In alpine species the classification of the various mechanisms underlying seed dormancy has been rather questionable and controversial. Thus, we investigated 28 alpine species to evaluate the prevailing types of dormancy. Embryo type and water impermeability of seed coats gave an indication of the potential seed dormancy class. To ascertain the actual dormancy class and level, we performed germination experiments comparing the behavior of seeds without storage, after cold-dry storage, after cold-wet storage, and scarification. We also tested the light requirement for germination in some species. Germination behavior was characterized using the final germination percentage and the mean germination time. Considering the effects of the pretreatments, a refined classification of the prevailing dormancy types was constructed based on the results of our pretreatments. Only two out of the 28 species that we evaluated had predominantly non-dormant seeds. Physiological dormancy was prevalent in 20 species, with deep physiological dormancy being the most abundant, followed by non-deep and intermediate physiological dormancy. Seeds of four species with underdeveloped embryos were assigned to the morphophysiologial dormancy class. An impermeable seed coat was identified in two species, with no additional physiological germination block. We defined these species as having physical dormancy. Light promoted the germination of seeds without storage in all but one species with physiological dormancy. In species with physical dormancy, light responses were of minor importance. We discuss our new classification in the context of former germination studies and draw implications for the timing of germination in the field.