The most famous mountain resort in the country, Špindlerův Mlýn is not only the largest mountain resort in the Krkonoše Mountains, but also the largest and most famous in the whole of the Czech Republic. It lies at a height of 575 – 1555 m on the River Elbe, just a few kilometres from its source, right in the heart of the country’s highest mountain range, the Krkonoše. The distinctive charm of these mountains, now protected by the Krkonoše National Park, has been admired by visitors for centuries. Špindlerův Mlýn is a great place for a family holiday, business meetings, or congress tourism. It is the ideal destination for anyone who enjoys relaxing in the mountains, as well as for fans of sports and entertainment and lovers of fashionable mountain hotels. From spring until autumn you can enjoy the beauty of the mountain streams and ridges – on foot, on a bikes, or from horseback. In winter it offers the best equipped ski resort in the Czech Republic, with 25 km of downhill slopes, 3 snowparks and 85 km of cross-country skiing routes. All year round there are plenty of opportunities for sports, adrenaline trips and wellness, with plenty of inns and luxurious restaurants offering a pleasant place to spend the evening. International sports events are also held here. There’s certainly something for everyone. Don’t wait around, come and try the unique atmosphere of Špindlerův Mlýn. Attentive and considerate visitors are most welcome.
Špindlerův Mlýn is surrounded on all sides by mountains, which are famously unique. The peaks of the Krkonoše are a unique location for natural scientists, who sometimes refer to this area as an Arctic island in the middle of Europe. This is not just due to the harsh climate up on the tops – the border ridges are the first barrier in the ways of the winds blowing from the cold seas of the north and northwest – but also because the relief of the mountains and their nature is so similar to that of the Scandinavian mountains far to the north. The last Ice Ages brought plants and animals over from the Arctic and these have remained here to this day, despite the warmer weather; this is particularly due to the cold climate on the peaks. If you’re observant, in the Úpa peat bog below Sněžka you might hear the beautiful voice of the Bluethroat or see the inconspicuous cloudberry – these are just two examples of species who came from the north and settled here all those years ago. The slopes and bottoms of the cirques are also incredibly interesting; these are valleys carved out by glaciers, which acted as funnels, catching varied mixes of plants and small animals blown here from all over by the winds. The lower slopes of the mountains are also interesting for their distinctive landscape, which was shaped over hundreds of years by nature and by the cabin and chalet building activities of man. So there are many reasons why this landscape has been protected as part of the Krkonoše National Park since 1963. Help us preserve it for future generations too...
Settlement of the mountains – the first inhabitants were attracted by underground riches
Until the 16th century the site on which Špindlerův Mlýn now stands was a dense primeval forest. The first people who went to the heart of those impenetrable mountains were prospectors – in search of ore and previous stones, followed by miners, who began to mine first iron ore and then silver. There was a huge boom in mining and iron-working under Kryštof of Gendorf, the royal mining commissioner and a mining expert, who purchased the estate of Vrchlabí in the foothills of the mountains, further down along the River Elbe. He transformed the Vrchlabí ironworks into what was then the largest enterprise of its kind in Bohemia. Mining and processing ores consumed a tremendous amount of wood, and so Gendorf invited over from the Alps experts in logging and transporting wood by river. These Alpine miners and lumberjacks settled here and began to build the structures in the mountains that we call chalets. As they had experience from home in how to breed cattle in those seemingly inhospitable mountains, they began to manage the clearings they cut. These clearings became meadows and pastures, creating those typical meadow enclaves amidst the forests that we can still see today. The chalet economy became more important as mineral riches and wood began to decline. The prospectors and miners were gradually replaced by collectors of healing plants and cabin-builders. However, the greatest boom in mountain cabins did not occur until the arrival of tourism in the late 19th century.
