Day trip destination
Ice Holes of Eppan: a refreshing change
The Ice Holes of Eppan show that swimming is not the only way of escaping the heat in South Tyrol.
Besides the rich flora and fauna of 'Frühlingstal' valley, Montiggl lakes and the lake at Kaltern, there is another wonder of nature in the Überetsch area. Ice-cold air flows out of the Ice Holes at Eppan in the district of Oberplanitzing in Kaltern near the village of St. Michael in Eppan. Legend has it that there was once a town there whose inhabitants were very proud and cruel. As a punishment, God buried the town beneath the huge rocks that now make up the surrounding landscape. However, geologists do not accept this story of doom as an explanation, but see it as a rare natural phenomenon.
High mountain climate in the valley
The icy cold is caused by masses of porphyry debris that was deposited across the whole of the slope of the Gandberg mountain, and a physical process known as 'windpiping'. In summer, warm air flows through cracks from above into the lower part of the debris slope, is cooled and escapes further down as cold air. As the cold air flowing out of the openings is heavier than the warm air lying above it, it cannot rise, and collects, in the case of the Eppan Ice Holes, in a 200-metre-long, 50-metre-wide and 5-metre-high hollow. The cool microclimate has far-reaching consequences: even in high summer, snow fields and icicles may be found here and there, and, although it is at just 500 metres above sea level, plants that are usually only found in the high mountains may thrive here. The Alpine rose is just one of many examples. The vegetation is also topsy-turvy. Cold-resistant plants grow in the deeper parts of the hollow, while heat-loving plants may be found at the upper edges. This gives rise to an amazing variety of plants: nearly 600 plant species have made it their habitat.
Escape from the heat
The Eppan Ice Holes may be reached from a variety of approaches and hiking guides have an equally-varied number of tips for walkers. An easy walk that is suitable for families with children starts at the centre of St. Michael Eppan. If arriving by car, there are plenty of parking spaces in front of the ice rink. The walk then leads past Eppan middle school and heads south between the houses. After a quarter of an hour, you turn right onto a woodland path and follow this for around 40 minutes, until you reach a forest crossroads. Here, you'll find a sign pointing to the Ice Holes, which are just 5 minutes away.
A trip to the Ice Holes is at its most rewarding in summer, when the difference between the hot and cold air may easily be felt.
Two birds with one stone
Eppan as a holiday or hiking destination also has the advantage of nature and culture not being in opposition, but forming a whole. Anyone choosing to visit the Ice Holes will pass a few sights on the way. Gleifkirche church and Schloss Moos-Schulthaus castle are particularly close. The church, built in 1716, affords wonderful views across Eppan and the surrounding area, while there is a museum on medieval life housed in Schloss Moos-Schulthaus castle.