A chronostratigraphy based on luminescence data was established at a key loess profile (Duttendorf) in the northern alpine foreland of Austria. The data help to constrain the timing and duration of the Last Glacial Maximum (LGM) in the area of one of the largest east Alpine piedmont glaciers, the Salzach palaeoglacier. Climate deterioration and maximum advance of this glacier were coeval with the beginning of the main loess accumulation phase in the glacier forefield at ∼29–30 ka. A late LGM-outwash gravel layer deposited on top of the loess profile marks the end of the LGM glacier activity at ∼20 ka. The geomorphological setting around the loess profile provides evidence of a major glacier oscillation during the course of the LGM, a phenomenon qualitatively known from other alpine palaeoglaciers but never interpreted in terms of palaeoclimate. A LGM glacier oscillation similar to that of the Salzach palaeoglacier was reported recently from the south Alpine Tagliamento palaeoglacier, suggesting a common forcing. The onset of loess deposition at Duttendorf and the tentatively contemporal advance of the Salzach palaeoglacier reflect, as do other data, the drastic cooling in Europe as a result of Heinrich event 3. The first glacier maximum is not well constrained in the study area but a correlation with the better dated Tagliamento amphitheatre suggests a possible response to Heinrich 2. The second re-advance occurred synchronously (within dating uncertainties) in both palaeoglaciers forefields (at ∼21 ka) but the forcing mechanism remains unknown. Copyright © 2011 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.