How the town was founded, or what official errors are good for
Back in the 18th century the area in which Špindlerův Mlýn now lies consisted just of small scattered settlements, the names of which are still preserved in the names of the local districts, such as Svatý Petr, Bedřichov and Labská. What is now the town centre grew in importance then in 1765 the miller Špindler moved his mill from Svatý Petr when it was destroyed by water from the melting snow. The new mill was, as was the custom, named after him – so Špindlerův Mlýn, or Špindler’s Mill. The fact that the name of this mill became the name of a non-existent community was the result of an official slip-up. The cause was the church. At the end of the 18th century there was only a little old chapel here, where services were held just three times a year. The spiritual life of the mountain folk was catered to by the Augustinian Monastery in Vrchlabí, to which there was no road back then, just a poorly accessible track. Also, after the church reforms of Emperor Joseph II, the number of monks in Vrchlabí was reduced considerably. The local people therefore tried to establish their own church and parish. One of the most active of these locals was the miller from Špindlerův Mlýn, through whom the highlanders made their humble request to the Emperor. By the signatures it reads – “drawn up in Špindlerův Mlýn” (German Spindlermühle). And as the names of towns and villages in German-speaking countries are often similar, this mistake got through and a permit was issued for the construction of a church in the municipality of Špindlerův Mlýn. The local people gladly accepted the new name and started to build before there could be any objections from the imperial officials. This was actually not the only official error in this case. On the Emperor’s decree the name Spindlermühle somehow lost its "r". The locals, however, soon got used to this wrong name and efforts during the 20th century to correct the town’s name and restore the hapless "r" met with strong opposition from the townspeople.
Early days of tourism - from poor cabin folk to hoteliers
The local cabin folk and gamekeepers sometimes used to provide a roof and food to travellers passing through these regions. However, tourism in Špindlerův Mlýn traditionally dates back to 1865, when four people on a trip from Vratislav stayed here. They liked it so much that they started to come here regularly, bringing their friends. The locals soon saw the tourist potential of the area and began to build chalets and roads for the trippers. One of the most popular was the trail via Dívčí lávky through Labský důl to the Elbe Waterfall and Labská bouda. This was built in 1871 at his own expense by the owner of the Jilemnice estate, Jan Harrach, after whom it takes its name. On the opposite side from Dívčí lávky, upstream along the White Elbe, another route was created in 1889-1891 by the owner of the Vrchlabí estate, Countess Aloisie Černín-Morzínová; this was named in honour of the first chairman of the Austrian Krkonoše Association, the Dean of Vrchlabí, Wenzel Weber. There was a major influx of tourists with the construction of the road from Vrchlabí in 1872. The cabin builders began to do up their chalets and expand the services they offered; poor huts often became show hotels. New professions appeared, such as the Krkonoše guides and porters. Tourists could not only have their baggage carried up to the tops of the hill on wooden backpacks, but also themselves.
Winter fun and the origins of skiing
Originally the tourist season was primarily in the summer. It wasn’t until the 1920s that the eastern Krkonoše (from Pomezní Boudy chalets to Kowar) began to provide the first commercial slopes for bob-sleighs. These were sledges with large "horns" at the front, which the loggers brought from the Alps and which were originally used to carry wood down from the mountains in winter. This new attraction quickly spread to Špindlerův Mlýn. The first ski runs were mostly from Petrova bouda chalet to Špindlerova Bouda (from where the sledging track runs today), but also from other chalets in the hills. In 1909 a hydro power plant was built by the sawmill and the following year an electric ski tow for sledges was erected. Sledging on those horn sledges or sports sledges was the main winter entertainment here at the end of the 19th century.
When the Kraus brothers appeared at Petrova bouda in 1880, evidently with the first skis in the Krkonoše Mountains, none of those watching at the time could have realised they were witnessing the dawn of a new era. It took almost twenty more years before this fad became a practical form of transport as well as a new sport. That this happened was partly due to the Vrchlabí factory owner Guido Rotter, who in 1899 donated skis to all the mountain schools in the Vrchlabí region, and also down to Count Jan Harrach, who kitted his forest workers out with them. In 1900 there was a training session for the army in Špindlerův Mlýn in how to use skis. Nowadays the range of winter sports activities in Špindlerův Mlýn is much more impressive – come and see for yourself.