As we all know, Inuit are very familiar with snow. That is why they have always
appreciated the many advantages of snow shoes and have known how to optimally
use them. The large soles keep you on the surface of even the deepest snow,
making snow shoes just as ideal for getting around as are touring skies. What is
particularly valuable is that snow shoes are quite easy to put on and to use,
especially thanks to technological advances that have made them much smaller
and lighter. And the spikes on the underside insure safe footing while climbing on
icy surfaces. Those on ski tours fasten fur pelts to their skies to achieve the same
result. The amateur quickly learns that gaining the necessary skills is easy and will
add even more satisfaction to the activity.
There is a special appeal to snow shoe hiking or ski tours. Far away from the
prepared tracks and runs you can reach regions that others will never have the
privilege of experiencing – and you can enjoy spectacular views such as fresh virgin
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. And as time passes on the trail one regains an
appreciation for the inspiring benefits of slow and deliberate motion.
There is an especially impressive snow shoe trail 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 three thousand metre (over 9,000 ft.) high peaks above
you. The trail itself is its own reward, but still after three hours and having gained
370 metres (over 1,200 ft.) in altitude it will be rewarding to stop by at the Alpine inn
“Ammererhof,” and take in a hearty meal. For the return ride you can borrow a
toboggan - 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.
Ski tours especially, of course, call for caution. If you are not a seasoned and
experienced skier it is of utmost importance to take a professional guide who is
acquainted with the region, with the consistency of the snow and with the vagaries
of the weather. Indispensable equipment includes an avalanche transciever, a
shovel, a sensor, as well as a first-aid kit. Still another security device, which is not
yet in very common use because it is so new, is the avalanche air-bag. In any
event, one of the several introductory courses that are offered in many high Alpine
winter sport regions is recommended. These will provide training in the essential
skills needed for tours in open and unrestricted areas. The Austrian Alp Society is
also promoting education and prevention with its “Stop or Go” course under the
auspices of its “SicherAmBerg” (safety on the mountain) guidance initiative. It is
important to see that guests return safe and sound – filled with wonderful memories
of their encounter with nature.
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.
Meanwhile, all over Austria there are countless, specially prepared trails at all altitudes that lead through enchanting forests, over sun drenched mountain
pastures or into the highest mountain regions. There are many variations. You can
ascend the mountain in a cable car and start off from there, for instance, to the
Salzburg Großecksattel in the Mauterndorf ski area. Often it’s even simpler to
simply step out the front door. Many of the accommodations are located directly on
a hiking trail. Sometimes the hiking path offers also educational opportunities: The
health care spa Mariapfarr, for example, has its own “solar nature trail” with signs
displaying interesting information about the solar system, about the sun as a
compass, or about solar energy.
Back to the Inuit: Austrian tourist enterprises have learned many other skills from
them, for instance, how to construct igloos or the ins and outs of dogsledding. 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.
A ride on a dog sled is also 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 immediately be put
into practice – of course under the watchful and expert eye of a “musher,” as the
driver of the dog sleds are known. A four-legged animal from our own regions,
however, is more often hitched to a sled than these temperamental Huskies. Horse-
drawn sleds gently and easily gliding through the quiet winter landscape provide
guests with that special holiday experience – after they have carefully spread a
warm blanket over themselves and snuggled up to each other. This certainly must
be considered an insider recommendation for young – and old – lovers alike.
A true “evergreen” in the white snow of winter is clearly 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, all while fantastical building structures, magical lighting effects
and otherworldly sounds create a spectacular atmosphere. On the Wildkogel in
Salzburg there is “probably the longest illuminated toboggan run in the world.” 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 slowly and easily 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 yearn to rediscover tranquillity during their
holiday increases constantly.
Skiing across the Dachstein
Winter hiking in Salzburg Lungau
Living like Eskimos
Winter hiking in the sun
Ski tours with instruction
Hotel FaSkina in Bludenz