There are countless narratives related to Zillertal. But our Hochfügen story begins sometime in the late 1950s. On a beautiful winter’s day, experienced skier and mountaineer Hans Theato from Munich gazed from the summit of the Gilfert at the Zillertal Alps and the Hochfügen high valley basin. He saw snowy slopes, breath-taking nature, perfect weather. An idea took form before his eyes: why not create a ski resort that would be suitable for all ages?
He could see that the slopes were sunny, versatile and favourable, and would provide pistes suitable for all skiers with skill levels from beginner to advanced. With this visionary pioneering thought in mind, he soon inspired Fred Unterwurzacher, a baker based in Fügen, to join his project. Together they decided to establish a ski resort in the mountains of Hochfügen. Construction of the Finnsinggrund mountain road began in 1961. This road would eventually take generations of winter sports enthusiasts into the picturesque ski resort - and so provide the material for a host of new stories.
Very soon, a 13-km mountain road led along the valley to Hochfügen. In the background, the snow-capped summit of the Gilfert at 2506 m.a.s.l. stared proudly down at the Finnsinggrund valley floor. Here the high valley behind the summit is protected from the sun, thus offering guaranteed snow - a small winter paradise. This is where the first two button lifts - Lamark and Pfaffenbühel - were built in the summer of 1961.
The first skiing season began that December. The two lifts transported 600 persons per hour, ensuring nobody needed to queue, up through an elevation of more than 450 metres. In 1962, a day pass cost 50 - 70 Austrian Schillings (roughly 3 - 5 Euros), while the radio could be heard The Beatles and Jimi Hendrix.
The 1970s and 1980s
As the wild and groovy 1970s dawned, a new era was ushered in in the high valley behind the Gilfert. Three Zillertal locals - Hans Lang, Gottfried Schiestl and Hermann Wetscher – acquired the Hochfügen ski company. These three fans of skiing together invested 15 million Schillings (about 1 million Euro) in the expansion of the resort.
In addition to the widening and asphalting of the access road (now six metres and two lanes) the left side of the valley (Holzalm) was developed, and a modern double chairlift and drag lift were installed. Each lift was 1010 metres long - and transported up to 2000 people per hour. A "ski circus" for the little ones was built.
Three other drag lifts were built at Pfaffenbühel (I to III) from 1976 to 1978. An interest fact is that at the time there were only 180 guest beds available in three hotels in Hochfügen - Hotel Hochfügen, Gästehaus Lamark and Haus Theato.
In 1983 the Pfaffenbühel got its own double chairlift, now making it a total of seven lifts in Hochfügen. "Hochfügen always has snow" appeared as a headline in Austrian newspapers, which also pointed out that the area represented the ideal venue for winter sports from December to May. Ski clothing was in bright neon colours and the après ski scene was partying to the sounds of Michael Jackson.
The decade before the turn of the millennium was characterised by innovation. In the early 1990s, the Hochfügen ski resort extended its range up to 2400 metres above sea level. The Lamark side was also completely updated - the first 4-seater gondola lift "Hochfügen 2000" began operating in 1992. In the following year, the restaurant Panorama Lodge (1500 m.a.s.l.) opened.
In 1994, the Kristallbar opened at the valley station of the 8-seater gondola lift. A snow-making system was also installed on the slopes. The first gondola lift in Hochfügen, the 8-seater Jet, took skiers up to Pfaffenbichl for the first time in 1997.
One year later, the famous 8er Alm got its own restaurant with a panoramic view. The term ”freestyle” became not just associated with a form of music - young people took up snowboarding and it even became a recognised Winter Olympics sport.