If you are new to “mountain huts” (particularly in Austria), then think “mountain inn situated above the valley” and not “garden shed”! Most are substantial buildings, not least to withstand the rigours of winter, and might sleep from 20 to 200 people.
The huts are open for a summer season, and often for a winter one as well. At these times they are staffed – it could be a team up to 15.
In Austria, each Alpenverein hut is owned by a section of the OeAV or DAV, to whom your overnight fee is forwarded. The owning section is responsible for structural maintenance.
Hut guardians or Hüttenwirte and/or Hüttenwirtinnen are tenants of the owning section, and staff the hut. They get the income from the food and drink as supplied to day and overnight visitors, but some of this income then goes to the owning section.
Information regarding Specific Mountain Huts
Detailed information for many of the huts throughout the (European) alps is available from the websites listed under ‘Alpine Hut Directories’ on our Alpine Links page.
The 9 th edition of the Hut Book of the Eastern Alps, which is available to members from the AAC (UK) Office, lists over 1000 huts belonging to the alpine associations and private owners. For huts belonging to the alpine associations it gives the name and address of the Sektions to which they belong; it also includes photos of the huts, peaks to climb, walking time from the valley, walking time between huts, nearest bus stops and railway stations, lists of relevant maps, number of bed spaces, as well as the hut and guardian’s address and telephone number. Although the book is in German, it is quite easy to understand even if you do not speak German, and the copies bought from AAC (UK) come with an English Glossary.
Categories of Huts
DAV and OeAV huts have three categories :
Simple huts for walkers and climbers; basic facilities and food; not manned all year; could be bivouac; more than an hours’ walking time from land-based mechanical transport.
Alpenverein hut in popular area; may be open all year; can be provisioned from road.
Accessible by road transport; mostly used by day visitors; few overnight guests.
AVS have the following categories :
- Untere Kategorie [low category]
- Mittlere Kategorie [middle category]
- Obere Kategorie [high category]
Hut Regulations and Hut Charges
New AV Hut regulations and rules concerning overnight tariffs were published in 2013. A copy of these in English are available as a PDF document Hut and Tariff regulations (HüOTO) 2013 – English
It is now becoming more common to book ahead for OeAV/DAV huts. This is particularly relevant for groups, or popular huts at weekends, or where there is a nearby ‘honeypot’ mountain and the weather forecast is good. Or if you expect to arrive late in the day.
OeAV/DAV huts can usually be booked by phone or email. For groups, it may be sensible to book well ahead (see below regarding booking forms), and a deposit may be requested – this may need to be paid in Euros by bank transfer – you will need the BIC and IBAN for the hut’s bank account in this case.
Advance booking is causing problems in itself, and is the subject of discussion within the OeAV. Yes, if the weather is dire, you might not be able to keep to your plan. But the issue now is with parties that (in whole or in part) simply choose not to proceed, in reasonable weather, and maybe don’t even inform the hut (or have no mobile signal hence cannot do so). This leaves unfilled places in the hut; hence denying others who might well have visited instead; the hut and section lose the income for accommodation, and the Huttenwirt loses the income for food/drink. Not good. So having booked, you really ought to make every effort to reach or contact the hut, or to offer the Wirt some financial recompense.
Normal and accepted practice is that on arrival you should sign the hut book ( a large visitors book, in which everyone should record where they have come from, and even more important where they are going to – in more extreme locations and weather the hut wardens check with one another that people have arrived at their intended destination, so if you change your plans you should if at all possible telephone the huts to say your plans have changed to prevent a search party being mounted unnecessarily ) and make your accommodation needs known to the hut guardian. They may not allocate sleeping spaces until say 17.00. Members should receive priority before 19.00; however it is as well to plan your itinerary so as to arrive at the hut by the mid to late afternoon.
Even if you think you have booked a bed, rather than a Matratzenlager space, you may not get one. The hut guardian will make the final decision on the day. But they will put members up somewhere, even if it is only on the floor , if the hut is more than 1.5 hours walking time from a road.
