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 ÖAV 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 hut owning section as rent.
Information regarding Specific Mountain Huts
Allan Hartley, our President, has written Reports on selected huts for our newsletter and details may be found by clicking on this link.
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 link to Austrian Alpine Huts (www.alpenverein.at/huetten/finder.php) takes you to the ‘Alpenvereinshüttenfinder’ that covers over a 1000 huts in the Eastern Alps, belonging to Alpine Associations and private owners. Above the map filling most of the page are four search boxes. Two of the boxes have drop down lists: for a wider overview select from ‘Region’ and for a single mountain range select from ‘Gebirgsgruppe’. The location of all the mountain huts in the selected area will be shown on the map, and listed, with a link to the individual hut page, on the left hand side.
On the web pages for the individual huts essential information is given under 4 headings:
Kontakt: name and contact details for the hut, for the owner (eg the hut owning section), and for the Hüttenwirt/Pachter/tenant; dates when the hut should be open.
Ausstatung: number of sleeping places (beds and Matratzenlager spaces); whether there is a winter room or not.
Anreise: public transport links, lifts from the valley, parking places, maps and map co-ordinates
Zustiege: starting points, heights and walking time from the valley to the hut.
Nachbarhütten: heights of, and walking times to the next huts;
Touren: heights of, and walking times to nearby peaks etc
The ‘Alpenvereinshüttenfinder’ replaces the ‘Hut Book of the Eastern Alps’. The 9th, and last, edition was published in 2005, and is now out of print. If you like to have your information in book form, and can find a copy, it is still a useful source of information about the huts provided you remember that some of the information will be out of date. Another route to the hut information on the ÖAV website for details of huts you plan to visit is via: http://www.alpenverein.at/portal/berg-aktiv/huetten/index.php
Categories of Huts
Deutscher Alpenverein (DAV) and Österreichischer Alpenverein (ÖAV) huts have three categories :
Simple huts for walkers and climbers; basic facilities and food; not manned all year; could be a 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.
Found in the lower mountains and often accessible by road transport. The hut rules and regulations (see below) do not apply except that members and those with reciprocal rights are entitled to a reduced bed night tariff, see Rule 3. Hut and Tariff regulations (HüOTO) 2013 – English
Alpenverein Südtirol (AVS) has the following categories :
- Untere Kategorie [low category] equivalent to Category II
- Mittlere Kategorie [middle category] equivalent to Category I
- Obere Kategorie [high category] equivalent to Category I
Hut Regulations and Hut Charges
New ÖAV and DAV Hut regulations combined with the 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
NB private huts in Austria are not governed by the Alpenverein rules!
The Hut Book
Each hut should have a ‘Hut Book’. This is a large visitors’ book, in which everyone should record where they have come from and even more important, where they are going to. If appropriate give your mobile telephone number. 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.
In some traditional huts it may still be that, after signing in the hut book on arrival and making your accommodation needs known to the hut guardian, you have to wait until say 17.00h for the allocation of sleeping spaces. With increased use of modern technology for advance booking of sleeping spaces, sleeping spaces are often allocated as soon as you arrive.
Booking Overnight Places in Huts
It is now becoming more common to book ahead for ÖAV/DAV huts. This is particularly relevant for popular huts in high season and 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.
ÖAV/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.
The downside to advance booking is that some people, and even groups, book places and then do not turn up and don’t bother to cancel. To compensate for this some huts are overbooking, so you could arrive and be told there is no room, even if you think you are booked in!
Members are strongly advised to book overnight places in advance (see below for bilingual hut booking forms), but you may need to chase the booking. Once you have a booking, you are strongly advised to print out a hard copy of the confirmation e-mail and take it with you, to present to the Hüttenwirt when you arrive. In addition, because of the overbooking problem, it is good practice to ring the hut a few days before your arrival date to confirm you are still intending to come. Should phoning on tour prove problematic, if you offer to pay for the call, the Hüttenwirt (or in the valley the tourist office) will often ring the next hut and confirm a booking for you. Conversely, if you realise you can’t get to a hut you have booked, or your party has got smaller, you must do your best to cancel. Otherwise other people may be turned away from a hut unnecessarily; the hut and section lose the income for accommodation, and the Huttenwirt loses the income for food/drink some of which may have been laid on specially for your visit. Not good.
An online booking system, adapted from the one already being used by most Swiss Alpine Club (SAC) huts, will soon be introduced, initially just for some ÖAV and DAV huts, maybe as early as the 2015 winter season, so check the ÖAV hut web pages. When introduced, the booking system will allow you to check on the availability of overnight places in the huts and to plan your tour accordingly. It is hoped that by Summer 2016, it will be possible to pay deposits, for the huts that are able to join the online system, by credit or debit card. The Hüttenwirten (tenants) are hoping this will solve the problems of overbooking and pre-booked people not turning up, because as they say: ‘People who book and pay a deposit either turn up or cancel in good time!’.
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 should put members up somewhere, even if it is only on the floor (see Notlager), if the hut is more than 1.5 hours walking time from a road, but this is no longer specified in the rules!
Bilingual Hut Booking Forms: these were originally 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 ÖAV 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 beyond the ‘day visitors’ areas and should be removed before going to the sleeping areas. If you are lucky you might find that some light hut shoes of doubtful cleanliness are available for your use, but many hut users prefer to carry their own light weight hut slippers. The alternative is stockinged feet. It is probably not a good idea to leave your own hut shoes on the ‘public’ boot rack when you go outside!
Reciprocal Rights in other European Huts
Reciprocal rights (Gegenrecht) exist between the ÖAV and the alpine associations of France, Germany, Italy, Switzerland, Spain, Liechtenstein and Slovenia, whereby ÖAV 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 hot 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 ÖAV, 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 way marking 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 19 April 2016]