History of Obergurgl

Obergurgl is a district of the municipality of Sölden in the inner Ötz Valley. It is situated at 1927 m a.s.l., being the highest village with a church in Austria.

The first documented reference of the term “Gurgl” dates back to 1250 and can be traced to “Heberhardus von Gurgele”, a vassal of the lords of “Montalban” from South Tyrol. The name derives from the ancient word of “Gurgall”: the village in the glacier crown.

The traces of first settlements are dating back to 7500 BC. While slash-and-burn cultivation and pastoral farming has been existing in Obergurgl and its high Alpine surroundings since 4500 BC.

Around 1760 Obergurgl was a community inhabited by about 200 people, most of which lived on agriculture and weaving. An article in the „Tiroler Boten“ from 1821 states that almost all farmers of the Ötztal Valley produced linen and loden and traded flax with the “Passeier” Valley in South Tyrol.

However, the demand on these local products decreased in the 19th century, leading to a dramatic emigration and leaving the community of Obergurgl with no more than 39 people in 1910. With the discovery of the Alps as a recreational space the Ötz Valley was put on the map for tourists and mountaineers and the population in the region soon increased.

On 27 May 1931, stratosphere expert Auguste Piccard made an emergency landing in his hot air balloon on Gurgler Ferner glacier after setting a world altitude record of 15,785 meters. He had to spend a night on the glacier field before he was rescued by Obergurgl’s locals. A monument in memory of this landing was erected in 1989, and the Piccardsaal event hall was named after him as well.

Over the 20th century Obergurgl has developed into a prospering tourism center. Already in 1949 the first T-bar skilift was built in Obergurgl, followed by another chair lift at Hohe Mut in 1953. As soon as in 1960, the panoramic Timmelsjoch High Alpine Pass Road was completed and the hotel village of Hochgurgl was founded.

Excerpt from: University of Innsbruck - Alpine Research Centre Obergurgl