Austrian Alps For Members

EXPLAINED: The associations to join if you love mountain sports in Austria

Julia Hjelm Jakobsson
Julia Hjelm Jakobsson - [email protected]
EXPLAINED: The associations to join if you love mountain sports in Austria
Photo by Paul Pastourmatzis on Unsplash

Joining an established association can help you make the most of the incredible mountain sports Austria has to offer.


About 60 percent of Austria is mountainous, and spending time in the mountains is an essential hobby for many people living in Austria. It's often a habit that has developed since childhood. 

The mountains are also one of the main reasons why Austria is a popular tourist destination.

The most popular mountain sports in Austria are hiking, skiing, climbing, and biking.

READ ALSO: Four Austrian national parks worth paying a visit

For those not familiar with these sports or who simply want to learn more about them, there are many ways to get involved to these activities. In Austria, various associations (Vereins) offer courses in all types of mountain sports and at all levels, from beginner to advanced.

When it comes to mountain associations, you can choose between public or private ones. The public ones tend to offer courses at a more affordable price, often being partly funded and supported by the state. Public associations are usually spread all over the country, while private ones are located in specific areas.

Österreichischer Alpenverein, Naturfreunde Österreich and Österreichischer Touristenklub are three of the largest and most well-known public organisations where you can start learning about and participating in mountain sports.

The Austrian Alpine Association (Österreichischer Alpenverein)

Alpenverein was founded in 1862 and is one of the oldest and largest alpine clubs in the world. It is a non-profit organisation dedicated to promote mountaineering, hiking, and outdoor activities in Austria. The organisation is mainly funded through membership fees and other sources such as donations, but also receives support from the government, particularly for initiatives related to environmental protection, safety, and the maintenance of infrastructure in the mountains, such as trails and huts.

The association organizes a wide range of activities and events such as guided hikes, climbing courses, ski tours, mountain biking, and environmental conservation projects. These activities are aimed at individuals of all ages and skill levels. If you are new to a sport, you can sign up for an absolute beginner’s class and learn the basics.

A regular yearly membership costs €69 and includes insurance in the mountains in case of accidents, as well as discounts on courses, accommodations in the mountain huts, mountain magazines, and access to the association's facilities such as climbing gyms.


Alpenverein consists of numerous regional sections and are located in various cities, towns, and regions all over Austria.  Each section adapt to its location and local outdoor community. Some well known sections are Alpine Club Vienna or Alpine Club Graz. 

Naturfreunde Österreich (Nature Friends Austria)

Naturfreunde is another one of Austria's main public non-profit mountain organisations. Like Alpenverein, it offers a wide range of popular courses such as cycling, hiking, ski touring, and skiing, suitable for all skill levels, including complete beginners. What makes Naturfreunde differ from Alpenverein is its focus on social and environmental aspects of outdoor recreation, promoting sustainable practices and nature conservation. In addition to traditional sports courses, Naturfreunde also offers environmental education and cultural events to establish a sense of community and encourage environmental awareness.

Regular membership costs €60 per year and includes insurance, as well as discounts on courses, accommodations and climbing hall access, among other benefits.


The Österreichischer Touristenklub (Austrian Tourist Club)

The Österreichischer Touristenklub, ÖTK, is one of Austria's oldest and most well-known non-profit mountain associations. It was founded in Vienna in 1860 and has a long history of promoting sustainable tourism, nature exploration, and various outdoor activities.

ÖTK offers a wide range of outdoor and mountain courses and events, such as climbing, hiking, mountaineering, skiing, and snowshoeing. Through these courses, participants can learn everything from technical skills to map reading and how to stay safe in specific environments.

The organization focuses on responsible outdoor practices and the preservation of natural habitats, promoting biodiversity and reducing the impacts of tourism on the ecosystem.

A regular yearly membership costs €62 and includes insurance, discounts on courses, accommodations, and access to various facilities such as climbing gyms.

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Privately run courses for mountain sports

Apart from the three most popular public mountain associations, Austria also has numerous privately run businesses where you can take various courses, including skiing, hiking, mountain biking and climbing.

One aspect that sets them apart from the public associations is their ability to adapt to clients' needs. Due to their often more flexible structure, they are often more likely to adapt courses and training to the participants. Another distinguishing factor is that you typically don’t pay a membership fee; instead, you pay for the specific course in which you would like to participate. 

It is important to keep in mind that, since they are not usually funded by the state, the courses can be more expensive.

The list of private mountain sports schools in Austria is long, but here we list three schools that offer a large number of courses.


Mountain sports Zillertal

Mountain Sports Zillertal is a private outdoor adventure centre based in the Zillertal Valley in Tyrol. The club was founded over 20 years ago and offers a wide range of courses led by certified instructors. Through the club, you can participate in activities ranging from rafting and canyoning to ski touring and climbing.

Courses can be easily booked online, and prices vary depending on the type of course and duration. For example, a three-day ski touring course for beginners costs €450, while a two-hour canyoning experience is around €50.

Bergschule Kleinwalsertal 

This private mountain sports club is located in Vorarlberg, in the western part of Austria. The company offers a variety of courses led by certified instructors. In the summer, they provide courses in sports such as canyoning, climbing, and mountain biking. During the winter, you can join them to learn more about ski touring, skiing, and snowshoe hiking.

Prices vary depending on the activity and duration. For example, a one-day ski tour for beginners costs around €130, while a daily climbing course is around €100. Courses can be booked through the school's website.


Bergpuls Alpinschule

You find Bergpuls Alpinschule in Admont, a town in the Gesäuse National Park in the region of Styria. This mountain sports company offers a wide range of courses with a small number of participants. The company runs courses in ski touring, climbing, hiking, and other sports. The instructors are certified by the Austrian state and have many years of experience in the field.

Prices vary; for example, a three-day ski touring course for beginners costs around €400, while a three-day climbing course is around €320. Courses can be booked online through the school's website.


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