Mountaineering Villages | Swiss Alpine Club SAC
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Mountaineering Villages Experience the mountain world in unspoilt nature

The "Mountaineering Villages" label is an initiative of the Alpine Clubs and recognises small, quiet places that are committed to nature-oriented tourism. They are characterised by their authenticity, their outstanding natural and cultural landscapes and the wide range of mountain sports they offer. Since 2021, Switzerland has also been part of this international network with two mountaineering villages in canton Graubünden.

  • Stimulation without all the hustle and bustle
  • A lively atmosphere but without the noise
  • Intimacy but with respect
  • Enjoyment without worries
  • Independent mobility

These are the guiding principles of the Mountaineering Villages Initiative. The label was created in 2008 by the Austrian Alpine Club (OeAV). The network has since grown to encompass 36 villages and regions in Austria, Germany, Italy, Slovenia and Switzerland. Selection is not random, but follows strict inclusion criteria. The villages are distinguished by their Alpine characteristics, have a population of no more than 2,500 and an unspoilt appearance and landscape without large winter sports facilities. The villages are also known for their longstanding tradition of nature-oriented mountain sports.

A brief description of the Mountaineering Villages concept. © Österreichische Bergsteigerdörfer

Putting the Alpine Convention into practice

The initiative focuses on treating the mountain environment with care and respect, but also on strengthening regional value creation. Becoming a mountaineering village is therefore a commitment to continue nurturing village life, the local culture and the natural environment. The support of the village population and the local economy is a crucial element. Owing to its underlying values, the initiative is also a recognised implementation project within the Alpine Convention. The convention's aims include the comprehensive protection and sustainable development of the Alps.  

Exploring the mountains in harmony with nature

The sustainable development and protection of the mountain environment are also core tenets of the Swiss Alpine Club (SAC) – a direct consequence of which is a commitment to expanding the network in Switzerland. This is why the SAC has signed a partnership agreement with the OeAV and pledges to follow the specified criteria for the assessment of existing and selection of new mountaineering villages. The SAC also has a seat in the international steering group that strategically develops the initiative and decides whether to accept new candidates. The Swiss mountaineering villages are under the patronage of the SAC.

Pilot project in canton Graubünden

A three-year pilot project was launched in canton Graubünden in 2021. St. Antönien and the jointly operating villages of Lavin, Guarda and Ardez were the first Swiss locations to be awarded the Mountaineering Villages label. The pilot project supports local stakeholders in implementing ideas for projects in mountain sports and nature- and culture-based tourism. To this end, they work closely with partners including the SAC huts in the villages. The international network engages in a regular exchange of knowledge and hatches joint ideas to address the often-similar day-to-day challenges in mountainous regions. The acquired experience provides a basis to develop the general conditions for a Switzerland-wide expansion from 2023.

The project was initiated and is being led by Product Management Mountain Sports Prättigau in close cooperation with the SAC and Zurich University of Applied Sciences. The pilot phase is being funded by the Federal Government (Innotour) and the Economic Development and Tourism Agency of canton Graubünden.

Unspoilt mountain villages to enjoy and linger in

The places included in the Mountaineering Villages Initiative are pioneers of alpinism in their regions. This is why the mountains and mountain climbing are so ingrained in the cultural identity of both locals and visitors. Awareness of the need for harmony between nature and humankind remains alive and well here, and natural boundaries are respected.

The Swiss Mountaineering Villages

St. Antönien

This small Walser settlement is located in the municipality of Luzein in a side valley in Prättigau. The striking landscape has been spared any major technical structures. The village below the well-known Sulzfluh in the Rätikon engages in nature-oriented mountain tourism and is equally popular as a ski touring paradise as it is for superb climbing and hiking opportunities. The Carschinahütte SAC is an excellent starting point for tours.

Lavin, Guarda & Ardez

This mountaineering village comprises the three neighbouring villages of Lavin, Guarda and Ardez. All three have heritage-protected building status and captivate visitors with their traditional Engadine architecture. One scenic highlight is the Macun lake plateau in the Swiss National Park. The Chamonna Tuoi CAS, the Chamonna dal Linard CAS and the Chamonna Cler are ideal starting points for hikes, ski tours and high-altitude tours.