Late Christmas Presents in Montafon

Jean Massad Skiing (c) Chris Loerkeby Matt Clark

It was a strange start to the ski season in the Northern Alps. A late October snowfall gave way to worryingly warm and sunny weather through November and December, and snow panic was starting to set in. Constant refreshing of resort reports yielded no hope, ski forums were filled with threads of despair as the Christmas holiday weeks approached, and a state of weary resignation permeated the air. Some resorts managed limited openings, and we scrambled to track the limited amounts of piste-side powder available, but things weren’t looking good. We headed back to our various homes for Christmas, praying that things would look better on our return…

 

Praise be to the bearded one in red: Santa delivered our presents in the end! Shortly after Christmas Frau Holle’s beautiful white bounty began to fall like benison upon the heads of the faithful, and winter was back on track. As the LUEX Snow Travel team re-convened in our Top Secret Alpine HQ, we were astounded at the depths of snow lying on what just a few weeks before were verdant green fields and pine forests: Vorarlberg was right in the firing line of the storm, and scored big time. Giggling like children, we made plans to meet for first lifts, and went to bed.

 

The next morning we met up at St Gallenkirch in Austria’s Montafon valley, one of Europe’s lesser-known freeride gems, and headed straight for the Garfrescha lift. Diving off the piste and into the pow was a revelation: this wasn’t typical dense alpine snow; it was more akin to the cold smoke of dreams that’s normally the preserve of the powder paradise Hokkaido: dry and light, billowing into clouds at the slightest disturbance, and well over 40cms of it. With exclamations of disbelief (“OH MY GOD!” was a common theme), shouts of pure glee and more than a few expletives, we threw ourselves downhill in an orgy of faceshots, pillows and pure snow-gluttony. What a way to start the New Year!

 



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 Anna Blum on 15.01.2015  |   No comments

Off the Map Treasures: Austria’s Top 5 Off-Piste Spots

by Loulou Baylis 

The Snow Gods have smiled upon Austria. This winter season has proved slow-starting. With sparse snowfall in France and other parts of the Alps, Austria is one of the only snow-sure destinations. Thanks to many of the resorts being at a particularly high altitude, there’s no snow “panic” over whether there’ll be enough white stuff to cover all the mountain. While this means that the pistes may be busy with snow-hunting holiday-makers, there’s always off-piste for those of a gem-hunting disposition. Why stick to the piste when the whole mountain is your playground?

With many of the locals displaying ABS bags and freeride bindings, you’d be in safe hands hiring a guide to find the mountain’s hidden treasures. We also recommend checking out a skiing or snowboarding buying guide to make sure that you have the right skis or board for hitting the backcountry, as well as the correct safety equipment. Here, we expose our favourite off-piste spots for powder-hounds and adventurous riders alike.

 

FieberbrunnTirol’s Best Kept Secret: Fieberbrunn

If backcountry freeriding is what you’re after, there’s no better place to head to than the only place in Austria to hold the prestigious and extreme Freeride World Tour 2014: Fieberbrunn. The legendary Wildseeloder mountain is the venue for the world’s top off-piste riders, and is tribute to the high level of off-piste terrain that Fieberbrunn has to offer. However, if you’re testing off-piste riding for the first time, this resort holds the gentle terrain as well as the challenging, and all easily accessible from the lifts.

Although it’s often overlooked amongst its better known neighbours of Kitzbühel, Saalbach and Scheffau, Fieberbrunn is nestled between them with fresh powder waiting to be tracked. The locals have named Fieberbrunn a “Schneeloch” (snow hole), capturing all of the fresh snow when the heavens open. This “snow pocket” means that Fieberbrunn collects nearly 50% more snow than Kitzbühel over a season. It’s no surprise then that Fieberbrunn has been termed Tirol’s best kept secret.

Our top tip: ride the “Wildsee Runde” for an off-piste route you won’t forget!

