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Landscape around the Arlberg with pass road in winter

Landscape around the Arlberg with pass road in winter

Compass direction west east
Pass height 1793  m above sea level A.
state Vorarlberg , Austria Tyrol , Austria
Watershed Alfenz , Rhine Rosanna , Inn ( Danube )
Valley locations Kloesterle St. Anton am Arlberg
expansion Road B197
Built 1824
Winter closure if there is a risk of avalanches
Mountains Lechtal Alps , Verwall
Ø pitch 6.6% (731 m / 11 km) 7.1% (500 m / 7 km)
Max. Incline 10% (on km 7) 10% (on km 4)
Arlberg (Austria)
Coordinates 47 ° 7 '48 "  N , 10 ° 12' 40"  E Coordinates: 47 ° 7 '48 "  N , 10 ° 12' 40"  E

The Arlberg is a traffic-wise important, 1793  m above sea level. A. high pass between the Austrian federal states of Vorarlberg and Tyrol . The top of the pass is entirely in Tyrolean territory. With tourism on the Arlberg, the term has also established itself as a brand for the tourist region (especially as a winter sports area ).


Arlen (mountain pines, Pinus mugo ) in the area of ​​the Arlberg Pass

The name Arl (berg) (Arle, Arlen, Mons Arula, Arlenperge) can be traced back to the year 1218 in various spellings and is derived - according to a theory - from the very numerous Arlen bushes here, the so-called mountain pines ( Zunterna). Factual and formal aspects indicate a different naming in an older language.

In 1218, a forest is mentioned in a document, which extends to the Arl. In 1485 the name “perg Arls” for the Arlberg is documented.

Up until the end of the 18th century, mountains were only climbed in exceptional cases and were primarily an obstacle on the way to the other side that people preferred to avoid. "Going over the mountain or the mountains" always referred to the most efficient passage, the pass. In the Walser language , mountain still means a pass crossing and the area on both sides.

In the 14th century, the Counts of Montfort gave still uninhabited areas ( Tannberg , Kleinwalsertal and Großwalsertal ) in inheritance to the Walser known as good cattle breeders, herdsmen , mercenaries and mule traders . From 1450 the Arlberg could only be lined. The strong unity between the area (on the Arlberg) and the pass crossing was strongly pronounced until the late 18th century, because here mudslides , landslides and avalanches repeatedly forced new paths, so that the name could be applied to a variety of routes in this area . In the economic Away from the language change was to Arl right not take place.

The semantic duplication, as here with “Berg-Pass”, occurs at all language borders and is an expression of the peaceful coexistence of language groups. With the decline of the Walser language in the 19th century, most of its field names were adopted. The doubling has remained. The name was no longer transferred to Arlpass, "Bergpass" had been used for too long for that. The demarcation between Arlberg and Arlbergpass is still not clear today, which means that the name is added further (with: -strasse, -bahn, -tunnel, -gebiet). Arlbergpass usually describes the top of the pass .

The "Arl" also gave its name to " Arlen Castle ", which was destroyed in the Appenzell Wars in 1406 .

The name of the federal state of Vorarlberg is derived from the name Arlberg , which - from the perspective of the Holy Roman Empire as well as the Swiss Confederation and the Habsburg castle - lies in front of the Arlberg.



The Arlbergpass connects the Klostertal through which the Alfenz flows in the west with the Stanzer Valley through which the Rosanna flows in the east and separates the Lechquellen Mountains and Lechtal Alps in the north from the Verwall in the south. The Flexenpass is in turn the border between the Lechquellen Mountains in the west and the Lechtal Alps in the east. The Arlberg as a mountain range occupies the west of the Lechtal Alps.

The Valluga , the highest mountain on the Arlberg and, together with the Trittkopf, the south-western end of the Lechtal Alps, dominates the top of the pass. This is also where the borders of the four Arlberg communities meet. On the Vorarlberg side Lech and Klösterle / Stuben and on the Tyrolean side Kaisers and St. Anton .

The European watershed in the Alps between the Rhine and the Danube runs in the south from the Albonagrat to the top of the pass over the Valluga and Trittkopf to the Flexenpass and from Flexenspitz follows the southern end of the Lechquellengebirge, the Klostertal, to the west.


