Winter is not all about skiing, as Touching Nature Web Guides know for sure. Set out on a winter walk on your holiday in SalzburgerLand, and enjoy rosy cheeks and fresh alpine air at a slower pace.
When it comes to winter activities in Austria, your mind probably wanders to downhill skiing. While there is ample opportunity to soar down mountains or glide through scenic valleys and woodlands on cross country tracks, discovering the alps on foot lets you experience the white-clad landscapes and fresh serenity more intimately. There is now a growing trend to cater for those who enjoy the quiet beauty of winter with walks and rambles rather than skiing. More and more walking trails are being groomed specifically for the snowy season, offering everything from relaxing strolls to longer hikes.
For winter walking in Austria, all you need is a comfortable pair of hiking boots and your usual outdoor clothes. Some walkers choose to bring along a pair of walking poles, but this is not a necessity, especially since there are a number of level paths. But they come in handy should you find yourself on an icy patch or when ascending a steeper hillside. Winter walking trails are specially flattened so you won’t find yourself sinking down to your knees. These trails are called ‘Winterwanderwege’ in German. One region that is particularly attractive to winter walkers is SalzburgerLand. The Salzburger Sportwelt region, for example, consists of eight ski resorts, all of which have well-prepared winter walking trails in their vicinities.
Another prime winter holiday destination in SalzburgerLand is Zell Am See-Kaprun. There you can take a cable car or ski lift up to Mt Kitzsteinhorn (3,203m/10,509 ft) to walk the easy but wonderfully scenic ‘Glacier Trail’ at an altitude of 3,029m/9 938 ft. The Kitzsteinhorn Glacier is covered in snow 10 months a year! While on Mt. Kitzsteinhorn you can also visit the Ice Camp, an amazing world of sparkly ice and illuminated igloos, with an ice bar and an ice cinema at 2,500m/8,202 ft above sea level.
The Rauris Valley, which is located in the Hohe Tauern National Park, boasts 48km/30 mi of waymarked trails for winter walking. Along the trails you may observe wildlife such as deer and snow hares, and you can warm up along the way inside rustic mountain huts. One Rauris Valley trail not to miss is Kolm Saigurn, which leads you to a romantic valley head surrounded by frozen waterfalls.
Finally, the Gastein Valley is a hub for winter walking and boasts over 100km/62 mi of Winterwanderwege. Choose between trails that take from half an hour to four or more hours to complete. Some are gentle and level while others are gradual climbs. Several of the tracks can be accessed by cable car, such as one that begins at the Stubnerkogelbahn-Senderbahn summit station. “The fantastic view from the peak of the Stubnerkogel across the entire valley is something not only skiers rave about,” describes Gasteinertal Tourism. “Those who are particularly brave venture across the 140m/153 yard long suspension bridge at 2,300m/7,546 ft: an airy kind of winter experience!”
Other non-skiing winter activities in the SalzburgerLand region include going for a romantic horse-drawn sleigh ride, tobogganing, snow-shoeing, Nordic walking, ice skating – not to mention kids of all ages enjoy building snowmen! After a day of outdoor recreation, you can take a cable car to a mountain hut to relax over hot chocolate or ‘Jägertee’ – a popular tea and rum drink.
There are numerous other walking options in SalzburgerLand, with most of the region’s winter walking paths being clearly marked and local tourist offices providing you with winter walking maps. So put on your boots, grab your walking poles and get ready to experience the magical winter season.
For more information on SalzburgerLand and other Austrian walking regions, visit TouchingNature.co.uk