Tag Archives: Alps

My top five winter activities

Winter is one of the best times in the year … in my opinion. There are some many great things to do – here you can find my personal Top 5.

5 – Reading

Winter time is reading time … when it is as cold outside as it is now, what better can you do than use a complete weekend to just read. We all have books we put away during summer or spring, as the weather outside was just to nice to read. Winter is the time to get back to this books. Put some firewood in your oven, have a nice cup of tea and take your time to read again.

4 – Tobogganing

For years I declined any offer to go tobogganing. It was so much part of my child hood, that I just felt too adult to do it. Little did I know – it´s one of the greatest social events to do ever. Hike up a long and winding run (taking the lift does not count), sit on a traditional hut, have some mulled wine and some delicious food – and then go for it!

3 – Hiking

Hiking in Winter is great … the snow covered landscape, the calmness of nature, the chilly experience of cold wind on your skin – and then the feeling of warmness, when you enter a small restaurant to enjoy a nice break. Starting in February it gets even greater, when the sun is getting stronger again and you can feel the coldness of the snow and the warming sun at once.

2 – Skiing

I just love Skiing. A great day in one of the best skiing resorts in my vicinity (you can read about them here) is just too much fun. With a group of friends, who are all good skiers it gives you physical exhaustion, you might go to your limits and it´s a great social event, too. Do not forget to visit a sunny hut in your favorite skiing resort, to indulge in good food and have a drink. Aprés Ski afterwards should not be missed either.

1 – Ski Touring

Ski Touring is my favorite thing to do in Winter. Enjoy nature off the beaten path, do something for your body and enjoy incredible views at top of the Alpes before doing some powder runs: it just perfectly sums up all the great things you can do in Winter. A day on a nice tour with a friend or a group of friends is just the thing I need to recharge my batteries. Best thing about it is, that the season is very long. You can start as early as November, and some of the best tours can be found at the beginning of May.

Of course there are other great things to do … visiting a spa, ice-skating.

So what are your favorite things to do in Winter?

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Skiing resorts in Salzburg

Next week I will visit my parents in law in the Zell am See region – therefore I decided it might be helpful to add to my article
“Great skiing resorts in Tyrol and Vorarlberg” which can be read here by giving some information about Skiing resorts I know in Salzburg.

Most people know Salzburg as a city – but there is also a province with the same name, as its capital. Famous for “Sound of Music” and for being Mozarts birthplace, the region has a lot to offer. In Winter they have some really great skiing resorts.

And by great, I mean huge – Ski Amadé is a cooperation by a lot of Salzburg (and some Styrian) skiing resorts – 860km of pistes for all levels offer plenty of great skiing. 2013 there will be the Alpine Ski World Championship in Schladming, one of the resorts that belong to Amadé.

There are also a lot of smaller resorts, that are worth visiting. I personally like Rauris – it is a small resort in a beautiful valley, which has some great runs and very traditional huts to have some delicious food with breathtaking views. Rauris is promoting itself for family friendliness, but if you just want to have a day of skiing fun, it is a great location, too.

A lot bigger is the Europasportregion Zell am See/Kaprun. The area consists of a bigger skiing resort (Zell am See), a smaller one (Kaprun) and a glacier skiing resort above Kaprun. Therefore you can go skiing almost all year long. The view to picturesque Zeller Lake is wonderful and you can spot a lot of Austrias highest peaks in the “Hohe Tauern”, including Austrias highest peak – the Grossglockner (3797m).

Further down the Pinzgau you can find Mittersill. Mittersills skiing resort has been connected with the Kitzbühel skiing area for some years now, and this part of the skiing resort, might not be as famous as Kitzbühel, but it provides you with a lot of great skiing.

Just around the corner of Zell am See, there is another huge skiing arena – Saalbach/Hinterglemm – which can also be reached from Leogang. This area is one of my favorite spots in the Alpes, as you find a lot of great runs not only for beginners and intermediates, but also for good skiers, who want to give it all.

Salzburg is definitely a great spot for skiing and if you are considering to come to Austria in Winter, you should not miss out on it. After all this is where the hills are really alive.

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Vals – a great place for relaxation

At the moment it is freezing cold in Vorarlberg and there would be nothing better than a couple of days of relaxing in a beautiful Spa – and one of my favorite Spas lies in the heart of Switzerland. Vals is a small Walser-community in Graubünden, which lies in a beautiful valley, formed by the Valser Rhine. The village is famous for its thermal spring and it´s typical Walser Architecture.