Lake Constance Allgäu Rhine Valley Inn Valley South-Tirol
( Bregenz , Dornbirn ) ( Kempten , Pfronten , Füssen ) ( Sargans , Buchs SG , Rüthi , Feldkirch ) ( Innsbruck ) ( Bozen , Meran ) Reschenpass
Bregenz Forest B200 Lechtal B198 Klostertal Stanzer Tal
Hochtannberg Pass
Weißenbach am Lech
Forest on the Arlberg
Langen am Arlberg B197
Stuben am Arlberg
Landeck (punch)
Pettneu am Arlberg
St. Jakob am Arlberg
St. Anton am Arlberg
St. Christoph am Arlberg
Lech ( Tannberg )
Zürs am Arlberg
Alpe Rauz
Arlberg pass summit


Geologically, the Arlberg lies in a fault zone, the Grauwackenzone, between the paleozoic and older crystalline rocks (crystalline, granite, gneiss, crystalline slate) of the eastern central Alps (Verwall subgroup) in the south, as well as the pushed limestone covers (chalk and Jura limestone (Malm, Dogger) , Lias)) of the Northern Limestone Alps in the north. In the north, the glacial trough valley is characterized by karst phenomena on the south-facing slopes , while in the south towards the Albonagrat lakes can hold in many small depressions (Maroiseen, Oberlangboden).

Climate, weather

In the Arlberg region are due to the traffic jam situation particularly frequent rainfall and heavy rain. After the Bregenzerwald , it is one of the wettest areas in Austria. The average annual precipitation for the years 1971–2000 is 1,653.6 mm in Langen and 1,275.2 mm in St. Anton.

Traffic routes and settlements are threatened by avalanches in winter and by mudslides and landslides in summer . Natural events are difficult to control through structural measures. The area was affected in the avalanche winters of 1999 and 2003. During the Alpine floods in 2005 , there were floods and mudslides; the Arlbergbahn was closed for reconstruction from August to December.


Not exactly favored by the geological and hydrological conditions, the development of traffic was strongly exposed to the political and economic developments and power relations in the Alps and in the Alpine foothills.

Prehistory and early history

Since the ore (Montafon) and salt (Salzkammergut) deposits were already known in the Bronze Age ( Hallstatt Age ), it can be assumed that the pass was already of supraregional importance in the east-west traffic crossing the Alps at that time and not only for the Alpine pasturing was used. Petrographic studies of pottery shards have shown that there were lively trade relations between the wetland settlements of the Lake Constance area and the northern Italian settlements. The most obvious connection between the Adriatic Sea and Lake Constance leads along the Etsch via Bozen and Merano to the Reschen Pass and from there via Landeck over the Arlberg to the Alpine Rhine. The Alpine Rhine was still navigable up to the 17th century to Hohenems (Flexenpass) and Hochtannberg to the lake. The Alpine Rhine was difficult to pass until modern times.

Old Celtic Street

Bregenz, the strongest Celtic oppidum in the eastern Lake Constance area with significant trade (sea / land), also maintained regular exchanges with Etruscan northern Italy . The Arlberg was thus part of an old street .

Roman times

In Roman times the pass was of little importance. At the time of the greatest expansion of the empire, the major military roads ran further north. The Roman military road from Brigantinum (Bregenz) to Juvavum ( Salzburg ) crossed the Via Claudia Augusta (to Augsburg ) near Cambodunum ( Kempten ). The Romans could not hold out long on the Rhine and Lake Constance and traffic shifted further south ( Vinschgau - Ofenpass - Engadin - Julier ).

middle Ages

Just as little is known about the use of the Arlberg in Roman times, so little is known about its use in the Middle Ages . The first mines were probably built in the Montafon as early as Carolingian times ; perhaps there was also a certain amount of traffic over the Arlberg associated with them. After centuries of rather modest importance of the Arlberg, however, there was a change in the high Middle Ages: within a few years, in the 13th century, the former local pass developed into a nationally and even internationally important pass. Numerous old documents speak for traffic over the Arlberg. From the year 1218 a regulation of the mule traffic on the Arlberg must be proven. As early as 1312, a toll was levied at the start of the Arlbergweg in Landeck / Perfuchs , which was used to maintain and expand the path.

Drove away

A passable path is mentioned as early as the 14th century. In addition to the cattle trade, the pass was mainly used for the trade in salt from the Salzkammergut for the Central Plateau (Switzerland) and the Lake Constance region. The most important export item from Thurgau ( history of the canton of Thurgau , diocese of Constance ) was linen , shipped from Constance to Bregenz, from there it went to Italy ( Trieste , Venice , Milan , Florence ) via the Arlberg and other passes . The Arlberg is over 250 m lower than other passes on the way south and has a significantly shorter winter closure than other passes.

In 1363 Tyrol came to Habsburg . Habsburgs and Montforters still shared what is today Vorarlberg. The Counts of Montfort-Feldkirch favored access from Feldkirch to the Arlberg via Bludenz and were thus able to outperform Bregenz economically. There was increased traffic on the route, with the transport of all kinds of merchandise, especially salt and military goods, including the movement of troops. The villages on both sides of the Arlberg blossomed and new settlements emerged.

