Obergurgl is a hamlet belonging to the village of Sölden in the upper Ötztal Valley. Located at 1927 meters above sea level, it is Austria's highest parish village.
The name "Gurgl" was first mentioned in historical documents in 1250, referring to a retainer of the Earls of Montalban from Italy's Vinschgau region: "Heberhardus von Gurgele" deriving from the old word "Gurgall" = "village in the glacier-crowned area".
First settlements and land clearance are dating back to 7,500 BC. Pastoral farming started around 4,500 BC in the region surrounding Obergurgl.
Around 1760 Gurgl had approximately 200 inhabitants, most of them were farmers and cattle breeders. Other economic activities and trades like weaving linen or knitting loden helped to survive. According to reports in the "Tiroler Bote" (1821) folder Ötztal's farmers worked as linen weavers and loden knitters during the winter months. Flax was cultivated in the valley and also exported across Timmelsjoch pass to Passeiertal valley.
In the course of the 19th century, changing consumer behavior has caused an impoverishment of the valley's population as their handmade products were no longer in demand, provoking also a heavy decrease in population. In 1910 only 39 people lived in Obergurgl. Fortunately the emigration was stopped by the beginning of alpinism in the valley.
On 27 May 1931, Auguste Piccard made an emergency landing in his hot-air balloon on Gurgler Ferner glacier – after establishing a new high-altitude record. The professor had to spend a night in Obergurgl before the balloon was rescued. A monument erected in 1989 still reminds of this historical event. Also the Piccardsaal event center was named after the stratosphere pilot.
The 20th century brought flourishing tourism to Obergurgl which developed into a renowned winter sports resort. As soon as in 1949 the first T-bar ski lift was built in Obergurgl, another chair lift up to Hohe Mut peak was added in 1953. The Timmelsjoch high Alpine pass road was completed in 1960, and the hotel village of Hochgurgl was built at the same time.
Source and information: Obergurgl Alpine Research Center, Innsbruck University