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Exploring the Timmelsjoch High Alpine Road

A mountain pass is always a promise as well: of journeys and discoveries, of exchange and trade. Mountain passes cross boundaries. All this and more is represented by the High Alpine Road over the 2,509-metre Timmelsjoch between the Ötztal and Passeier valleys, between Tyrol and South Tyrol, on the Austria/Italy border.

Every year in early summer, the Timmelsjoch High Alpine Road reawakens with a buzz of activity. Depending on the snow and weather situation, the mountain pass opens sometime between the middle and end of May. Before that day comes, large machines spend three to four weeks cutting through layer upon layer of snow, which blankets the road. The twins are responsible for this pass, the only drivable crossing point of the Alpine divide between the Reschen and the Brenner. The Timmelsjoch High Alpine Road – 32 kilometres long – belongs to them. Buzz of activity in summer Every year in early summer, the Timmelsjoch High Alpine Road reawakens with a buzz of activity. Depending on the snow and weather situation, the mountain pass opens sometime between the middle and end of May. Before that day comes, large machines spend three to four weeks cutting through layer upon layer of snow, which blankets the road. The twins are responsible for this pass, the only drivable crossing point of the Alpine divide between the Reschen and the Brenner. The Timmelsjoch High Alpine Road – 32 kilometres long – belongs to them.

For generations, the Scheiber family has been closely connected with the road. Angelus Scheiber, the twins’ grandfather, is regarded as the inventor of modern tourism in the Ötztal region. The road up to the Timmelsjoch was his idea.

His son Alban, the twins’ father, competed in the first Timmelsjoch hill climb in 1962 in his Porsche 356 B. The elder Alban Scheiber forged ahead with his father’s dreams; with his Hochgurgl lift company, he eventually bought out the government’s share in the road and became the majority owner.

The national border? Nothing but a vague memory up here. Instead of barriers and customs offices, the line between Austria and Italy is marked by two inconspicuous posts in the terrain and a plaque in the asphalt. Somewhere above the road, the spectacular new Pass Museum awaits: anchored on the Ötztal side, it levitates a good 16 m outwards in the direction of friends in the Passeier Valley. Inside the highest-altitude museum in Austria, floor-to-ceiling glass structures form an artificial ice cave; photographs recall the travails of early roadbuilding efforts.

“The Timmelsjoch road has been spanning frontiers and uniting people for more than 50 years now,” says Alban.

The 2,509-metre Timmelsjoch

Local families still recall how things were before the road – and the livelihoods it enabled – arrived. The miners in the Ötztal were trapped in their world, scratching a meagre living out of the rugged land in the short snow-free season. Those who remember the olden days have a different view of the booming tourism – they view the cars as a blessing.

To keep the pulse going, the brothers have continued to invest vast sums. “If you’re going to do something, then do it right,” is how Alban describes their approach. Not only the road is in first-class condition: the Scheiber brothers are changing the places along the way as well.

The Top Mountain Crosspoint

Where the old toll station from the 1950s once stood, the Top Mountain Crosspoint was built at 2,175 metres elevation. An organically sweeping construction built of timber, stone, and steel – including the valley station of the state-of-the-art Kirchenkar Mountain Gondola, which in winter carries up to 2,400 skiers per hour to the summit.

The lift and the restaurant both made it through the 2020/21 winter. The heart of the Top Mountain Crosspoint was not so fortunate: on 18 January, a blaze swept through the Top Mountain Motorcycle Museum, destroying it. The museum featured 330 motorcycles spanning 100 years – contemporary history from A.J.S. to Zündapp, complemented by treasures like a 1967 soft-window Porsche 911 Targa – the same vintage as the brothers themselves.

Original article

Dec 29, 2021 at 22:51

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