Austria's Most Charming Winter Hideaways
When it comes to winter resorts, bigger does not always mean better. Narrow valleys, in remote mountain regions, offer visitors pristine winter hideaways.
Mountains covered in deep snow, glistening forests and broad, white meadows; Carinthia's Lesachtal impresses with its original charm. This natural sweep of country between the spine of the Lienz Dolomites and the Carnic Alps, attracts those in search of a gentle winter away from the groomed slopes. Sliding along the trails against a stunning natural backdrop, scaling heights in snowshoes, and slaloming through the powder on skis or a snowboard, the winter magic of the Lesachtal can be experienced in many ways.
Seldom are winter sport and nature lovers so regally rewarded as in Bad Kleinkirchheim. Take part in the weekly snowshoe hikes for gourmets leading through the peaceful winter landscape of the Carinthian Nockberge Mountains with a delicious menu awaiting at the end. Other activities away from the hustle and bustle of the ski slopes include ice skating, cross-country skiing, tobogganing and horse-drawn sleigh rides.
Recognized as one of Austria's most magnificent natural landscapes, the Dachstein Salzkammergut region boasts rugged low mountain ranges, secret valleys, tranquil settlements along River Traun, mountainsides covered in lush pastures, romantic high-lying valleys, spectacular rock faces and the much-loved Hallstättersee lake. Set aside from the main transport links are the charming little settlements and villages of the region, well worth a visit. The village wells, where people used to do their washing, still exist today, and the local architecture is fascinating too. Other winter activities include curling, snowshoeing, horse-drawn sleigh rides, ski touring, tobogganing, ice skating, and ice climbing.
Not far from the city of Salzburg you will find the idyllic Wolfgangsee lake. In the weeks leading up to Christmas, the peaceful glow of lanterns across the water draws guests from near and far to the Wolfgangseer Advent, where they can experience deliciously nostalgic traditions still in practice today. Outside of the festive season visitors will still find plenty to do with snowshoe walks, skiing, sledging and winter hiking offered by the Postalm Winterpark. Get even closer to nature at nearby Lake Fuschl and witness the deer feeding in Hintersee from December until the end of March, which attracts up to 200 animals each time.
Ramsau am Dachstein has a lot to offer in winter, even off the ski runs and cross-country trails. It is a real pleasure to walk along the winter walking paths, covering a total length of 70 km (43 mi). The region is also home to many horses, and a ride on a horse-drawn sleigh is a great winter adventure. Families should pay a visit to the local farmhouse Rösterstube where there is snow-tubing, a fun activity for all age groups.
Idyllic and unspoiled, Thierbach is the smallest and highest village in the Wildschönau Valley. Take a trip back in time with the Wildschönau Leisure Train on one of the daily journeys to Thierbach, where 160 residents and double as many cows, 2 guesthouses, a church, numerous farms and one of Austria's smallest schools with just 12 pupils await. Another Tirolean gem is the Nature Park Region of Reutte, with its breathtaking panorama, romantic forest glades, quaint villages, rustic inns and mountain huts. Let the Aktiv Card Winter program take you off the beaten track on a lantern march to the Ehrenberg ruins, for example, or an animal track hike.
Those looking for tranquility won’t have to search for long in East Tirol. One experience that will remain with you forever is a full moon snowshoe hike of the Lienz valley floor region, on which you will encounter the nocturnal animals of the National Park Hohe Tauern. See the winter landscape from a fresh perspective as the snow sparkles in the moonlight.
Ski right to your door - no problem in cozy Gargellen. The highest-situated mountain village in the Montafon offers a ski region that extends up to 2300 m (7,545 ft) and is considered an eldorado for ski tours thanks to the guaranteed snow. The authentic ambience that has been retained up here offers a wildly romantic charm throughout the year. Another excellent resort for those who prefer to ski away from the crowds is the Brandnertal valley. In addition to downhill skiing and boarding, activities include tobogganing, cross-country skiing, snowshoeing, and extensive winter walking paths. Families should not miss out on dog sledding with Husky Toni and a true highlight for gourmets is the Palüd Exquisite walk through the snowy mountains by night, accompanied by torches and a delicious menu spread across several huts.