The thermal spring is used for the production of bottled water – Valser Wasser is one of Switzerlands leading mineral water brands. But they use it also for their spa. It was planned by Peter Zumthor, Prizker price winner 2009, and the building is simply breathtaking. It is built out of Valser quarzite slabs and on top of it there is grass, which gives the cubic building a  look as if it has been there for ages (it was build in the 90ies).

Inside the spa is as minimalistic as outside, but the different pools and treatment areas offer anything you can ask for. A day inside this spa is simply incredible relaxing. Moreover there is a very nice restaurant in the Hotel, which belongs to the spa – so everything is set for a perfect day. But when you visit Vals you should also have a look at the Village – a short stroll through the village gives you the feeling of going back in time, as the houses are build in a very traditional way. You can also have great views of the village, when you do one of the hikes up the surrounding hills, which are not too steep at the beginning. And if you love the mountains you get plenty of opportunities to do longer hikes up on one of the surrounding mountains.

The Valser Valley is not too easy to be reached – the next village is a couple of miles down a winding road – but this is probably the reason, why the village kept so much of its historical charm. Whenever you get into this region, you should treat yourself with a great day at Vals – a hidden gem inside the Alps.

 

More information about Therme Vals on their website: http://www.therme-vals.ch/en

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Great skiing resorts in Tyrol and Vorarlberg

A fellow blogger, Maia from “BoundforAdventure” , is currently staying in Stuttgart, Germany and asked for some tipps for good skiing or snow boarding.

I thought about it for some time and then came up with this list … I added the approx. driving time (as stated by ViaMichelin) from Stuttgart, to give some idea about the distances.

I only included Skiing resorts I have visited … some big ones of Tyrol (e.g. Zillertal, Sölden) or Switzerland are missing – although they are in reachable (up to 4 hours drive) distance from Stuttgart. Other ones – especially in Salzburg and eastwards have been excluded as they are too far away.

Tyrol:

Kitzbühel – one of the most prestigious skiing resorts in the Alpes. Some really great runs – it is not too high up the mountains, therefore it is not really a Spring destination. Rather expensive, but that is part of the deal. In the same valley there is also the “Skiwelt Wilder Kaiser” – which offers a huge area and is connected to a lot of villages in the region – so you can get great money for value.

Stuttgart – Kitzbühl – 3 hours 40 minutes

Ischgl – famous for wild parties, this skiing resort has a much more to offer. With lifts up to 2872 Meters it is ideal for spring skiing and it is also connected to Samnaun in Switzerland: you actually ski in Austria AND Switzerland. The runs are great – once you have left the partying crowds at the Idalp you have plenty of options for great skiing and boarding. Most people from the skiing resort I worked in, went there to ski after the season was over … that’s a real recommendation! If you want to avoid noisy Ischgl – stay in Galtür (the next village), but ski in Ischgl … it is great skiing.

Stuttgart – Ischgl: 3 hours 40 minutes

St. Anton am Arlberg – the cradle of skiing at the Arlberg: this is a hot spot for free-skiers and snow boarders who look for off-piste fun. It is also a hotspot to meet fellow english-speaking people: Good runs, great off-piste and a lot of party are guaranteed at St. Anton.

Stuttgart – St. Anton: 3 hours 15 minutes

Vorarlberg:

Zürs-Lech – the Vorarlberg part of the Arlberg skiing region is another hot spot for VIPs and the super rich. But it is also a fantastic skiing resort. Great pistes are guaranteed and going out might be a tad expensive, but it is also great fun. Here is the only place in Austria, where you can go Heli-Skiing. Moreover this year you might encounter Anthony Gourmleys “Horizon Field” – a art project on exactly 2.039 m above sea level.

Stuttgart – Lech: 3 hours 10 minutes

Sonnenkopf – this is a insider tipp for off-piste fans. Located in the Klostertal, this small resorts belong to the Bergbahnen St. Anton am Arlberg. The resort has now artificial snow at all, but they do not need it. They are blessed with loads of snow and a real power paradise. As only few people consider this resort, you might even get some “fresh” powder action, when the powder has vanished everywhere else.

Stuttgart – Klösterle: 2 hours 55 minutes

Montafon – this valley offers a lot of different skiing resorts. From the huge “Silvretta-Montafon”, over powder and spring skiing paradise Gargellen to the Golm, which is a nice family skiing resort … Great skiing, good party and good money for value.

