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Alpine way of life

Many young people are bucking the trend and not moving to the bright lights of the city but rather choosing to stay in the mountains - or to return home to them.

The happiness that comes from living in the mountains

  • Alpine Way of Life © Österreich Werbung Alpine Way of Life © Österreich Werbung
  • Guido: Actively experiencing nature

  • Anne-Sophie: An eye for the facets of nature

  • Patrick: Serenity is the key

  • Anna: Experiencing nature with all your senses

Slowing down, a sense of a community, a sustainable lifestyle

Perhaps it’s the freshness of a new day, when the first light of dawn teases the horizon and the world has not yet become hurried, that offers an inkling of what this alpine sense of life means. In cities and towns, the air is already ripe with the sounds of cars, the horns, the sirens, and even before you’ve got out of bed you know what’s in store for you: stop-and-go traffic, crowded public transport, haste, stress and a racing heartbeat. It’s different in the mountains.
 

Time to stop, take a pause

In the mountains, the day begins differently. The gentle twittering of birds in the trees behind the house and the chime of a church bell; the fragrance of forest and meadows wafting in through the open window, and the knowledge that out here there will always be opportunities to stop and take time out for yourself. Whether it’s a friendly chat with the postman as he cycles by as you calmly make your way to work, the view of the glistening glacier through the window by your desk or the sudden smell of freshly cut hay during your lunch break – all these things are conducive to a feeling of peace and clarity.
 

That alpine feeling

So what exactly is this alpine sense of life? An attitude? Of course. A lifestyle? Most definitely. The certainty of being in the right place here and now? Naturally. Something inside you that wells up as you enjoy nature and the mountains? Absolutely! You’ll hear a variety of answers if you talk to people who have chosen to live in the Alps, whether those who have returned from the city because they missed the peace and clarity of the Alps, or those who never left. These are people who value the sense of community a village has to offer. Who, at the end of a day’s work, prefer cycling home across fields than through an industrial estate. Who revel in the might of the mountains, the pure, clear air and the silence of the forest, and who, on the weekend, don’t want to drive somewhere to experience what they can have on their own doorstep. People who want to breathe freely. And find peace. And be themselves.
 

Four people, four alpine ways of life

In Austria's Alps…

  • 4,000,000 people live in the Alps. Innsbruck is the second largest city in the Alps.
  • 4,500 different plant species grow here.
  • 731 mountain peaks are over 3,000m high.
  • 7,000 farmers look after 51,000 dairy cows, 265,000 cattle, 9,000 horses, 114,000 sheep, 40,000 ibex and 10,000 goats.
  • 30 glaciers cover a surface of 450km², which is almost the size of Andorra.
  • 3,798m is the height of Mount Grossglockner, Austria’s highest peak.
  • 290 - 350 million years is how old the Alps are – and some parts are considerably older.
  • 54,000km² is Austria’s share of the Alps. Altogether they cover an area of 200,000km².
  • 25 registered mountain guides let interested visitors into the secrets of the Alps.
  • 480 thousand billion tonnes is how much the Alps weigh.

What makes a mountain?

Austria boasts countless mountains, but when can an elevation officially be called a mountain? The relevant criteria are: dominance and prominence.

Topographic dominance – sometimes referred to as topographic isolation - indicates a peak which stands out as a unique feature and is separated from the nearby peak or peaks. Mount Grimming is relatively isolated between the Ennstal valley and the Salzkammergut, and at 2,351m is considered Europe’s highest freestanding mountain.

Also of importance in achieving mountain status is its prominence. Topographic prominence indicates how much higher one peak is compared to others nearby. In the Alps, a peak must be 110m to 300m higher than a neighbouring one to be considered a mountain in its own right.

Where do mountains get their names from?

Kahlenberg, Mittagskogel or Gjaid Alm – mountains seem to be named arbitrarily – but of course, it’s not just casual chance. Firstly, the shape has relevance to their name: is it round or pointed, does it resemble a ‘head’ or a ‘ridge’? The flora growing on the mountain is also a defining criterion – for example: 'Grasberg' (grassy mountain) or 'Zirbenkogel' (pine peak). Some mountains, such as 'Nebelstein' (foggy peak) or 'Wetterkreuz' (weather peak) are named after the weather. Others derive their names from the position of the sun, such as 'Mittagskogel' (noon peak) or 'Zwölferspitz' (twelve o’clock peak).

When I grow up, I want to be a mountain

Even though, at times, mountains seem to grow endlessly up into the sky, they reach their natural limit at around 9,000m. Why is this? The collision of the continental plates causes mountains to form and gives them their shape; subsequently eroding, developing cracks, or beginning to crumble away. Atmospheric conditions, too, play a role in disintegration as rain, wind, and weather erode the rock. Furthermore, if mountains were higher, they would also be heavier and break through the crust of the earth.

How do glaciers form?

The formation of glaciers depends on two criteria, precipitation and temperature. Glaciers can only form where there is an abundance of snow and where most of the precipitation falls as snow. Therefore, the temperature needs to be low to prevent the fallen snow from melting, thus providing a foundation for the fresh snow. In this way, the under layer of snow grows and becomes compacted by the weight of the fresh snow above it. The pressure changes the structure of the crystals, and the distinctive fluffy snowflakes are transformed into smooth ice crystals which bind together into hard pack. The volume of the snow shrinks, and over time the old snow becomes glaciated. Austria’s largest glacier is 'Pasterze' at the foot of mount Grossglockner, with a surface area of 17.3km².

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