 

SöldenMind the Gaps: Sölden

How many other resorts do you know with three mountain peaks over 3,000m, two glaciers and off-piste aplenty? If you prefer to ski the off-piste next to the piste, then Sölden offers a terrific powder trail that runs to the right of t-bar-34. Another parallel run is to the side of run-36 from the top of the Rettenbach gondola. However, as with any off-piste adventures, it’s highly recommended getting a guide to avoid those crevasses and cliffs, particularly in the steeper off-piste areas such as Wasserkar. The Sölden Freeride Centre offer guided tours to find the spots that Sölden likes to hide.

Our top tip: Sölden is peppered with difficult terrain so check your line / route carefully. Helicopters regularly have to rescue people who are unprepared, and a single fair is a cool 500 euros!

 

IschglPowder over Party: Ischgl

With most of the resort above 2000m, Ischgl is not the resort for those looking for powder through the tree lines. Yet, there is fun, steep powder-filled terrain to be had. Forget Ischgl’s reputation as being most prominent for partying, even though this does ensure that most people are too hungover to attempt first tracks on a bluebird morning. The off-piste potential is huge thanks to the likes of the Palinkopf and Pardatschgrat areas.

Even just heading up on one of Ischgl’s lifts, there is an endless sight of powder bowls and untracked terrain. Some of Ischgl’s “off-piste” are in fact recognised ski routes, but are unpatrolled and best attempted with a guide, such as beneath the Hollenspitz area. We recommend Skischule for your guiding needs.

Our top tip: Head to the Piz Val Gronda cable car that opened last year. With runs of 700 vertical metres, this dedicated freeride area always offers fresh tracks.

 

GaltürGood Things Come in Small Packages: Galtür

With only 40km of pisted terrain, it’s no surprise that skiers and snowboarders head here for an off-piste challenge. With the small village’s population of below 1000, Galtür is also the place to head to for escaping the crowds. There are only 3 chairlifts and a gondola, encouraging you to find the powder without relying on the pisted terrain. Located at high altitude, this is a resort that will offer some of the best powder, untouched and ready for those first tracks.

Our top tip: For those fresh powder days, the Ballunspitze run is a must!

 

St. Anton am ArlbergFreeriding before Après: St. Anton

St. Anton am Arlberg may be known for its legendary après, but before the crowds hit the Jäger, there’s plenty of powder to be found: all 200km of off-piste trails! Yet, St.Anton’s status as a freeriding Mecca is not such a well-kept secret, so it’s worth being up early in order to ensure that it’s you making the first tracks. Kapall is where the guys in the know start their day, but there’s always the mid station of Valluga Grat, via the Galzing cable car, for long unpisted runs. If you can afford it, St. Anton is also the only place in Austria where you can heli-board.

Wherever you start, your off-piste riding will most certainly involve deep virgin snow, powder bowls and fun tree lines that are hard to beat. This is a resort that encourages you to venture beyond the piste markers, and for good reason.

Our top tip: Invest in an off-piste technique refresher lesson with the experts at Piste to Powder.

 

Loulou Baylis is an avid skier, having spent three seasons in Tignes in the French Alps. She’s now based in London, where she combines her love of skiing with that of writing on the new ski and snowboard magazine Style Altitude.

 



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 Anna Blum on 06.01.2015  |   One comment

Treasures of the Salzkammergut

by Susanne Stiegler

Gmunden at Lake Traunsee

Gmunden at Lake Traunsee

When people holiday in the Salzkammergut they mostly visit the major attractions like the Salt Trail, the Ice Cave at Dachstein or the Imperial Villa in Bad Ischl, but there is more to experience!

Lake Attersee and Lake Traunsee offer exciting activities as well, which are well worth giving a try.

When staying at Lake Attersee, one must-do is a cruise with the Attersee shipping company, which offers different tours of the lake. I would recommend going on board of the southern route, which takes about 2.5 hours. The special thing about this route is that you cannot only enjoy the beautiful landscape and feel the fresh lake air, but also view magnificent villas of Austrian and international celebrities. Maybe you are lucky and spot the two times Austrian Olympic champion in alpine skiing Hermann Maier sunbathing in his garden – who knows? Read More



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 Anna Blum on 17.07.2014  |   No comments

It begins in Linz…

Linz (c) linztourismus_JohannSteininger

Linz (c) linztourismus_JohannSteininger

By Cynthia Flaggl

 

There is an Austrian saying „In Linz beginnt’s”, which basically means „It begins in Linz”. So why don’t you actually start your holidays in Austria in Linz?