Despite a twenty-year peace between the Confederates and the House of Habsburg, which was concluded in 1394, Vorarlberg was drawn into the Appenzell Wars from 1406 to 1408. After that, the Arlberg gradually lost its economic importance. The formerly coveted Konstanz linen also lost demand and was replaced by cotton.

Fall of John XXIII on the drive over the Arlberg to the Council of Constance (Richental Chronicle)

From 1414 to 1418 the Council of Constance offered the Arlberg its first major international test. Numerous guests, especially from the east and south-east of the empire and Europe, traveled via the Arlberg to the council in Constance. When in October 1414 one of the then three popes, Pope John XXIII. , via which Arlberg traveled to the council, it and its car fell into the deep snow on the top of the pass. The Pope immediately blamed the devil for it. In Constance the council deposed him and declared him antipope . John XXIII escaped. After the council, the Arlberg lost some of its importance. Soon there was no longer any talk of the Arlberg-Strasse being passable, and parts of it had to be lined again.

In 1450, already heavily neglected in terms of maintenance, the city of Lindau bought the alpine areas on the Arlberg (called Alpe Stern), including other alpine rights, from the Stanzer valley community, thus gaining control of the Arlberg traffic. Subsequently, Lindau promoted the salt transport from Hallstatt over the Fernpass and the Tannheimer Tal over the Oberjochpass to Immenstadt and on to Simmerberg, thus seriously damaging the salt transport traffic over the Arlberg.

In the course of the 15th century, the road over the Arlberg fell into such disrepair that it was no longer passable by car. Because of its poor condition, the Arlberg was avoided for centuries from around 1450 and long detours over the Fernpass were accepted.

Mule track

Map of the expansion project for the Landeck - Bludenz road over the Arlberg (detail), 1733, Stuben - Klösterle road section

From 1450 to the end of the 18th century, the pass was only used locally as a mule track .

When the plan of an "Arlbergstrasse" appeared for the first time in 1593, the implementation of this plan would have diverted trade from Innsbruck via Füssen , Kempten (Allgäu) and Lindau to Switzerland. A protest by the Lindau residents resulted in an imperial ban on the planned road construction, and this reinforced the importance of the Milanese messenger .

In 1704/05 the Upper Swabian estates received extensive imperial assurance regarding the Arlbergstrasse building plan: Emperor Leopold gave a written promise that "no new paths at all" should be established from Tyrol to the lands before the Arlberg .
Admittedly, this imperial decree was primarily based on strategic considerations - namely, it was intended to make a military invasion more difficult. In addition, the emperor is likely to have guided the efforts to keep the Upper Swabian cities in good spirits.

In 1733, Lindau and the estates that were interested in it had reason to invoke the imperial ordinance just communicated. From Emperor Charles VI. the Vorarlberger Landkassier Fritsch had been given permission to build Arlbergstrasse - after protests by the Upper Swabian estates, the emperor withdrew the permission again.

In 1750, Lindau successfully fought against the construction of Arlbergstrasse for the fourth time.

Pass road

Now the connection between Tyrol and the areas in front of the Arlberg could not be stopped: Between 1782 and 1784 the road was built by Bozen traders, and in 1787 the "Josephinische Straße" was opened over the Arlberg.

With the development of the Vorarlberg and Eastern Switzerland textile industry and the postal traffic, the carriage traffic increased strongly and forced a steady expansion.

This led to a paved “art road” until 1824, which resulted in the “bypass” of St. Anton (St. Jakob and Nasserein).

Historical view from 1889 of St. Christoph shortly before the top of the pass, in the background the Valluga

Around 1860, Arlberg traffic quickly decreased again, as railways had already been built in the foothills of the Alps and the salt was now being transported again via Bavaria.

At the beginning of the 20th century the steady economic rise came through tourism. After the Second World War, private motorized traffic also increased significantly. Initially an economic boon for the towns on the pass road, they began to suffer from through traffic. In the mid-1950s, the idea of ​​the Arlberg road tunnel in connection with the Arlberg expressway matured.

Arlbergstrasse B197

With the Federal Roads Act of 1971 , the pass road became the federal road B 197 (since 2002 state road B 197 ) St. Anton am Arlberg - Langen am Arlberg . The Arlbergstrasse is only temporarily closed in winter when there is a risk of avalanches and is subject to a driving ban for towing vehicles with trailers ( Denzel-Alpenstrasse scale SG 2).

The state of Vorarlberg had Arlbergstrasse moved in 2014. The stretch of road from the last bend to the junction to Lech and Zürs on the Alpe Rauz has therefore been abandoned. The alternative route required as a result of the abandoned stretch of road now leads from the last bend in five new bends towards the northeast to the Flexengalerie and roughly follows the course of a road from before 1942. The new route was necessary because the old road layout was in a geologically sensitive area lay.


