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I would love to spend a few winter nights with my friends in a winterraum (winter room) in the Alps; officially, with the owner’s permission. Are all the winterraums meant for emergency only, or are there some that can be used this way, too?

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This might depend on the area. At least in Switzerland the answer is simple: You can use them for planned overnight stays.

They are usually just a small part of the entire hut with none to rudimentary to quite luxury cooking/heating facilities. Their size and equipment present varies greatly between different huts. Most SAC huts have one though. You should usually contact the "hut person" in advance, both for reserving (he can tell people if it is to be expected that too many mountaineers go there - this is usually not pleasant) and to receive sometimes vital information (e.g. where/which door is the entrance in case you have to shovel it free of snow).

Please follow the usual guidelines: Leave the place in equal or better state than you found it. Pay the fees and usually make an entry in the hut book - maintaining a hut involves lots of work and money.

According to Wills and Tullochgorum (thanks) this works more or less the same way in Austria, Italy and France.

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    Same for Austria. If this was not allowed, all ice climbers would need to bivi out there ;) – Wills Sep 21 '16 at 20:55
  • Not pleasant due to crowding or something else? – Erik Sep 22 '16 at 15:29
  • @Eric Definitely crowding. There usually are mattresses and some wool blankets, so you don't need full bivy gear. But in case of too many people there wont be enough and in worst case there is not even enough space for everyone inside. Though I never had the latter happen to me or heard of it happen to a friend. Just ask in advance. – imsodin Sep 22 '16 at 19:44
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    They can be used for planned trips in Italy and France as well. The quality can range widely. They are sometimes small, damp and rather unpleasant. On the other hand, with very small huts the winter room can be the hut itself. They are not free - usually there is a cash box where you leave your fee. – Tullochgorum Sep 23 '16 at 9:39
  • In Italy they are managed by the CAI, on their website you can find the list by location with prices ("bivacchi" its what you are looking for). I never been uncomfortable in any of them but you might find some like the Bivacco Gervasutti which is spectacular – Erik vanDoren Sep 23 '16 at 20:32

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