Austrias first glacier
Austria´s first glacial skiing area, pioneering spirit and courage
The Gletscherbahnen Kaprun stood for pioneering spirit, visionary thinking and special courage right from the beginning, thus enabling them to put an almost inconceivable project into operation: the development, in 1965, of the first Austrian glacial skiing area. Many more pioneering accomplishments and unique technological developments followed in the next decades. Exceptional measures were taken in the realm of ecology. Cable cars, lifts and snow cannons were constantly modernised, the skiing area attractions continuously adapted to the expectations of guests and, in 2010/11, the opening of the Gipfelwelt 3000, Salzburg´s highest tourist attraction.
The first important steps to develop the glacier into an all year round skiing area, were taken on the 1st August 1963,with the foundation of the „Gletscherbahnen Kaprun AG“, by the Tauernkraftwerke, the Kaprun municipality and Land Salzburg. On 12th December 1965, the first two sections of the large pendulum cable car to the Kitzsteinhorn, capable of carrying 35 people, opened for operation. The cable car reached an altitude of 3.029 already in Autumn 1966. The highest tower of the Gipfelbahn (summit lift) is still the highest cable car tower in the world, with a height of 113.6 metres. In 1967 the first T-bar, the Maurer lift, was opened. It was the first T-bar lift ever to be built on a glacier and was devised together with the Austrian cable car company Doppelmayr. A complex technology, as the glacier is always moving and flowing downwards, making a fixed construction impossible. This technology is still used for all glacier lifts today. In 1965, 1.618 skiing fans were brought up to the glacier. In 1970 there were already 250.000 skiers flocking up to the Kitzsteinhorn. A decision was made in 1971 to build a funicular railway to the glacier to cope with this demand and in 1974 it opened as the first alpine subway in the world. The supply of cable cars and lifts on the glacier was permenently enlarged and expanded in the 70s and 80s. In 1975 the Kitzsteinhorn counted 500,000 visitors and in 2007/08 it was already over a million.
The tragic fire accident shortly before the company´s 35th anniversary shocked the Gletscherbahnen Kaprun and the whole world: 155 people lost their lives in a fire in the funicular railway. The Gletscherbahnen Kaprun mourns guests, colleagues and friends. Modern, highly efficient cable cars, the Gletscherjet 1 and 2, began operation in 2001 and 2002. New- generation technology has been invested in snow cannon facilities since 1999 and the terrain between Langwiedboden and the edge of the glacier is covered with artificial snow. Collaterally, together with the Institute of Ecology, exemplary ecological measures have been implemented – such as a combined pump house and small powerhouse, which is used for pumping water to the snow cannons in winter and used as a small generating plant in summer, thus greatly improving the energy balance of the enterprise.
Apart from technical innovations, the Kitzsteinhorn has also focused its attention on offer-innovations over the last years: the Kitzsteinhorn has developed into a young freestyle hotspot, with its three snowparks and Austria´s biggest superpipe. The Freeride XXL offers five freeride routes and a Freeride Info System developed by experts. The ICE CAMP, with its stylish wonderworld of ice and snow, is a surprise for everyone between January and May. Salzburg´s highest tourist attraction – right on the border to the Nationalpark Hohe Tauern – opened on the Kitzsteinhorn in 2012/2011: the new Gipfelwelt 3000 with the Cinema 3000, Panorama Platform „Top of Salzburg“ and Nationalpark Gallery, which give spectacular insights and views into the fascination of high alpine nature.