Before the advent of waterproof breathable laminates and glove/mitt inserts Dachstein mitts and gloves almost had a monopoly on keeping hands warm
in frigid skiing and mountaineering environments.
Although at first glance Dachstein mitts and gloves appeared to be similar to the cheaper Norwegian Ragg style of knitwear. But on picking a pair, the
difference in weight and density was immediately obvious.
The woollen gloves made in the mountainous Dachstein region of Austria drew in local local knowledge of making Loden, a loosely wovenfabric that
undergoes a series of shrinking treatments to result in a dense felt-like fabric. Dachstein mitts were thus loosely knitted and then boiled causing the wool
to shrink until that contraction created a super dense fibrous matted fabric in the shape of hand sized mitten.
So dense was the felt-like material that it was possible to pour water directly on the mitt and watch it bead off for considerable time, often up to minute.
Of course flexing the mitt, or squeezing it such as hold a ski stock or ice axe did reduce this weatherproofing effect. But becuase wool generates heat
when moist, hands stayed warm inside the mitts.
There is also some suggestion that a thin outer film of water embedded in the surface of the mitt would freeze, further enhancing the mitt's
The mitts weren't particularly form fitting, but did take on the shape of the wearer's hand after extensive use. Having four fingers together was also
warmer than isolating each digit as gloves do. Though some mobility was sacrificed for the added warmth. The cuff were prone to letting in snow and they
took forever to dry out once fully saturated. But for many years they were the warmest mitts with a some dexterity on the market.
And, as such, they were ubiquitous, found in outdoor stores the world over, and known simply as "Dachsteins."
UPDATE - July 2012:
Jim Graham, a former Australian outdoor product distributor of many years standing, kindly shared this first hand account of the Dachstein story (edited):
"In Australia from mid 1970’s all the mittens coming in were from Schladming a village beneath the three peaks of the Dachstein mountain massif.
These were branded “Victor Derkogner.” Victor passed away in late 70’s, early 80’s and the business was run by Mrs Derkogner, whom I meet about 1982.
From what I remember the business was a cooperative, or similar, where different families made the products, mitts, gloves hats, pullovers, hut slippers
etc. The Derkogner’s did the marketing. After Victor passed away Mrs Derkogner employed Wolfgang Moetsh (not sure of spelling) who had worked for
Salewa to run the business. Wolfgang was pretty wild, by his mad driving and drinking. He disappeared from the outdoor scene. I knew other people
working at Salewa who knew him and they asked me if I had ever heard from him. The Derkogner business fell away or ceased.
We then found out about the Lackner Wolle business based in Altenmarkt, famous for the Atomic ski factory and same valley as Schladming. The Lackner
Wolle business was right in town in a big building that had some apartments where different members of the Lackner family lived. When I visited we had
coffee in someones kitchen/ dining room and the women and children all came to see me, even though they could not speak English. The women would
bring in their work. They were brushing and putting mittens together in pairs. A real family business. Downstairs was the factory and a shop. The wool
came off all types of animals and mixed. I can’t remember all the details, but the wool was spun and knitted. The mittens were huge and put on big
paddles in shape of mitten and then shrunk. The shop sold Lackner Wolle products, but also woven loden cloth by the metre in many tradition Austrian
colours and styles. This fabric was bought in.
When I visited ISPO or Outdoor Friedrichshafen, I would usually meet Matthias Lackner and his brothers (one worked in a bank in Salzburg) and one of
the sons who did the translations. Their English was better than my German, but at times very difficult to understand each other, so the son sorted it out.
We would drink this very strong black coffee.
Mathias Lackner passed away about 10 years ago. They were great suppliers with never a problem with orders, documentation, quality or delivery.
Lackner Wolle is still showing up in several Austrian Directories. They maybe trading under another name. Your reference to the original may be hard to
substantiate as the product probably had is source as a cottage industry.
Of interest…these woollen mitts stick to ice, where as synthetics slip. In days gone by, woollen trousers and jackets also stuck, so the woollen mitt was
last bit of serious outdoor gear to give a grip!!!"