An introduction to Alpine Huts

This page was written because I had often seen the puzzlement on the faces of non-mountaineering friends when I mentioned staying at "huts" in the Alps. They seemed to be picturing something along the lines of a garden toolshed!

It may also prove useful for those who are just about to visit the Alps for the first time.

Click on small images to see them enlarged

In general, the huts are owned operated by a club or society. Those shown here belong to the Österreichischer Alpenverein (Austria) or Deutsche Alpenverein (Germany), but France, Italy and Switzerland all have their own Alpine societies and huts. There is no UK equivalent, but the OeAv have a "Sektion Brittania" to which many British mountaineers belong. The huts are open to all-comers, but alpine club members will receive preference. Nobody will ever be turned away late in the day in bad weather!

Many of the huts are old. The popularity of alpine climbing surged in the middle 1800's and huts were built from then onwards. Now they come in all shapes and sizes. The common features are the provision of tasty and nourishing food and simple sleeping accommodation. In the latter years of the 20th century many of them acquired a source of electrical power - often a small hydro-electric generator. Now they can boast of hot water for showers and, splendidly, ice-cold lager!

They have a very short season of operation - perhaps 3-4 months in summer. The rest of the year they are abandoned to the snow. However, most have a Winterraum for which a key can be obtained by ski-tourers who then stay there on a self-catering basis.

Large huts

This is a particularly large one. It is the Berliner Hütte in the Zillertal (Austria). It can sleep 165 persons and has another 14 emergency places. (165+14) It dates from 1879.   Click here for hut website
The pictures show the exterior and the dining room: both were taken in 1967.

Here are more views taken in 1987.
Not perhaps what the English word "hut" would conjure-up!
Altitude 2044m

Small huts

This one is the Winnebachseehütte. Altitude 2362m. DAV.   Click here for hut website
It has sleeping for 35+12 persons. It is not the smallest hut in the Alps!

Prager Hütte (Alte) Altitude 2.489m. Deutscher Alpenverein.   Click here for hut website
This also is not the smallest.

New huts

Kürsinger Hütte, 2.558m. OeAV Sektion Salzburg.   Click here for hut website
Zimmerlager/Betten 50. Matratzenlager 100. Notlager 16
Photo taken in 1984.

This is an Italian hut: the Rifugio Walter Bonatti. East of Courmayeur. Photo 2009.
  Click here for hut website
New and luxurious - this is the dining area.

Dining rooms

The Osnabrücker Hütte. Altitude 2032m. DAV.   Click here for hut website
A fairly typical hut in Hohe Tauern, Austria.
Photo 2009

Interior of the Brandenburgerhaus. Altitude 3272m. DAV.   Click here for hut website
Photo 1984.

A Kachelofen - a feature of the older huts. (Forgotten where this one is)
A tiled stove with seating/drying facilities. Delightful after a wet day!

Sleeping accomodation

The traditional accomodation is the Matratzenlager (Dortoir in French)
A continuous run of bed with individual bedding and pillows.

Cosy rather than elegant.
I well remember the first reactions of clients on an "Introduction to Hutting" holiday.
But they adjusted very quickly, as you can see!


Originally the supplies would have been carried up by man or mule.

Later came the "Seilbahn". A wire cable suspended on pylons on which a trolley of provisions is towed.

Today, many of the higher huts are provisioned by helicopter.

All four pictures taken at the Brandenburgerhaus in 1984.


The Bel Lachat is a tiny hut, high above Chamonix.   Click here for hut website
The views from the terrace on a good evening are stupendous.

Everybody has a favourite hut. Mine is the Brandenburgerhaus.   Click here for hut website
At 3272m it sits above a sweeping curve of glaciers and snowfields.

Photo taken from hut
To see hut from glacier click here