Relax & Rewind! 3 Fun and De-Stressing Winter Activities in Austria
Skiing remains the most popular winter activity in Austria. However, slow paced alternatives increase in popularity. Have a look what Austria has to offer.
More and more holidaymakers like to spice things up with alternative adventures when on their skiing holidays, according to recent surveys. Outdoor activities focused on experiencing nature and freedom, think winter hiking, cross-country skiing, tobogganing or ice skating, have increased in popularity ever since the pandemic started – and there’s plenty of options to choose from in Austria.
ENJOY THE MOMENT – IN BREATHTAKING NATURE
Slow outdoor exercises come with many benefits: Unlike downhill skiing, where your focus is – mostly – on the slope, you can fully enjoy your surroundings with all your senses while walking or cross-country skiing at a more leisurely pace. Just think about the impressive mountain panoramas, the different shapes created by snow, the interplay of light and shadow in the forests, or the wind and animal tracks on the white surfaces. Then, of course, there’s the scent of warm drinks and freshly prepared Austrian dishes like Kaiserschmarren as the next mountain inn is always close by.
Activities away from the traditional pistes are fun and easily accessible for the whole family. Many resorts offer packages including guides, transport, and food. What’s more: In most cases, no equipment is needed apart from warm clothes and water-proofed shoes. And if you are up for some skating, tobogganing, or cross-country-skiing, everything you need can be hired on-site.
THE JOY OF WINTER HIKING
Winter hiking trails are available all over Austria, both in the alpine regions and the plains in the east of the country, with many hosts and resorts also offering guided tours. In Vorarlberg’s Bregenzerwald, guests can choose between short and longer trails as well as tours stopping at different restaurants and mountain inns. The Olympic region of Seefeld in Tirol and the Kitzbühler Alps are both starting points of multi-day trails, with packages including transport. Tirol’s Raurisertal boasts impressive mountain panoramas and tranquility best enjoyed on foot. Animal lovers can set out on a hike together with huskies in places such as Waldviertel, Lower Austria, or with donkeys in the Pöllautal Nationalpark. The guided tours take place every first Saturday of the month upon request.
PUT ON YOUR SNOWSHOES
Fancy a walk in powder snow? Snowshoe hiking, increasing in popularity by the year, is best enjoyed together with a guide who knows the area and its snow conditions inside out. And while the large plate-shaped shoes might need a bit of time to get used to, they prevent you from sinking into the snow and – thanks to the spikes at the bottom – also provide support when walking both uphill and downhill, together with the poles. Popular areas for snowshoe hiking include the National Parks Hohe Tauern (offering guided tours both at daytime and at night), Kalkalpen and Gesäuse.
CROSS-COUNTRY SKIING IN AUSTRIA
Classic or skate? Cross-country skiers will find themselves spoiled with choice of trails in Austria, all leading through charming landscapes. The workout in the fresh winter air also increases your fitness. Seven ski schools in Tirol offer courses both for beginners and advanced cross-country skiers. East Tirol has packages for multi-day day trips, while Saalfelden-Leogang in SalzburgerLand is home to Austria’s first Fun & Snow Park for cross-country skiers. Lungau in SalzburgerLand features beautiful views and varied trails while St. Aegyd am Neuwalde in Lower Austria boasts historic paths through the winter landscape.
ICE-SKATING ON THE LAKE – AND IN THE CITY
Austria’s largest ice rink is Lake Weißensee in Carinthia. Spread across 6,5 km2, it is in fact the largest prepared ice surface in Europe. The whole circle route is 25 km in length and the ice up to 40 cm thick. There’s an ice-skating school as well as several curling spots on-site. Heading to the East of Austria? Lake Neusiedl in Burgenland is the largest steppe lake in Europe and another picturesque place for ice skating. During the cold months, the ice covers large parts of the lake.
If you want to combine ice skating with urban flair, the Viennese Ice Dream is your best bet. Located right in front of the city hall, the 9,500 m2 rink is open until 6 March. The most unusual city rink in the capital is Engelmann where locals and visitors have been skating above the rooftops for over 100 years.