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5 Activities Beyond the Ski Slopes

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. Here are 5 activities to enjoy winter in Austria away from the slopes.

1. Snowshoeing

  • Snow hiking/South of Lienz/East Tyrol © Österreich Werbung / Andreas Hofer Snow hiking/South of Lienz/East Tyrol © Österreich Werbung / Andreas Hofer

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

An especially impressive snowshoe trail can be found at the head of the Rauris Valley in SalzburgerLand. Before heading into the forest you will be amazed by the majestic 3000m peaks above. The trail itself is rewarding enough, but after a 3-hour hike 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.

2. Winter walking

  • Winterwandern in Österreich © Österreich Werbung / Peter Burgstaller Winterwandern in Österreich © Österreich Werbung / Peter Burgstaller

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 pastures, or into the highest mountain regions. You can ascend the mountain by cablecar 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 path also offers educational opportunities. Mariapfarr, for example, has its own "solar nature trail" with signs displaying information about the solar system, the sun as a compass, and about solar energy.

3. Igloo building

  • Slapen in een iglo is een hele belevenis © Willi Seebacher Slapen in een iglo is een hele belevenis © Willi Seebacher

What was once necessary for the survival of the people of the far north now guarantees adventure for winter holiday makers. In East Tirol  you have the possibility to learn the handed down tradition of the Inuit's method of building snow abodes in the most beautiful places in the Lienzer Dolomits - 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, thankfully, clothing and sleeping bags stay dry after you have settled down for the night.

4. Dog sledding

  • Dog sledding at Waldviertel © Waldviertel Tourismus / Dog sledding at Waldviertel © Waldviertel Tourismus /

A ride on a dog sled is an unforgettable experience - not only for the younger among us. When you stand at the back of the sled pulled by huskies, you feel their power and are able to experience the winter landscape in a unique way. This Alaskan adventure is yours to have in the heart of the Waldviertel. At a workshop one can learn valuable information about the care and character of a Husky, the most important aspects of manoeuvring a sled, and commands that the dogs will understand. All this can be put into practice straight away of course, under the watchful eye of a "musher", as the sled drivers are known. An unforgettable adventure with Siberian huskies awaits you at three well-known venues for dog sledding in the Waldviertel: Husky Time in Etlas, Husky Ranch in Friedersbach and Huskyhof Waldviertel in Altnagelberg.

5. Tobogganing

  • Familie beim Rodeln in Schladming, Steiermark © Österreich Werbung / Peter Burgstaller Familie beim Rodeln in Schladming, Steiermark © Österreich Werbung / Peter Burgstaller

A true winter "evergreen" is tobogganing, and not only by daylight. On the Zauberberg at Semmering the most powerful floodlighting system in all of Europe illuminates the toboggan run. For 3km tobogganers follow 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 SalzburgerLand. It stretches an unbelievable 14km and is lit at night for the entire length of the run.

True nature fanatics, 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.

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