Admittedly, there are far more famous cities in Austria than Linz, but why don’t you step away from the crowded tourist paths and enjoy exploring a really interesting and upcoming city far away from Mozart and the Sacher Torte?

Linz was made European Capital of Culture in 2009 and since then its image really has changed. Linz developed itself from a very industrial city to a modern, upcoming, cultural hub, which is definitely worth visiting.

Linz offers something for everyone. It doesn’t matter if you are interested in culture, shopping or nature, Linz has something for you too.

On a sunny spring day I would recommend you to take a stroll along the famous Linzer Landstraße. The Landstraße is the most important shopping street in Linz and offers a variety of different shops. I can ensure you, you will find something there. And if you are a little bit tired after your stroll you can walk up to the “SKY GARDEN” and enjoy a coffee with a unique view of the cathedral and the Pöstlingberg. There is a reason why “SKY GARDEN” can say that they have the most beautiful terrace in Linz.

But no worries, if you are not that interested in shopping there are plenty of other things to do in Linz, which are connected with culture and nature.

For cultural lovers it is a MUST to pay the Ars Electronica Center a visit. And if you are lucky and you are in Linz at the right time (4th – 8th of September 2014), then there is also the Ars Electronica Festival which is absolutely worth a visit. This festival turned out to be a very successful and remarkable event for media art, and it now belongs to the most important of its kind. In the Ars Electronica Center you can enjoy different exhibitions, which change over time. But they are always connected to the theme of the permanent exhibition – “Neue Bilder des Menschen” (meaning “new pictures of humans”) – and take a closer look at humans, how the live and how they will be living.

Another highlight in Linz is the Bruckner Festival (13th of September – 5th of October 2014). This festival has taken place in the Brucknerhaus every year since 1974. The Brucknerhaus, named after the famous composer Anton Bruckner, is a famous concert and event venue. During the Bruckner Festival there are many outstanding concerts with elite international artists and ensembles.

And if you still looking for more cultural experiences in Linz you can also pay a visit to the Mariendom cathedral, the Lentos Kunstmuseum or the Schlossmuseum.

But if you have done enough culture and are now looking for some relaxing outdoor activities, I would recommend you to either take the Pöstlingbergbahn - Europe’s steepest mountain railway – up to the Pöstlingberg, or why not enjoy a cycle ride along the beautiful and majestic Danube?

Up at Linz’s local mountain – the Pöstlingberg – you can enjoy visiting the Wallfahrtsbasilika, Linz’s Zoo or the popular fairy-tale world of the Grottenbahn. Not to forget the absolutely magnificent view over Linz, which awaits you at the mountain top.

So, after telling you all of these things about Linz, why don’t you pay a visit and experience Linz on your own. You will, without a doubt, come to the conclusion that Linz is definitely worth a trip!!!

 



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 Anna Blum on 11.03.2014  |   No comments

Luxury Chalets in the Austrian Alps

Chalets Montafon (c) ÖW EbersbergDrying the ski gear by the fireplace in a freezing mountain hut or setting off on a half-day hike to source dinner could be classed as romantic, but if you like a few creature comforts on your hard-earned holidays then a chalet stay can still be an option in Austria! We present you with a selection of quirky and luxurious lodgings across the Austrian Alps that offer everything from ski boot warmers to food delivery at unbeatable prices.

 

For sweeping slopes with guaranteed snow in winter and sunny trails leading to glistening lakes in summer, head to Carinthia. Traditional Alpine huts, comfortable hunting lodges and generous chalets form the exclusive Almdorf Seinerzeit, including a rustic restaurant, wine cellar, swimming pool and spa. Right by the Nockberge Biosphere Reserve, one of Austria’s beautiful national parks, the scenery and attentive chalet staff make guests feel like they have found a secret haven.

