The Zillertal Valley in Tirol/Austria is the setting of the Hintertux Glacier. A number of tour members from my group boarded our coach in Innsbruck at 9:00 a.m. and arrived at the village of Hintertux at 10:30. The area is known for its folk music, woodcarving and Alpine views.
A number of chalets and shops dot the base of the glacier area, perfect for souvenir shopping. After a restroom break, our guide distributed our tickets to board the enclosed gondolas to ferry us up the glacier. Even though we were comfortable in the mid-50’s temperatures, we had a foretaste of colder temperatures when many skiers boarded the gondolas with us.
The gondolas revolve slowly so passengers can board easily. It is similar to stepping onto a moving airport walkway: the step is level but the gondola continues to move. Each gondola can hold 10 comfortably, fewer with skis, poles and gear. Step quickly on so the others can board before the doors close. Then, you are outside and on your way to the first plateau. I was surprised at how quiet and smooth the ride was. Since it was October 1, the views were of bare rock and trees just starting to turn color.
Do not be surprised if the gondola stops for a few minutes en route to the next plateau. It is a normal occurrence albeit a little unsettling as you hang in mid- air suspended above the valley floor, grateful to be moving once again. The temperatures dropped dramatically at the second plateau where we stepped onto the next gondola. There was more snow at this plateau but nothing compared to what we experienced when we reached the top at 3,286 meters above sea level. This station is appropriately named “Gefrorene Wand” or “Frozen Wall.” On a clear day, I could only imagine the views; however, we were fogged in and unable to see much. Be sure to dress warmly. I was glad for my fleece vest, neck gator, earmuffs and gloves. It was windy, snowy and, well, glacier-like. The skiers were having awesome runs down the slopes.
For the truly adventurous, take advantage of the ice cave tour deep into the glacier. It takes about an hour; we saw hardy souls dressed for arctic temperatures with helmets, eye protection and heavy clothes.
Time for lunch. A new restaurant is being built which will be a popular attraction. However, we descended to the first plateau and had a very nice and relaxing lunch in the cafeteria-style restaurant. There are many options: salad bar; grilling station; a variety of soups and salads, sandwiches, desserts and beverages. The large, attractive seating area is filled with natural light in a knotty pine decor, complete with a fireplace to dry wet gear or warm cold body parts.
If you have never experienced riding to the top of a glacier, Hintertux is recommended.
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