The story of the remarkable High Alpine Road owned by two brothers
Exploring the Tyrol’s Timmelsjoch with Porsche – and the brothers who call it home
The Timmelsjoch is by no means the fastest route from Italy to Austria, but it is perhaps the most beautiful. The aptly named High Alpine Road weaves its way over the spectacular Tyrol mountains, climbing to a dizzying 2,509 metres between the Ötztal and Passeier valleys below.
For seven months of the year, the 32-kilometre Timmelsjoch is completely closed, blanketed in snow that can grow eight or ten metres thick. It takes three to four weeks to clear the road before its annual awakening, which heralds a buzz of activity that will see some 100,000 cars and 80,000 motorcycles use the road to cross the Eastern Alps each summer season.
Brothers Attila (left) and Alban Scheiber have led the Timmelsjoch into the modern age
Alban and Attila Scheiber are regulars on the Timmelsjoch. And little wonder. The High Alpine Road actually belongs to them. Angelus Scheiber, the twins’ grandfather, is regarded as the inventor of modern tourism in the Ötztal region and the road up to the Timmelsjoch was his idea. His pioneering vision was a morning ski on the Ötztal’s glaciers followed by an afternoon relaxing beneath palm trees in the Italian spa resort of Merano.
His son Alban, the twins’ father, competed in the first Timmelsjoch hill climb in 1962 in his Porsche 356 B. In those days, the hair-raising race was still run partly on gravel, with early winners including the likes of Porsche factory driver and Le Mans winner Hans Herrmann. A successful businessman, Alban Scheiber eventually bought the government’s share in the road, and the family became its majority owner and custodian.
For Alban and Attila, love of the road and fast cars is in their blood. “We got our first moped at the age of six, and we were riding motocross bikes up the mountain at eight,” recalls Alban junior. “But here, it’s not about quickly getting from A to B,” Attila emphasizes. Anyone in a hurry today can use the Brenner autobahn, while those that choose the Timmelsjoch instead enjoy a bygone era of travel with breath-taking mountain views and, latterly, spectacular architecture. For near the summit now sits the new Pass Museum, anchored into the mountainside and projecting some 16 metres out over the Passeier Valley below. Inside what is now the highest-altitude museum in Austria, photographs recall Angelus Scheiber’s early roadbuilding efforts in the 1950s when the first 12 km were laid by hand, one stone at a time.
The Pass Museum leans out toward Italy
The Scheiber twins have carried on this industrious legacy, carefully maintaining and improving the road, which remains a lifeline for the surrounding valleys and indeed the entire region. “The Timmelsjoch road has been spanning frontiers and uniting people for over fifty years now,” says Alban. And to ensure it stays that way, he and his brother have continued to invest significantly in its structure and surroundings. Not only is the road in first-class condition today, but along the route, extraordinary works by South Tyrolean architect Werner Tscholl can now be seen at six locations, with sculptural buildings housing information waypoints explaining the history of the road as part of the ‘Timmelsjoch Experience’.
Meanwhile, around 400 m below, where the old toll station from the 1950s once stood, the Top Mountain Crosspoint was recently added. An organic sweep of timber, stone, and steel, it houses the Kirchenkar Mountain Gondola which carries up to 2,400 skiers per hour to the summit in winter. The complex is also home to a large, sunlit restaurant where visitors can enjoy one of the most beautiful alpine views in the region and the Top Mountain Motorcycle Museum, with its 330-strong collection of rare bikes and other automotive ephemera, amassed by the brothers over several decades.
The Top Mountain Motorcycle Museum before the devastating fire in January 2021
Tragically, on January 18 2021, a fire swept through the museum, destroying the collection, but the irrepressible brothers were undeterred, and on 18 November that same year, the museum celebrated its grand reopening. To support of the Scheibers, the Porsche Museum has been exhibiting three of its own models there as part of its own recent international roadshow. After all, Porsche was born on roads like Timmelsjoch and driven ever since by passionate enthusiasts like Alban and Attila.
A Porsche Taycan Turbo and 356 B | Taycan Turbo: electric power consumption* combined (WLTP) 26.6 – 22.9 kWh/100 km, CO₂ emissions combined (WLTP) 0 g/km, electric power consumption* combined (NEDC) 28.0 kWh/100 km, CO₂ emissions combined (NEDC) 0 g/km JPG 1 MB