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The Quiet Beauty of Winter

What could possibly motivate a reasonable human being to tramp up a mountain on shoes resembling tennis rackets? The answer is easy: the promise of an unforgettable exerience in the wild that can only be had by moving beyond the flurry on the ski slopes.

 © Verein Großes Walsertal Tourismus
© Verein Großes Walsertal Tourismus
 © family austria
© family austria
 © Alpbachtal Seenland Tourismus
© Alpbachtal Seenland Tourismus

Snow Shoe Hiking
There is a special appeal to snow shoe hiking. Far away from the prepared tracks and runs you can reach regions that others will never have the privilege of experiencing. You can enjoy spectacular views such as fresh snow clinging to a mountain cliff, glistening in the sun. You might see a timid wild animal before it dashes back into the woods and appreciate the undisturbed splendour of a glacier field.

An especially impressive snow shoe trail can be found at the head of the Rauris Valley in Salzburger Land. Before the trail leads into the forest you will be amazed by the majesty of the abounding 3000m peaks above you. The trail itself is rewarding enough, but still after three hours hiking and having gained 370m in altitude, a hearty meal at the Alpengasthof Ammererhof will be more than welcome. Here you can borrow a toboggan for the ride back down - or you may simply prefer to spend the night in one of the comfortable guest rooms and start the next day in the fresh mountain air.

Winter Hiking
For those who prefer a little less ambitious holiday there is, of course, another less strenuous option: They can simply don warm footwear and set off for a winter hike. There are countless, specially prepared trails at all altitudes across Austria that lead through enchanting forests, over sun drenched mountain pastures or into the highest mountain regions. You can ascend the mountain by cable car and start off from there, as in the Mauterndorf ski area. But often it's even simpler just to step out of the front door with plenty of accommodation located directly on a hiking trail. Sometimes the hiking path offers also educational opportunities: Mariapfarr, for example, has its own "solar nature trail" with signs displaying interesting information about the solar system, the sun as a compass, and about solar energy.

Igloo Building
What was once necessary for the people of the far north for their survival now guarantees that winter holiday makers can experience a sense of adventure. At the igloo seminar in Ebensee or on the Styrian Bürgeralm you have the possibility to learn the handed down tradition of the Inuit's method of building abodes of snow - a fascinating experience for people of all ages. What impresses most is that even on the coldest days the temperature in the interior of the igloo remains above freezing and, happily, clothing and sleeping bags stay dry after meals are cooked and nights are spent sleeping in the finished house.

Dog Sledding
A ride on a dog sled is an unforgettable experience - not only for the younger among us. At a workshop one can learn valuable information about the care and character of a Husky, about the most important aspects of manoeuvring a sled, and about commands that the sled dogs will understand. All this can be put into practice straight away of course, under the watchful eye of a "musher" as the drivers of the dog sleds are known.

Tobogganing
A true winter "evergreen" is tobogganing, and not only by daylight. On the Hirschenkogel at Semmering the most powerful floodlighting system in all of Europe illuminates the toboggan run. For three kilometres tobogganers are regaled with the story of the Wizard of Siebenstein and the wicked Dragon Firetooth, whilst fantastical building structures, magical lighting effects and otherworldly sounds create a spectacular atmosphere. The World's Longest Floodlit Run can be found on the Wildkogel in Salzburg. It stretches an unbelievable fourteen kilometres and is lit at night for the entire length of the run.

True friends of nature, however, stick with the tried and true methods of yesteryear. They pocket a torch, grab a sled, and stroll up the mountain over snow-covered paths through forests and pastures. You can do this anywhere in Austria, and the number of people who return year after year for just this type of mellow winter fun with nature at its most tranquil speaks for itself.