Alpine Clubs

Alpine Clubs are mass membership organizations that unite people with an interest in recreational not-for-profit activities in mountainous terrain. As the name suggests, the initial focus was the Alps (although the first Alpine Club was located in the UK), but in the meantime there are Alpine Clubs scattered throughout the world, some with a focus on their local mountains, others (such as the Dutch Alpine Club :-) necessarily with a focus elsewhere. They play a number of different roles:

  • Building and maintaining trail networks and huts/refuges.
  • Education, conservation, and advocacy.
  • Providing various benefits to their members.

It is this last role that I will focus on here. However first a word about reciprocity, or rather the lack thereof, among different Alpine Clubs: outside of the core Alpine states (Austria, France, Germany, Italy, Switzerland) it either doesn't exist or is very limited. If you are a member of any of these five then you receive all of the benefits below. If you are a member of any other Alpine Club, then probably not. And in case you are thinking of becoming a member of one of the core five as a non-resident... I'm not sure it is possible, and even if it is, you won't be able to enjoy of all of the benefits (as I'll explain below).


The three critical benefits from the perspective of the H2H are:

  • Discounts of up to 50% on room and board in Alpine Club mountain huts and refuges throughout the Alps. Not all high mountain huts belong to Alpine Clubs, but many of them do. Note that it makes no difference to which of the various core Alpine Clubs the hut belongs. Although not critical, this is definitely a nice to have since, given the number of huts the H2H visits, it will pay for the cost of membership.
  • Unconditional right to stay in a mountain hut run by an Alpine Club even if all beds are taken (sometimes in a separate dedicated bunkhouse, but if needs be on the floor in a corner). Again, it makes no difference to which of the various core Alpine Clubs the huts belong. This is not a life-saver, since if you are in an emergency situation (e.g., a sudden snowstorm, or middle of the night arrival) no hut overseer is going to turn you away. However, it can be EXCEEDINGLY useful while hiking the H2H due to the inability to reserve more than a couple of days ahead (see Room and Board). The last thing you want is to arrive at a hut in the mid-afternoon only to be told that it is full, but you have time to get down to possible accommodation in the valley so... goodbye.
  • Mountain rescue insurance. This pays for all expenses associated with finding and rescuing you if you should get into bad trouble in the mountains. There is a cap, but it is high (i.e., it should be able to cover search teams, helicopter use, and emergency medical care until you are in a hospital). However, note that in the fine print of the insurance contract for members of the German Alpine Club it states that you must be a resident of Germany to benefit from the insurance (and until proven otherwise I'd therefore assume the same restriction for the insurance offered by the other core Alpine Clubs). Again, this is not a life-saver, since the Mountain Rescue will provide all of these services whether or not you have this insurance. But it can be a bank account saver, since once you are safe, they will expect to be paid one way or another. Depending upon the complexity of the rescue the bill can run into the tens of thousands of Euros.

If you are a resident of one of the core Alpine countries mentioned above, you should absolutely become a member of your local Alpine Club. If you are not, well, you should check out your local Alpine Club to see what benefits it offers you when hiking in the Alps, but don't be surprised if they are somewhat limited.


Here are the core Alpine Clubs: