Transhumance between the Ötztal Valley and Schnalstal Valley in South Tyrol

One of the longest-standing and largest movement of sheep in the entire Alpine region

The transhumance in Schnalstal Valley, which is still practiced and deeply rooted in local tradition, dates back 600 years. This ancient tradition in Schnalstal Valley is now part of the Intangible Cultural Heritage. The annual migration in Schnalstal Valley is the only cross-border and trans-glacial transhumance in existence.
Every June, the shepherds lead flocks of 3,000 – 4,000 sheep on a mass migration from Vernago/Vernagt and Maso Corto/Kurzras across two mountain passes to the fertile pastures of Vent in neighboring Austria. The transhumance in the Schnalstal Valley covers more than 40km, across gullies and snow-covered fields.

In mid-September, the sheep and shepherds with the help of sheep dogs guide the flocks back to the Schnalstal Valley on the much safer return trip. At the end of the transhumance, the successful termination of the migration is celebrated.
Transhumance in June

In mid-June, as soon as the mountain pastures at the other side of the main Alpine ridge are free of snow, the “long march” begins for about a quarter of the sheep in Laas in Vinschgau during which they cover over 44 km, 3200 m altitude difference ascending and 1800 m descending. The sheep and their shepherds with their dogs follow the trail used by those who originally discovered Schnalstal Valley.

The people involved stay overnight at the assembly points in Maso Corto/Kurzras and Vernago/Vernagt before setting off at dawn the next day to cross the main Ötztal ridge. Crossing the many snow-covered meadows is painstaking and finally at the Hochjoch and the Niederjoch steep ice gulleys have also to be negotiated. At the other side, the high mountain valleys are quite flat but snow, fog and storms can make the descent very difficult.

Vernago/Vernagt (1700 m) - Niederjoch (3019 m) - Niedertalalm
Early in the morning between 3 am and 6.30 am, up to 2,200 sheep and 300 goats set off from Vernago/Vernagt in four groups, marching upwards through Tisental and reaching the Similaun refuge hut on Niederjoch about 3 and a half hours later. From there the herd travels down towards Niedertalalm, passing by the Martin Busch hut (2051 m). About 3 hours after leaving the Similaun refuge hut, they reach the “shepherds’ hut” (2134 m).

The Similaun refuge hut and the Martin Busch hut is not yet open on the day of the march.

MASO CORTO/Kurzras (2011 m) - Hochjoch (2856 m) – Rofenbergalm
The first of about 1,500 sheep set off from Kurzras at about 5 am in the morning. About 2 and a half hours later, the sheep and their shepherds reach the Hochjoch. Distance covered: about 5.3 km from Kurzras. After a short break at the Bella Vista refuge hut, the herd continues down the mountain towards Rofenberg Alm, passing the Hochjoch Hospitz (2413 m). A further 2 hours are needed for the descent to Rofenberg Alm.

The refuge hut Bella Vista is open for business on the day of the march (accommodation possible from friday to saturday).
Accommodation at the Hochjoch Hospitz hut only with request.

Transhumance 2019: Saturday 15th of june in Maso Corto/Kurzras and Vernago/Vernagt
Schedule may change if weather conditions are bad.
The sheep return to Schnalstal Valley in September – as has been the case for hundreds of years

In mid-September, the march of the animals begins again in the opposite direction. Due to the milder weather conditions, the return journey is generally much easier for both man and animal compared with crossing the main Alpine ridge in the spring which is a huge challenge for all.

The sheep return to Schnalstal Valley in September – as has been the case for hundreds of years.

Niedertalm – Niederjoch (3019 m) – VERNAGO/Vernagt (1700 m)
Up to 2,200 sheep and 300 goats set off from the Niedertal Alm in Vent valley (A) in the early morning, moving upwards through high-Alpine terrain (not dangerous) to Niederjoch (3019 m) or the Similaun refuge hut, the first group in the herd arriving at about 9:00 a.m. The most dangerous part of the return journey begins here, particularly if there is snow on the ground or the trail or parts of it are icy.

Below the hut, the procession winds downhill on quite a narrow trail through steep and rocky terrain (down to about 2,600 m). The ground then becomes more level and less dangerous. After a short respite in the centre of Tisental valley, the herd continues down the mountain towards Vernago/Vernagt, arriving just before 2:00 p.m. From far away (1/2 hour before it arrives) you can already see the never-ending line of sheep. The shepherds and drovers are welcomed back by many locals and guests to a big shepherd festival near the “schofschoad” or assembly point.

Accommodation and refreshments available at the Martin Busch hut and the Similaun refuge hut.

Rofenbergalm – Hochjoch (2856 m) – MASO CORTO/Kurzras (2011 m)
Early in the morning, about 1,500 sheep set off from the Rofenberg Alm in Vent valley (A). From there, the trail leads through high-Alpine terrain (not dangerous) upwards towards Hochjoch or the Bella Vista refuge hut (2845 m). The herd arrives there between 11:00 a.m. and 12:00 p.m. After a short break at the hut, the procession continues down the mountain at a gentle pace, initially through steep, rocky terrain and then onto more level ground, then across steep ground again, to Maso Corto/Kurzras where the herd arrives between 3:00 p.m. and 4:00 p.m. Near the “schofsschoad” or assembly point, a hearty shepherds’ festival is already underway since 11:00 a.m. in the morning with traditional music and local specialities.

Accommodation and refreshments available at the Hochjoch Hospitz hut and the Bella Vista refuge hut.

The return of the sheep:
Saturday, 14th of September in Vernago/Vernagt
Sunday, 15th of September in Maso Corto/Kurzras

Schedule may change if weather conditions are bad
Transhumance ticket 2019
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