 

INNs HOLZ Chalet Village is located in the Bohemian Forest of Upper Austria. A special focus was placed on the materials used for the 11 chalets, with traditional loden and cloth playing the main role alongside wood. Each chalet has its own Finnish sauna and outdoor area, and guests can also use the wellness area of the INNs HOLZ Hotel.

 

45km south of Salzburg you’ll find the Wood Ridge Luxury Chalets. These luxurious Canadian-style log cabins offer plenty of comforts such as a whirlpoorl on the terrace, private sauna and daily breakfast basket. For larger groups visiting the SalzburgerLand region Alpin Chalets are ideal, sleeping up to 30 on a self-catering or fully catered basis.

 

Those looking for an authentic mountain experience will love the Hüttendorf Pruggern in Styria. Next to the summer hiking trails and winter slopes, the self-catering chalets are modernly equipped, but guests can still pay a visit to the on-site shop that sells farmers’ produce and freshly baked goods.

 

Tirol is one of our favourite holiday destinations, so why not avoid the hotel crowds and give your holiday a unique twist? The Biohotel Stanglwirt in Going takes bookings for its newly renovated Hüttling Moos. Up to 60 people can be hosted in this 5-star cabin, fully serviced with an own cook and butler. In nearby Kirchberg you can stay at the Maierl-Alm and Chalets, where you can enjoy goodies including your own panorama sauna and ski boot warmer.

 

We end our selection at the height of luxury in Vorarlberg. The 5-star Hotel Bentleys House has 3 chalets, stylishly equipped and providing full board with a personal butler service. Located at an altitude of 1720m, not only the service but also the stunning views of Lech Zürs will have you on a high!



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 Anna Blum on 03.01.2014  |   No comments

‘Best of’ Tirol – national park on the roof of Austria

Here’s a tall feat – 241 peaks over 3,000m. Wow.

The undisturbed rugged mountain terrain of East Tirol (nicknamed the ‘roof of Austria’) is a true reminder that we are really just guests within the natural habitats of our world, and the best way to experience these inspiring settings is by simply – and respectfully – letting nature lead the way.

Those who choose to follow this ‘best of’ experience can be part of a newly launched ‘hands on’ adventure in National Park Hohe Tauern that allows volunteers, accompanied by a park ranger, to lend a hand with sustainable practices such as planting young trees, laying down climbing routes or cutting grass on the farm.

The theme of preservation continues on your visit to Villgratental, one of the most remote valleys in the Alps. A delightful surprise then to find out that this unspoiled valley is the setting for an award-winning restaurant. Enjoy fine dining with a menu of regional specialties made with fresh, local products in a traditional farm house dating back to 1879. You’ll continue to admire authentically Austrian wooden architecture at Oberstaller Alm in nearby Innervillgraten, often cited as one of the most interesting villages in the Alps with its 16 wooden farmhouses and a small chapel.

Your overnight on this tour is at the Zedern Klang Spa Hotel, which holds the distinction as the first hotel in Austria to receive the International Climate Award for its energy-saving and eco-friendly construction. Here, ‘green energy’ is produced through the power of water, and the salt water pools and thermal baths in the hotel’s spa landscape offer natural regenerative effects. A gourmet dinner before you rest upon a sheep wool mattress on a cedar wood bed built with no metal joints. Even sleep seems to come more naturally here!



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 Anna Blum on 26.06.2013  |   No comments

‘Best of’ Salzburg – enjoy a lead-free holiday

While the city of Salzburg has firmly established itself in visitors’ Austrian itineraries year after year due to a host of attractions which include the Mozart birth house, a grand selection of vibrant festivals, an Old Town famous for its baroque architecture, and of course the city’s draw as the setting for the beloved film The Sound of Music, the province of SalzburgerLand, home to Austria’s ‘Lake District’, proves no less alluring.

