like it was 50 years ago, I couldn’t describe it as idyllic. With no infrastructure, summers spent on the high alpine pastures will probably end soon. A debate has been rumbling on for many years, whereby we feel that an access road to the Alp is absolutely necessary. The environment agency, unfortunately, doesn’t. Still today, we carry the milk by hand in heavy aluminium containers (which used to be made of wood and even more cumbersome) down to the milk line at the cable car station, where it is transported by a goods lift down to the valley. As we have no electricity on the Alp, a diesel engine is used for the milking machines and wood is used for cooking. Every so often, a “dropout” (someone looking to get

above the tree line and an agricultural institution. Only actively managed during the summer months, it is an extension of the main farm down in the valley. After




months in solitude, the farmer and his dairymen return to civilisation and the cattle, well nourished and healthy, back to their barns.




The farmer’s love and concern of his cattle culminate every year in festive Almabtrieb celebrations and a happy end to a summer on the Alp.

away from it all) will “stray” onto the farm and stay to help for the summer.

Höhenluft: The cows are beautifully decorated on their return – how much work is that?

Georg Rahm: The preparations for binding the bushes certainly take a week; the branches have to be collected from the forest and the (artificial) flower arrangements repaired and put together. Up to ten helpers join us at the Alp on the day of the Almabtrieb and help decorate the cows. The “Girls” are styled and decorated, adorned with bells and holy images are placed in their ornate head dresses. Deeply religious, this is how farmers thank St. Leonhard (the patron saint of livestock), the Holy Mother of God and guardian angels for an accident free summer on the Alp. The animals, incidentally, know exactly what is going on and are just as excited as their herdsmen ...


The Folks Festival aspect of the Almabtrieb has only developed over recent years ... Georg Rahm: My grandfather told me that the

farmers used to have to herd their cattle through town under the cover of darkness. They weren’t looked kindly on, not least because of the smattering of cow pats that adorned the streets afterwards. As people became increasingly interested in this tradition and actually turned up to watch, the Tourist Board turned it into an official event at the end of the 90’s, with a proper entertainment programme. Its popularity has grown ever since and people come from far and wide to experience this wonderful tradition and join in celebrating the safe home-coming of the cattle.

Side note: If there has been a death in the farmer’s family, the Alabtrieb is not celebrated. In this case only the lead cow, or matriarch, is adorned with a

Höhenluft: How do you feel about this special day? Georg Rahm: The Almabtrieb is the high point

black bow for the procession,

in our farming calendar, which we celebrate at home with our families, friends and helpers. It is our way of saying “thank you” that our herd has returned to the valley safely. Our worst enemies on the Alp are hail and snow (yes, in summer too), as well as lightening and steep slopes where cows sometimes fall down. For that reason, we are always grateful and relived when everything has gone well.

herded back down to the val-

as the cattle must still be ley. Magnificently decorated animals on their way back down from the mountain are a sign of a good summer, in every sense of the word.


Impressum Publisher & Media Proprietor: Mayrhofen-Hippach Holidy Region, A-6290 Mayrhofen,

We plan while you relax ...


ll you have to do is enjoy your holiday – is the inviting slogan that describes the new Concierge services provided by the Mayrhofen-Hippach Tourist Board. This innovative drive in customer orientated services combined with the new Guest Card show just how committed the Mayhofen-Hippach resort is to maximizing quality standards. Whether tickets, day trips or organising events, with weddings in particular growing in popularity– the free Concierge Services provided by the Mayrhofen-Hippach Tourist Board will take over the entire organisation of your event, thereby offering guests, convention attendees, concert goers and even local people a comprehensive service that goes way beyond the call of duty. Alfred Geisler, a former guest house proprietor (what else would you expect in Zillertal?) and enthusiastic musician heads the dedicated and competent Concierge team. Visit them in the welcoming lobby area at the Europahaus in Mayrhofen.


The Mayrhofen-Hippach-Card

Your personal Concierge – a service provided by the Mayrhofen-Hippach


Board to ensure your total relaxation whilst on holiday. For example, are you planning to get married on holiday? Whatever your religious denomination, the Tourist Board can help you find the perfect venue for your special day. Planning an event, concert or convention? The Concierge Service will provide assistance in finding the ideal location and guarantee to meet all your needs and wishes ...


The introduction of the Mayrhofen-Hippach Card is another new development and offers guests a plethora of traveller friendly extras. „Through cooperation with various businesses, hotels, cable car companies and tour operators, guests have the opportunity, for example, to use the bus on Monday to go on a hike in the Nature Park, go to a concert on Tuesday etc. and load the whole programme onto his or her card“, explains Concierge Alfred Geisler. The advantages are obvious: Both guest and locals can book their desired services and activities onto the Mayrhofen-Hippach Card and then enjoy them at their leisure. Waiting times at cash desks and entrance areas will agreeably diminish and the time needed for organisation purposes and making payments reduced – and that counts for partner businesses too. „Businesses that use the card offer their guests a very personal service“, of that Geisler is convinced and adds: „As a popular and world famous destination it is our duty to recognize the signs of the times and lead the way, rather than lag behind in the latest developments in tourism“. His vision goes another step further: Services and activities can be booked conveniently from home via the Ticket shop and downloaded onto a valid Guest Card – the ultimate goal is to create a very personal admission ticket to the Mayrhofen-Hippach holiday region, without having to adhere to a rigid system. The path to achieving this goal may be a long one, but with these dynamic processes in place, its’ success is guaranteed ... 

Project Management: eco.nova corporate publishing, A-6020 Innsbruck, Hunoldstraße 20, Tel. +43 (0) 512 290088,, Editor: Renate Linser-Sachers, Translation: Kate Seiringer, Int. Language Service Graphics: Sophie Frenzel, Photos:, unless otherwise indicated Print: Radin Berger Print GmbH, A-6176 Völs

Peter Habeler – „Das Ziel ist der Gipfel“ (“The Summit is the Goal”, by Karin Steinbach & Peter Habeler) Extreme climber and great son of Mayrhofen, Peter Habeler, describes his adventures and experiences to Nanga Parbat and route to the Eiger Norht Face in this authentic mountain book. Those wanting to delve even deeper behind the scenes of his Alpine tours (besides his interview in this edition of the Höhenluft) will find this to be perfect holiday reading (in German!) Available from Mayrhofen-Hippach Tourist Board for 24,90 Euros. Enjoy this exciting read!

Event locations in Mayrhofen. With the Europahaus, the FREIRAUM and numerous other locations, Mayrhofen and Hippach offer the perfect venues for your conferences and presentations – and boast all sorts of leisure activities for the perfect supporting programme too.

Mayrhofen-Hippach Tourist Board Dursterstr. 225, A-6290 Mayrhofen Tel.: +43 (0)5285 6760-0, Fax: +43 (0)5285 6760-33 E-Mail: