“Come to us – we have nothing!“. This sarcastic comment by a mountain guide to a travel journalist was turned into an original heading in a Villgraten reportage in the Hamburger Zeit newspaper, and has now almost become a slogan. Such descriptions of Villgraten today seem to be as strange as what could be read 40 years ago in a village year book to mark the 700th anniversary of the community of Innervillgraten: “What we have is little, and yet it is pleasingly much“, the local tourist representative Ludwig Bachmann wrote in 1967. “We see it as a good sign of the times“, said Bachmann back then, “if more and more people, and quite often spoilt and demanding guests, choose our valley as a place to stay“.
Deliberately walking down a path is therefore not a new subject in the East Tyrolean “Side of the Side Valley”, as critical folklorist Johannes E. Trojer once ironically named his home. This can also be seen in the first Villgraten promotional leaflet from 1958: “What is missing in comfort is more than compensated by the splendid surroundings“. Although there is a risk that this may sound tacky, it nevertheless became a touristic and economic guiding principle down to today in Villgraten – combined with an ample portion of a spirit of resistance against recurring and new projects for developing skiing resorts and power stations.
Those seeking summer refreshment have been drawn since 1925 to the cramped village of Villgraten, with its two communities of Außervillgraten (840 inhabitants) and Innervillgraten (1,050), to its slopes angled at up to 70 percent, and colonised with impressive wooden houses. Thanks to a strategy developed in the 1990s by those fostering regional traditions, tourism and Alpine Associations, the valley has above all remained a destination for hikers and mountaineers, and more recently has become a special attraction for skiing tour enthusiasts and cross-country skiers. This path should continue to be maintained by making the lodges of the alpine village of Oberstaller (1.883 m ) winter-proof and setting up a cross-country skiing trail there.
This development is reinforced economically by sheep farming, which has been intensified over the past 20 years. The Innervillgrater mountain sheep farmer and ex-mayor Josef Schett has performed some pioneering work here together with Alois Mühlmann from the Hauben guesthouse Gannerhof. A network was created around Schett's sheep's wool processing company Villgrater Natur, along with the adjacent shop for local farm products, his insulation material company Woolin and the Ganner specialised in lamb meals, which ensures an income for many sheep farmers in East Tyrol and provides guests with special high-quality goods.