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Montafon (in local dialect: "Muntafu") is a 39 km long valley in the westernmost Austrian federal state of Vorarlberg. It is traversed by the river Ill (Vorarlberg) and extends from the city of Bludenz and the Verwall Alps in the north, to the Silvretta and Rätikon mountain range in the south. Piz Buin, at 3,312 meters, is the highest peak within the Silvretta mountain range - and the highest peak in Vorarlberg. The Montafon region has an approximate population of 28,000 (2020).
The Montafon is an association of ten communities, all of which belong to the Bludenz district. The main town is Schruns. Regional tourism is marketed by the Tourist Association Montafon, run by the municipalities, the Vorarlberger Illwerke and the regional mountain cableways.
The route from Bludenz into the valley: The state road B188 leads past an old cement plant and through the town of Lorüns. Then one drives through the Alma woods and past the Tränabächle (Brook of Tears). The valley unfolds its full splendor beginning at St. Anton (in the local dialect: "Santatöni") on the left, with Vens and Vandans on the right. St. Anton should not be confused with the more well-known ski resort of St. Anton am Arlberg.
Passing on to Rodund the main electrohydric plant of the Vorarlberger Illwerke comes into view. Continue on through Gantschier and Kaltenbrunnen to Schruns and Tschagguns (in the local dialect: "Schru und Tschaggu"). Above Schruns is the mountain town of Bartholomäberg, with its outlying areas Jetzmunt and Lutt overlooking St. Anton, and its southeastern precincts Kristberg and Innerberg overlooking the Silbertal Valley. This valley stretches southeast from Schruns towards the Arlberg mountain range, passing the outpost of the Fellamendli. The hamlet of Latschau, with its hydroelectric power station and the main base of the Golm ski resort, projecting up over Tschagguns, and opposite Bartholomäberg.
From Schruns and Tschagguns form the midpoint of the Montafon; this divides the outer valley ("Außerfratte") from the inner valley ("Innerfratte"). Continuing up to St. Gallenkirch, the road branches off at Galgenul towards Gargellen, another rugged branch valley that ends at the ski resort of Gargellen. Continuing up the main Montafon valley, the road passes through Gortipohl and on to Gaschurn (in the local dialect: "Gaschorra"), then to Partenen. Here the road snakes up to the Silvretta mountain pass.
The economy in the Montafon is dominated by a mixture of traditional rural activities like forestry, hydroelectric energy production, agricultural products, as well as tourism-related services and products.
Farming and agriculture are part of traditional Alpine transhumance. This is a three-phase seasonal droving of grazing livestock between the valleys in winter and the high mountain pastures in summer, ensuring a sufficient food supply for the cattle throughout the year. While tourism and other industries contribute more to the economy, seasonal migration to high pastures is still an important economic factor for parts of the population. In the autumn, if no animals have died and there have not been any accidents up in the mountains, the farmers decorate the cattle and bring them down from the mountain pastures in a festive parade, a highlight of regional culture.
Tourism plays a vital role and the Montafon is well-known for its skiing, hiking, and mountain biking. The Silvretta high alpine road (German: Hochalpenstraße) gives access to remote ski areas that are located altitudes of 650 to 1430 meters. The construction of the Montafon Railway in 1905 also helped develop the seasonal tourist industries.
There are five ski regions: Golm, Silvretta Montafon, Gargellen, Silbertal-Kristberg and Silvretta-Bielerhöhe, with a total of 60 ski lifts and 225 kilometers of ski slopes in the region. Freeriding is a popular sport and there are various fun parks with half-pipes. For cross-country skiing there are 121 kilometers of classic routes, as well as 33 kilometers of skating-routes.
During the summers and autumns the vast hiking trails along all of the mountain ranges are very popular, among locals and tourists alike. There are even trails that can be accessed via pushchairs ("Muntafuner Gagla Weg"). Nine of the ski lifts are also open during the summer and autumn seasons and allow for quick and convenient ascents or descents in the mountains. All hiking and biking trails are well-marked. Many areas are protected and biking is not always allowed. 26 alpine huts are open during the summer, and special buses for hikers operate in the area.
Mountain hiking and climbing are possible on a great variety of trails, with a broad range of difficulties. For beginners, there are eight climbing parks and 15 fixed rope routes.
In the 2012/13 season, the first SBX World Cup Montafon was held as part of the FIS Snowboard World Cup. The World Cup takes place annually in December, with races carried out in the Silvretta Montafon ski area, starting below the Hochjoch summit and finishing near the cable car's mountain station. The difference in altitude between start and finish is around 200 meters. During the World Cup, visitors can watch the snowboarders and skiers during the day time and enjoy concerts in Schruns in the nighttime.
A number of celebrities have stayed in the Montafon valley. Some of the older folks still talk about the long nights in Schruns playing cards and drinking with Ernest Hemingway and John dos Passos. The Snows of the Kilimanjaro and several other novels and short stories were written in, or they contain material about, the Montafon and the Silvretta glaciers. The famous German novelist and poet Erich Kästner also repeatedly visited the valley, as did the former German chancellor Helmut Kohl. The noted opera singer Elisabeth Schwarzkopf spent her last years in Schruns, where she died on August 2, 2006.
The LEADER programme Gauertaler Alpenkultur was created to inform guests and locals in the Gauertal valley about the cultural landscape. Knowledge of this cultural landscape is slowly being lost. Therefore, this path was created to present the Gauertal as a good example of local alpine culture and alpine transhumances. As the trails in the Gauertal are quite popular, the hikers had to be routed in such a way that the sensitive alpine areas were no longer seriously affected. At 13 stations, objects were created by artists who devoted themselves to various cultural areas. Panels and info-brochures tell the stories about the land, the people and the culture.
The following artistic interventions have been created in the Gauertaler landscape:
There are three different paths and each tells a different story:
The Montafon House is a typical stone-wood house like those built in the Montafon from the 15th to the 20th centuries. It is a striking feature of the Montafon cultural landscape and is a characteristic of the valley.
The "Montafoner Sauerkäse" or Montafon cheese (dialect: Sura Kees or Sura Käs, referring to a type of sour cream/curdled milk cheese) is a sour cream cheese made in the Montafon since the 12th century. Montafon has one of the oldest traditions of cheese production in the Alpine region, and this is still an important dairy product. It has very little fat (1-10% fat in dry matter) and is a local speciality, similar to the Tyrolean grey cheese.