Bilingual Hut Booking Forms: these are primarily intended for a group booking for several days in one hut.
They are available in either Microsoft Word document format [ English/German ] [ English/Italian ] or in PDF format: [ English/German ] [ English/Italian ] . If you do not have a PDF Reader installed on your computer you may download either Adobe Acrobat or Foxit Reader, both available free of charge.
Please note that very few huts accept credit or debit cards.
For Overnight Tariffs in OeAV and DAV huts see Rule 3 in Hut and Tariff regulations (HüOTO) 2013 – English downloadable as a PDF
Bed accommodation is in rooms with usually between two to six or eight beds
Matratzenlager are sleeping platforms with designated bed spaces in mixed dormitories. When the hut is very full the guardian will often put a few more people in – so you need to be tolerant of your neighbour of either sex and any age!
Notlager are emergency spaces used when the hut is very full. They can be on the floors of dormitories, in a passage way or even on the floors and tables of the Stube.
Don’t let all this put you off, gross overcrowding does not happen often.
Mattresses, blankets (or duvets) and pillows are provided in all grades of accommodation but each member MUST carry and use a sheet sleeping bag with pillow pocket. In some huts you will find that the blankets have the word Fußende (= foot end) embroidered at one end; it is usually a good idea to keep this end as far away from your nose as possible!
Mountain boots are generally not worn inside huts and are removed on arrival. If you are lucky you might find that some light hut shoes of doubful cleanliness are available for your use, but many hut users prefer to carry their own light weight hut slippers. The alternative is stockinged feet.
Reciprocal Rights in other European Huts
Reciprocal rights (qv) (Gegenrecht) exist between the OeAV and the alpine associations of France, Germany, Italy, Switzerland, Spain, Liechtenstein and Slovenia, whereby OeAV members can obtain similar discounts on accommodation to members of the host country club. Prices in the ‘old’ EU countries are broadly similar to those in Austria. On the French side of the Pyrenees most huts are owned by the Club Alpine Française; those owned by other organisations do not give reductions to alpine club members. In the Spanish Pyrenees members receive reductions in Federacion Espanola de Montanismo huts. Conditions are continually improving in the Spanish huts.
Food and Drink
See Rule 4 in Hut and Tariff regulations (HüOTO) 2013 – English downloadable as a PDF
Since the advent of solar cells, electronic converters and low energy lamps, gas and oil lighting is becoming a thing of the past. However although some huts are connected to the mains electricity supply and some generate their own (limited) supply you cannot depend on supplies for things like electric shavers. Huts often switch off their lighting supply at night so you need a torch to find your way around at night.
Some of the lower huts are connected to the mains water supply and have plentiful supplies of hot and cold water. However this is the exception rather than the rule and often you have to be content with a wash in really cold water.
Some huts, particularly the higher ones or those in limestone areas have very limited supplies of water. Sometimes the washrooms are only open first thing in the morning and last thing in the evening. You should make every effort to conserve water and limit the use of soap for environmental reasons. Sinks sometimes lack plugs – carrying your own (universal or 1.75 inch) may be worthwhile.
However, some huts have hut showers; it is customary to charge EUR 2.00 to EUR 3.00 for these.
Please do not leave rubbish in the huts or on the mountainside. If you carried it up, you can take it down again.
Of the 195 sections that make up the OeAV, there are a few very large sections, but most sections only have a few hundred members and are centred on a village or a small town. Nearly all the sections have Arbeitsgebiete, or ‘working areas’, where they are responsible for the maintenance and waymarking of the paths. Many of the sections also own and maintain huts, a costly business.
Sektion Britannia/AAC(UK) plays its part through its Hut Fund which is maintained by voluntary contributions from members in order to make donations to Austrian sections to help with the work of maintaining the Hut network.
[Updated 26 July 2014]