In 1969, work began on the Arlberg expressway S16. On December 1, 1978, its centerpiece, the 13.97 km long Arlberg road tunnel , was opened to traffic. The last gap was closed in 2006 with the Strict Tunnel . The construction of the expressway and the road tunnel created a largely winter-safe connection between Tyrol and Vorarlberg for individual traffic. At intervals of several years, however, even this connection has to be closed for a few hours or days in the event of freak weather due to avalanches and landslides. The journey through the Arlberg road tunnel is subject to a toll .


Construction of the Arlberg tunnel

At the end of the 19th century, the Arlbergbahn enabled an efficient connection between Vorarlberg and the Danube monarchy . The Arlberg tunnel forms with a length of 10,648 meters between St. Anton am Arlberg and Langen the central part of the Arlberg railway. This traffic connection is also not entirely weatherproof.


Tourism is the main source of income for the villages on the Arlberg and their residents.

Winter sports

Today “Arlberg” is a brand for the winter sports areas that are grouped around the Arlberg Pass, including Ski Arlberg , but also the Sonnenkopf and, last but not least, the Lech Valley .

Ski Arlberg is known for its long winter sports tradition. The Arlberg Ski Club was founded as early as 1901 and held its first club race two years later. The first general Arlberg race took place in 1904, and the first of the famous Arlberg Kandahar races in 1928 . In 1921, under the direction of Hannes Schneider , the Arlberg ski school was the first ski school in the region. In 1937 the first lifts were built in St. Anton and Zürs. It was the first ski lift built by Konrad Doppelmayr and Sepp Bildstein . With the 2001 World Ski Championships in St. Anton, alpine skiing (racing) came to the Arlberg and thus returned to its roots.

Today, the connected ski areas on three mountains around Lech and Zürs (Ski Arlberg West), the Gampen, Kapall, Galzig and Valluga above St. Anton and St. Christoph, in turn with the Albona area in Stuben on the other side of the Arlbergpassstrasse as well as the Rendl area south of St. Anton (both Ski Arlberg West) and the Snowworld Warth-Schröcken around the villages of Warth and Schröcken northwest of Tannberg, a ski resort with 88 lifts, 350 km of prepared slopes and 200 km of deep snow runs . Ski Arlberg West makes Ski Arlberg one of the most famous freeride centers in Austria and the entire Alps . Due to the many winter sports enthusiasts , tourism on the Arlberg has become extremely important. From November 1, 2001 to October 31, 2002, over one million overnight stays were recorded for the first time.

The Galzigbahn was first built in 1937. After a renovation in 1964, it had a capacity of 700 people per hour. In 2006 the Galzigbahn was completely rebuilt and can now transport up to 2,200 people per hour.

Mountain summer

Until the 1980s, almost all hotels were closed in the summer. Since then, summer tourism in the region has increased significantly.


  • Arlberg . In: Herders Conversations-Lexikon. Freiburg im Breisgau 1854, Volume 1, pp. 254-255. ( online )
  • Thomas Ebster, Johannes Sassmann: Arlberg. Graz: Vehling 2011. ISBN 978-3-85333-188-0
  • Elisabeth Längle, Martin Böhm (ed.): The Arlberg: Natural and cultural landscape. Vienna: Brandstätter 2011. ISBN 978-3-85033-504-1

Web links

Commons : Arlberg  - collection of images, videos and audio files
Wikivoyage: Arlberg area  - travel guide
Wiktionary: Arlberg  - explanations of meanings, word origins, synonyms, translations

Individual evidence

  1. ^ ÖK50 In: , Federal Office for Metrology and Surveying Austria, Austrian map.
  2. ^ About the Arlberg and the name.
  3. ^ Hannes Obermair : Bozen Süd - Bolzano Nord. Written form and documentary tradition of the city of Bozen up to 1500 . tape 2 . City of Bozen, Bozen 2008, ISBN 978-88-901870-1-8 , p. 185-186, No. 1218 .
  4. Central Institute for Meteorology and Geodynamics: Climate data from Austria 1971–2000
  5. a b Steffan Bruns: Alpine passes. The passes on both sides of the Brenner route . 1, L. Staackmann Verlag Munich, 2010, ISBN 978-3-88675-256-0 .
  6. ^ The post office in Westallgäu. In: 2012, accessed October 21, 2018 .
  7. Sabrina Stauber: Arlberg now with a new entrance . In: Vorarlberger Nachrichten . Russmedia, October 21, 2015 ( online [accessed October 21, 2018]).
  8. Johannes M. Vilanek : The Arlberg Road Tunnel and the access ramps: construction documentation. Innsbruck: Arlberg-Staßentunnel-AG 1981.
  9. History of skiing in St. Anton (pdf; 87 kB) ( Memento from March 5, 2016 in the Internet Archive )