Pitztal Valley, Tyrol:
Skiing & Other Things to do in the Pitztal
The Pitztal is a valley in Tyrol that is mostly known for its ski resorts and winter sport facilities. The Pitztal stretches between Imst and Roppen towards the Inntal Valley - the latter being the main valley in Tyrol. It is named after the river at its centre, the Pitze. On one side of the Pitztal, you find the communties of Arzl, Wald, Wenns and Jerzens. In this area, the otherwise steep mountains that embrace the Pitztal fade out and become smoother.
Up to the recent ice age (which wasn′t all that recent, really), parts of the Pitztal were actually part of the Innntal, the river Inn′s course ran from Mount Prutz via today′s Piller Höhe, another mountain. Now isn′t that quite something? Most of today′s visitors of the Pitztal, however, don′t give a damn about the geology or geography of the Pitztal and concentrate on the scenery purely for the purpose of enjoying the skiing facilities.
There are three skiing areas of significant fame in the Pitztal: The "Pitztaler Gletscher", the "Skigebiet Hochzeiger" and the "Skigebiet Rifflsee". The Pitztaler Gletscher is a glacial skiing area and at an altitude of 3,440 metres the highest of its kind in Austria (for further information on glacial skiing, read my article on summer skiing in Austria). The hotels of the Pitztal offer a total of some 8,000 beds, approximately 1.2 million overnight arrangements are sold every year. Recent years saw a steady growth for the region, supported by improved connections to the main part of the Inntal. In addition to skiing, some communities also serve a significant amount of tourists during the summer season - most notably Arzl and Wenns. Other villages with significant tourism are Jerzens and St. Leonhard. The growth in the skiing industry has led to some serious environmental issues.
Skiing in the Pitztal & the Valley beyond Winter Sports
The skiing facilities are best-developed in the "Hinteres Pitztal" ("Rear Pitztal"), more specifically around Arzl and Wenns, the two communities mentioned above. However, even here the tourism infrastructure developed relatively late. The legendary Tyrolean governor Eduard Wallnöfer chaired the construction of the Pitztaler Gletscherbahnen, the cable car to the glacier. The construction of the cable car served as an "ice breaker" for tourism and the previously rather bleak economic situation of the Pitztal improved rapidly.
If you think that the economy of the Pitztal relies entirely on the skiing industry (as it does in many areas of Tyrol), you are wrong: In fact, most residents of the Pitztal are commuters that work in the heavily industrialised and booming Inntal - more specifically, in the area between Imst and Innsbruck. A characteristic feature of the Pitztal are the low amount of rainfall - it ranks among the driest of Tyrol′s valleys. This makes the Pitztal attractive for hiking holidays during the summer season. For people with an interest in nature, the nature reserve "Naturpark Kaunertal" might be an attractive area for hiking.
Note that in general, the Pitztal tries to pimp its facilities in a similar manner to most valleys in Tyrol: "We do everything", meaning that they pretend to be specialists for families with children, a young party crowd and senior skiers that look for authentic Tyrolean life. In fact, the Pitztal does a bit of everything but is not really specialised on anything. That being said, don′t expect the Pitztal to be bad - in fact, it might well offer better value for money than most other regions in Tyrol.
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