Up to the end of the 19th century, this cave was still completely unknown - not least because of its exposed location in the high mountains, but also due to the lack of interest in cave exploration at the time. It was not until 1879 that the Salzburg naturalist Anton von Posselt-Czorich ventured alone about 200 metres into the darkness of this cave, and thereby officially discovered the Eisriesenwelt. A year later, he published a detailed account of his discovery in the Alpenverein magazine. Nevertheless, the cave was forgotten about once again.
Alexander von Mörk, founder of Salzburg cave exploration, recognised the significance of Posselt’s documentation and pursued this thirst for exploring in 1913 together with other pioneers of cave exploration, such as Angermayer and Riehl.
After the First World War, pioneering explorations of the kilometre-long labyrinths of this cave system followed by other explorers, such as Friedrich and Robert Oedl or Walter Czernig.
With increasing awareness of this unique natural wonder, its tourist value soon grew. As early as 1920, an “explorer’s hut” and the first primitive climbing facilities to and in the cave were built in order to make it easier for visitors to visit the cave.
In 1924, the ice part of the cave was continuously accessible on simple wooden walkways. In 1925, next to the explorer’s hut, a very spacious shelter was built, which was named in recognition of Friedrich Oedl’s achievements and all his hard work connected with the Eisriesenwelt.
For about 35 years, the ascent to the cave was only possible on foot. Under rather adventurous conditions, it was possible from 1953 to travel on the initially single-track and unpaved “Eisriesenweltstrasse” and from 1955 onwards to change to the cable car, which climbed the steepest part of the former footpath (1084 m to 1586 m) in a few minutes.
The Austrian Federal Forests are the landowners of the Eisriesenwelt. The Salzburger Verein für Höhlenkunde (Salzburg Association for Speleology) initially agreed a provisional lease with them. Long-term contracts were concluded in 1928 after the establishment of a separate Eisriesenwelt company.
The Federal Forests receive a not inconsiderable annual percentage of the entrance fees.