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The Tennengebirge mountains were formed during the late Tertiary period, during the Würm glaciation period of the Pleistocene. The mountain range, one of the massifs in the Austrian Alps, is the largest karst plateau in the Salzburger Alps, and the Eisriesenwelt is located at the rim of this plateau. Although the cave has a length of 42 km, only the first kilometer, the area that tourists are allowed to visit, is covered in ice. The rest of the cave is formed of limestone. Eisriesenwelt was formed by the Salzach river, which eroded passageways into the mountain. The ice formations in the cave were formed by thawing snow which drained into the cave and froze during winter. Since the entrance to the caves is open year-round, chilly winter winds blow into the cave and freeze the snow inside. In summer, a cold wind from inside the cave blows toward the entrance and prevents the formations from melting.