Stuttgart – Montafon (Schruns): 2 hour 55 minutes

Brandnertal– this is the region I was responsible for for a couple of years. A rather small skiing resort, which has still got a lot to offer. It´s definitely a must go for families, but if you want to have some great skiing this might be a good choice, too. Especially during peak season – you might get stuck in a huge traffic jam heading towards the Arlberg or the Montafon and the Brandnertal has its own Autobahn exit, just where the jam usually starts. Great fun, very nice people, good pistes and great huts in the resort …

Stuttgart – Brand: 2 hours 45 minutes

Brandnertal

Finally some other good resorts that should be worth a visit and are in good distance from Stuttgart

SWITZERLAND:

Jungfrau-Region (about 3 hours 45 minutes) – one of the most fascinating alpine areas … breathtaking views and apparently good skiing, too

Laax (3 hours 25 minutes) – known for its Snowboarding and Free-Skier Scene

LIECHTENSTEIN

Malbun (3 hours 15 minutes) – rather small, but for the bragging rights

GERMANY

Garmisch-Partenkirchen (2 hours 50 minutes) – best choice in Germany

AUSTRIA

Riezlern (2 hours 30 minutes) – very close to Stuttgart, never heard any complaints about this one

Damüls-Mellau (2 hours 45minutes) – I really loved Damüls when it was a small insider skiing resort – since they connected it to Mellau it got way bigger – have not skied there since, but this should be really good (+ great food in the Bregenzer Wald)

… plus various resorts in Tyrol (Zillertal, Ötztal, Stubaital …)

Updates:

SALZBURG:
I added some skiing resorts in Salzburg in another post – you can read this here

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Alpinism vs Tourism – interesting discussion

Yesterday evening there was a fascination discussion in Servus TV, which raised an interesing question. “Is tourism endangering the moutains and their natural beauty?” – this was not the main topic, but it was an interesting aspect.

Servus TV is an Austrian privately owned TV Channel, which is connected to Red Bull – they show amazing documentaries and their “Talk im Hangar 7” talkshow is one of the best in german speaking TV. Yesterday the main guest was Gerlinde Kaltenbrunner – she was the second woman to do all 14 8000+ Mountains, and the first do so without additional oxygen. After some talk about her expedition, there was a question raised – do all the tourists in the Himalaya destroy it´s natural beauty. A feature showed a pre-taped recording of Reinhold Messner, who said, that people who go to the Mount Everest on the main routes are not “Alpinists, but Tourists“, as they are walking on a prepared piste. Although he said, he does not want to condemn that, it was quite obvious, that he did not like this developments. Kurt Luger, head of Ecohimal, made a very interesting statement in the following discussion: Reinhold Messner is a tourist himself, when he is doing an expedition in Pakistan or Nepal.

I am not sure, if Messner agrees, but Mr. Luger has a point – how individual ever we travel, we are always travelers. We influence people, society and business just because we visit. If you are looking at the history of Tourism in the Alpes, it all began with British upper class people, who discovered the mountains as a place which was not really explored, and where adventures were possible. The local community in the Mountain valleys struggled to survive with small farms and never thought about climbing Mountains for fun. This all changed with these English pioneers – they wanted someone to help them, with their backpacks and luggage, they needed food and some places to sleep. From this point it all developed – Mountain Guiding got a profession and the natives Mountain Guides started to discover their mountains themselves. Hotels and Restaurants were developed – today most mountain valleys in Austria (and Switzerland) would be almost deserted without Tourism and its income opportunities.

At the moment something similar develops in the Himalayas. I believe we cannot prohibit that development, because some extreme Alpinists, want to be alone on “their mountains”. After all most of this extreme climbers do this as a profession – and with writing books and making films about this areas, they create a demand for it.

What is important for this regions, and what should be closely examined, is the way how to develop tourism. Mountain Tourism in the Alpes made a lot of good and a lot of bad decisions – this are valuable lessons to be learned from.

P.S.: Reinhold Messner himself bought a castle in his home region of Southern Tyrol (Italy) – today it can be visited by tourists … great place to visit – Schloss Juval. It shows artifacts from Tibet, Messners expedition material and is also very interesting for Architecture fans, as it has got a glass ceiling over some parts, to use it for events. Reinhold Messner lives there, part time, and it is part of the “Messner Mountain Museum” featuring the “Myth of the Mountains” exhibition.

Additionally there is the Messner Mountain Museum in Castle Sigmundskron – I have missed this so far, but it is on top of my list for my next visit to Southern Tyrol!

Some impressions from Schloss Juval.

Schloss Juval - with modern Glass CeilingSchloss Juvalinside Juval

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