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Refuge in Iceland

A refuge (mountain hut, refuge, in Switzerland and Tyrol also a hospice) is used in undeveloped areas to protect against storms and heavy snowfall. Refuge huts can be managed or unmanaged. Some shelters do not offer overnight accommodation, but many have a winter room for the unmanaged season. More comfortably equipped shelters have the status of an inn (mountain inn, mountain inn, Swiss mountain lodge).

The mountain hotels, which are equipped with an even higher standard, however, in contrast to shelters, require appropriate concessions and development, so they are hotels and not shelters.


Shelter hut above the tree line (on the Kröndlhorn , Kitzbühel Alps)

The first shelters were probably built to protect working and traveling people who are away from inhabited areas from storms. This can be, for example, shepherds , forest workers , miners , haulers or surveyors . Refuge huts for shepherds who are out with their flocks have probably been around since humans kept herds of animals. Typical shelters for this purpose, which are still in operation today, are alpine huts , forest houses , hunting huts , or even mountain rescue stations .

Old Hochjoch hospice , Ötztal Alps, around 1900

Since the time of the Roman Alps crossings ( Roman roads ), but then again in the increasing travel activity and long-distance trade of the High Middle Ages , but also as a pilgrimage hostel on the way to Rome from the heartland of the Holy Roman Empire , there are stations at the most important passes . They were also used as a hospital for victims of avalanches and rock falls. They are called hospitales , a medieval legal form of an institution with pastoral care and a cemetery (see hospital ), and were mainly maintained by monks and Christian institutions. From this name, not only the Swiss and Tyrolean hospices on or near pass heights are derived, but also places in the Alpine region that still exist today, such as B. Spital am Pyhrn , Spital am Semmering and Spittal an der Drau . Last but not least, such hospices are also at the beginning of the development of the entire hospital system as well as old people's homes , nursing homes and hospices .

With the progressive development of the Alps for economic purposes, more and more bases for different professional groups were established. It is known, for example, that in 1822 on the Styrian Grimming not only a surveying sign but also a stone hut was built as a shelter.

Capanna Regina Margherita , the highest mountain refuge in the Alps, (4554 m), around 1903

The first refuges in the sense of tourist bases also emerged in the middle of the 19th century . Due to the increasing interest in high alpine excursions by the “townspeople”, the need to offer them protection and food was recognized, and the alpine clubs built numerous refuges. As a result, over the course of time up to the second half of the 20th century, around 1,300 refuges were built in the Alps , which today represent an important economic factor.

Just like the Margherita Hut in the Valais Alps at 4,554 m, the Rifugio Mario Premuda in Trieste owned by the Italian Alpine Association is the lowest shelter in the Alps at 82 m.

Huts of alpine clubs

Gepatschhaus , Tyrol, oldest alpine club hut in Austria (today DAV Frankfurt / M.)

There are numerous refuges, especially in the Alps , where they serve as bases for hikers, mountaineers and skiers. These huts are often run by alpine associations and by employed hut keepers who also look after the associated pathways. But there are also numerous private shelters.

In Tyrol, the German Alpine Association (DAV) owns 132 huts, the Austrian Alpine Association (ÖAV) 37 (as of November 2016).

Ramsjøhytta (remote hiking hut in Norway)

In other mountains of the world, refuges are much less common than in the Alps. Examples are the mining areas of the Giant Mountains, the lodges on the trekking routes of the Himalayas , the Andes or the Rocky Mountains , in the mountainous regions of New Zealand or Japan or the huts for the ascent to Kilimanjaro . Due to the increasing international mountaineering and hiking, tourist huts are being built in many other areas based on the Alpine models.

In New Zealand , the DoC and other organizations maintain over a thousand hikers' huts, mostly of high quality.

Supply and environmental protection

Low-energy technology in the high mountains (New Monte Rosa Hut )

Due to the often remote location of the shelters, some of which have no road connection, the supply of food and the disposal of waste is time-consuming. Huts that are not connected to a material cableway must be supplied by helicopter or by mules , mules or Haflingers . Increasing comfort needs of the guests and increased environmental awareness make the operation of refuges more expensive. a. Solar and small wind power plants , so-called wind generators , or sewage treatment plants installed. In order to further promote the commitment in the area of environmental protection , the environmental seal of approval for Alpine Club huts has been awarded since 1997 .

In 2015, the Austrian Alpine Association was concerned about the operation of the 235 shelters it was in charge of at the time, due to increasing requirements due to official requirements (especially sewage disposal) and water scarcity.

Special forms

  • The Alpine Club maintains 1,300 Alpine Club huts , some of which are managed and some of which are accessible to members with a universal key.
  • Small shelters in high elevations or near high peaks (mostly prefabricated) are called bivouac boxes .
  • Self-catering huts are huts that are not managed.
  • Simple self-catering cabins known as bothy are common in Scotland and Wales .



The term “refuge” is regulated in Section 111, Paragraph 2, Item 2 of the Trade Regulations as “a simply equipped business located in an area that is not or only poorly accessible to public transport and is geared towards the needs of mountaineers and hikers”. The accommodation of guests, the serving of all kinds of food and the sale of hot and cold dishes, the serving of drinks and the sale of these drinks in unlocked containers within the framework of this business do not require a certificate of competence for the hospitality industry , so the hut keeper does not need a trained person Be an innkeeper . Category III huts and alpine inns, however, are usually already subject to the license requirement.

Architecture and monument protection

The state curator of Tyrol, Walter Hauser, started a campaign in 2009, and Michaela Frick from the Tyrolean Heritage Office examined all 300 shelters. In 2016 there are now 8 shelters here under monument protection. Bavaria and South Tyrol are following the example.

The Berliner Hütte in the Zillertal Alps was the first Alpine Club hut to be listed as a historical monument. A first building from 1879 repeatedly expanded by the DAV, Berlin section. The "Grand Hotel in the Alps" has an almost 5 m high dining room. The women in the section financed the artistic ladies' hall through folk dance performances at Alpine balls in Berlin.

The New Prague Hut in the Hohe Tauern National Park in East Tyrol , built by Johann Stüdl in 1904, was listed as a historical monument in 2013 and restored down to the Thonet chairs, although the owner DAV also discussed demolition.

The Becherhaus from 1894 including the listed chapel for Empress Elisabeth at 3195  m slm is the highest shelter in South Tyrol.

New buildings

The number of beds should not be increased in the mountains. In 2011 the state of South Tyrol announced a competition for 3 new buildings as modern replacements for dilapidated items. Externally, there are sloping walls and roofs with photovoltaics and the generation of solar heat and rainwater. The Edelrauthütte has already been opened by MoDus Architects. In 2016/2017, the Schwarzensteinhütte, designed by the stifter + bachmann team, was built in a slightly conical shape above the South Tyrolean Ahrntal.

Architect Stephan Hoinkes from Innsbruck won the competition for the Seethalerhütte on the Dachstein, and this black design also tapers towards the top. At the Institute for Design at the University of Innsbruck, Andreas Flora is working on sustainable building methods; a house that can be enlarged by sliding it apart was designed, another one with honeycomb-shaped bedrooms.

See also


  • Oliver Feiler: The mountain hut as a “social world”. An ethnography . Master's thesis, University of Konstanz 2004, full text

Web links

Commons : Shelters  - Collection of images, videos and audio files
Wiktionary: Refuge  - explanations of meanings, word origins, synonyms, translations

Individual evidence

  1. Alpine Association cares about refuges ,, October 5, 2015, accessed on October 5, 2015.
  2. Hütten: Vom Grandhotel zur Schenken Kiste, November 8, 2016, accessed on November 8, 2016.