Ernest Hemingway said the time he spent here was the happiest of his life. He stayed for two winters in the Montafon in the mid-1920s before he became famous. He enjoyed exploring the snow-covered valley and trudging through powder snow in the Verwall Alps. He took as much delight in his descents down the Silvretta on firn snow as he did in consuming the local Kirschwasser (cherry brandy) and playing poker through the nights in the local inns. Hemingway soaked up the impressions and later wove them into ‘The Snows of Kilimanjaro’ and ‘A Moveable Feast’.
Tourism developed in the Montafon over time just like the ‘Sure Kees’ (‘Sour Cheese’) matures in the mountain pasture huts year for year. The residents have remained authentic hosts. Today, the wide-ranging ski resorts nestle against the rocky flanks and mountain pastures that surround the valley. The mountain huts and restaurants serve local dishes and views of sugar-dusted peaks as far as the eyes can see. This is where people in ski boots relax on loungers in the sun. Those who don’t feel like skiing take walks on winter paths or traipse on snow shoes through the snowbound forests up to sunbathed viewing balconies. Sometimes they will walk past frozen reservoirs – evidence that the people of the Montafon have been using water as a clean source of energy for a long time.
Tobogganing, Bavarian curling, ski touring, free-riding, sleeping in igloos and many other activities await active nature lovers. ‘Sport on the mountain, party in the valley’ is the name of the game at the beginning of the season in December when local heroes defend their reputation at the Snowboard Cross and Ski Cross World Championships against stars of the scene who travel here from all over the world. It’s also the time when top music acts and party-goers get the Piz Buin, Drei Türme and Zimba, the ‘Vorarlberg Matterhorn’, shaking. The season ends with a massive round of applause for the winter at an open-air concert on the mountain.
Once the slopes have slipped out of their winter outfits, the flowering mountain meadows start to take over. That’s when the valley gets ready for all those visitors who want to ‘genuinely experience real mountains’ in summer. It’s also the time when visitors can enjoy hiking, mountaineering and climbing – but not only that, the bravest among them will be able to spend time in the largest forest rope park in Vorarlberg on Golm mountain or fly across the Latschau reservoir on the Flying Fox.
Or, after a little instruction, they leap on alpine skis from the big ski jump’s little sister in Tschagguns. Christian Schenk, who, by the way, is regarded as the Lang Lang of sports physicians in Europe, specialises in sports injuries. He often operates on blue bloods and famous names at his private clinic in Schruns where he likes to perform surgery barefoot and in the night.
The church clock sleepily strikes six. The air is as clear as mountain crystal and reaches with cold hands for naked calves. The leg muscles, still warm from the cosy feather bed, gradually give up their resistance and enter into the rhythmic interplay with the pedals. The occasional slamming of a delivery-van door is the harbinger of the wealth of regional delicacies that will today again be bending the tables and buffets with their weight. And the smoked sausage in the backpack can hardly wait for the snack at the summit. The Montafon welcomes mountain bikers to its 270 kilometres of roads and trails of varying levels of difficulty. The route travels past old Montafon houses whose wooden façades have been turned almost black by exposure to the sun and whose window boxes are brimful with flowers. Garfrescha, Daneu and Tanafreida are the names of the cosy guest houses and hotels. The names draw on the Montafon’s Rhaeto-Romanic past. The valley has many tales to tell and not only in the mining museum in one of the Silbertal districts. Art and culture also find fertile ground here: every two years, artists come together in the high-alpine region for the ‘SilvrettAtelier’ art symposium. The themed trails of the ‘Gauertaler AlpKultour’ lead visitors through the cultural landscape of the Montafon. And the Garnertal near Gaschurn was the backdrop to ‘Brother of Sleep’, a film directed by Joseph Vilsmaier.
Many hotels and event locations in the Montafon provide the appropriate framework for conferences, workshops, meetings and congresses as well as other events. Out of the meeting room and into nature – the useful meets the pleasant in the Montafon’s conference and workshop hotels throughout the year.