What’s Your Idea Of The Perfect Winter?
Heavy snowfall that stays more than a day? Snow you can actually make a snowman with? Frozen lakes you can skate on? A roaring fire in a Romantic cabin nestled in the mountains? Think Austria – ski chalets are plentiful and while Austria is not the most obvious location for anything other than careering downhill on two planks of fibreglass towards your next glass of glühwein, it is definately much more than just a ski slope. Austrians don’t like to spend their winters inside in front of the telly and having found many fun ways to enjoy their generous winter season, they are more than happy to share it all with visitors. In fact, it’s expected!
World Class Ski-ing
Of course, the skiing is still world-class and having invented the downhill, Austria has upgraded its resorts to accommodate the high volume of skiers and snowboarders it sees every season. If you want to ski, you’ll be doing it on some of the best snow in the world. After all, Austria is to skiing what Hawaii is to surfing and what Wimbledon is to tennis.
And it’s not just the hallowed downhill that you can enjoy: snowboarding is very popular – and some say cooler – and many dedicated snowboarding parks have opened across the country. Cross-country skiing is available at virtually every resort with courses for newcomers. This is a high endurance exercise, testing the body in naturally beautiful surroundings – a thoroughly invigorating pastime.
Most resorts have natural toboggan runs ranging from a couple of hundred metres to a few kilometres. Once used to transport dry hay from the mountains to the towns and villages, they now ferry thrill seekers of all ages from top to bottom as many times as they can handle. If you’re looking for a serious thrill go to Wildkogel, just outside Salzburg. At 14km and 50 minutes long, it’s the world’s longest floodlit toboggan run.
Ice climbing is very popular and centres often have their own ice walls or will organise trips to the nearest frozen vertical. Courses for newcomers to the sport will begin at an indoor wall where instructors teach the very specific safety procedures before new climbers graduate to the ice.
If that’s too much, try winter hiking, also known as snowshoeing. Most resorts have designated walking tracks and some off-pitse areas where you can enjoy the peace and tranquillity of the snow-covered surroundings by day and by night. Most resorts and Pensions will have small sleighs for pulling the children along. A guided tour will involve something a little more challenging, but with equal reward when you learn how to spot animal tracks, observe wild animals like the Alpine Ibex and enjoy stunning views.
If what you really need is to relax, then spend a day at the spa. The ‘wellness’ industry has seen a dramatic explosion in this region and spa’s are plentiful and reasonably priced. Standard facilities will include, pools Jacuzzi’s, saunas and massage treatments. Saunas are often taken naked, so if you’re shy check the policy before entering.
There are a variety of accommodation available to suit every budget, from basic hostels with surprisingly high standards, to pensions (that’s B&B to you and I), self-catered and catered chalets to the full shilling of five star luxury complete with spa.
Whatever you choose, there’s plenty of it. Austria expects a high volume of visitors every ski season and has the capacity to meet the demand both on the slopes and off.
This guest post was contributed by Marie-Paule Graham, a travel writer for Chaletfinder.co.uk where you can find last minute Austria ski chalet offers and luxury ski chalet deals throughout Europe and the USA.