Every winter sports fanatic has surely been to Sölden at least once. Sölden – one of the winter resorts strongly dominated by the flow of tourism. After Vienna and Salzburg, Sölden in the Oetz Valley is the third strongest tourist destination in Austria with more than 2 million overnight stays per year, 15,000 beds to fill and also very popular with SnowTrex customers. The resort offers 148.3 kilometres of piste, 39 lifts, cross-country trails, swimming pools, fun parks, ski huts, indoor tennis, flood-lit toboggan runs and ice rinks – everything that a winter sport fan’s heart desires.
But how did this snow paradise actually come to be?
To find out this, we will have to look some 100 years into the past. It all began in the 19th century. Vicar Franz Senn realised in 1860 that the Alpine regions could be used more efficiently to help the local economy and founded the Austrian Alpine Union. This was the first step taken and there were more to follow, such as erecting the first refuge hut.
Around 1900 was the first mention skiing and winter tourism. New streets were built through Oetz Valley to Sölden and the landlords of the area started giving out their first mutual brochure called “Das Ötztal”. In 1914 there already were 12 guest houses for tourists. The end of the First World War brings along huge economical problems. However the locals do their best to work against these barriers and so in 1922 the Skiclub Sölden is founded and the winter tourism moves forward, also due to the development of the ski area Hochsölden. In 1928 the first actual hotel is opened and by 1930 the area already boasts 88,000 overnight stays. 90% of these however are summer tourists.
After the area was included in the German “Reich” in 1938, within 10 years the first single-seater chairlift was built leading from Sölden to Hochsölden which led to a strong increase in the flow of tourism.
In 1953 the Sölden district boasts 45 guest houses and by 1957 300,000 overnight stays can be counted. Within the next 10 years the Gaislachkogl lift was built up the Gaislachkogel and still is known as the highest lift system in Austria. Further progress in the winter tourism sector was made the opening of the Timmelsjoch high alpine road, the merging of the ski areas Hochsölden and Gaislachkogl and the introduction of the glacier ski area Rettenbachferner.
The entire Oetz Valley counted 1.5 million overnight stays in 1985 of which 63% already belonged to winter holiday tourists. Since 2007 there is hardly even any private household which doesn’t offer at least a bed and a bite to eat for winter tourists. Therefore nearly all locals work in the tourism industry and the income is good.