In fact, on this ‘best of’ experience, you’ll be introduced to a charming mountain town that, for the past 15 years, has been trailblazing its way into eco-friendly (and cool!) mobility initiatives. For guests in the all-season, alpine resort of Werfenweng, getting around is all part of the fun on a car-free holiday. You’ll be introduced to the town’s own soft mobility project – SAMO – as you test drive some of the unique e-vehicles available to visitors and on a horse-drawn carriage ride en route to a hearty snack at an inviting summer lodge amidst high alpine pastures. After adding to Werfenweng’s 250,000 annual visitor overnights tally with one of your own, day two beckons with the promise of outstanding views as you ride the Ikarus cable car up Bischling mountain where you’ll have an incredible vantage point of over 40 peaks.

Be in awe of some of the native inhabitants of SalzburgerLand’s peak region as you enjoy a birds of prey show at 1850m, followed by a circular hike that’s sure to whet the appetite for lunch at one of SalzburgerLand’s 161 certified alpine huts and Bioparadies establishments which take great care in serving fresh, regionally-grown products. Before your ‘so longs and goodbyes’ to this part of Austria, stop in at a farmer’s store for some demonstrations, sampling, and no doubt a bit of ‘take away’!



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 Anna Blum on 11.06.2013  |   No comments

‘Best of’ Carinthia – natural cuisine and jewels of nature

In its enviable sun-kissed location on the ‘southern balcony of the Alps’, Carinthia truly splashes out on visitor fun with over 200 warm bathing lakes, the majority of which have drinking water quality!

Marvel at the sights of National Park Hohe Tauern, home to Austria’s highest mountain, the Grossglockner, and the largest natural protected area in the Alps. Originally established in Carinthia in 1981, its boundaries now stretch over three provinces – Carinthia, Salzburg and Tirol. Surrounded by mountains that stretch some 3000m skywards, and amidst tranquil greenery, on a ‘best of’ experience you tuck into lunch on a terrace at the charming 4-star Holiday Village Moserhof, set upon a historic manor house estate.

With energy levels up, it’s then time for a tour through the impressively scenic wilds of the Rabisch gorge in the company of a national park ranger. Cameras at the ready for even a waterfall or two! Dinner is at your choice of one of the cosy, traditional guesthouses which uphold a centuries-old tradition and a culinary philosophy adhering to organic ingredients.

Overnight at the Hotel Alpengarten in the 1200m resort town of Mallnitz, with dreams of tomorrow’s guided e-biking tour through the Seebachtal Valley, followed by a walking excursion with the national park’s animal warden. And, just one last taste of Carinthia to be had: a traditional buffet lunch – the so-called ‘Jause’ – with the freshest of products from local farms and businesses.



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 Anna Blum on 31.05.2013  |   No comments

‘Best of’ Vienna – two wheels instead of the big wheel

While many visitors to Vienna enjoy a unique bird’s eye view of the city from atop its landmark 200m Giant Ferris Wheel, another unique vantage point can be had on two wheels along Vienna’s 1200km of cycle paths.

This ‘best of’ experience in the Austrian capital gives you access to Velo-city 2013. Held at the impressive city hall, this is the largest international conference on cycling, bringing together some 1000 participants ranging from planners and architects to social marketers, environmentalists and industry representatives. Highlighted themes this year include ‘cycling cities’ and ‘cycling benefits’, along with the newly introduced topic of ‘cycling cultures’.

What better way to toast Vienna’s rich cycling traditions than with a fine award-winning wine! Treat yourself to a spot of wine-tasting at Heuriger Wieninger, a traditional Viennese wine tavern, where your third-generation host Leo Wieninger will guide you through the tavern’s wine cellar and offer you a taste of authentic Viennese wine. And did you know that Vienna is only city in the world that boasts vineyards fully within its boundaries? We say a hearty ‘cheers’ to that!

Enjoy a dinner at Vestibül Restaurant, impressively set within Vienna’s ornate Burgtheater, serving fresh and innovative new twists on well-loved Austrian specialties. Follow with an overnight stay at the Boutiquehotel Stadthalle, the world’s first city hotel maintaining a zero energy balance. Your ‘best of’ experience concludes the next day with a guided cycling tour through Vienna, passing by some of the city’s most celebrated sights.

And this is just one of your choices…



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 Anna Blum on 16.05.2013  |   No comments

Winter Walks in SalzburgerLand

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



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 Anna Blum on 04.10.2012  |   No comments