Snowshoeing in an Austrian Winter Wonderland

A Dream Come True

Close your eyes and imagine Austria in winter. Picture the flawless snowy meadows stretched out underneath a Kodakchrome blue sky. Imagine the old wooden barns, fringed by sparkling icicles; a village settled down at a bend in the river, smoke coming from the chimneys. All around you are granite peaks where the breeze lifts snow in wispy feathers along the ridgeline. The only sound is the crunching under your snowshoes, as wisps of powder rising behind your steps. Imagine yourself later that evening, a golden glass of Pilsner next to a steaming plate of homemade goulash and for dessert, well, strudel, of course. Then, it’s off to bed under a fluffy down comforter in your cozy pine paneled room, the snow falling silently outside your window.

Now open your eyes. It’s all true. It really is just like that.

But the secret isn’t out … yet.

Austria is famous for its skiing. The 1964 and 1976 Olympics in Innsbruck solidified Austria’s snow paradise image in the international imagination. What’s not so well known – even to Austrians – is that this little country in the Alps also offers up some of the finest snowshoeing you’ll ever experience.

Austria as a nation has embraced fitness, not just as a hobby or a competitive pursuit, but also as a lifestyle. Because of this, Austria is crisscrossed with well-marked hiking and mountain bike trails. Austria also has a superb cross-country skiing infrastructure, so those of us who favor Nordic style skiing have mile upon mile of groomed trails. But snowshoeing is a relatively new sport to regular folks there – it’s still seen as the sport of mountaineers by most.

This leaves the bike routes, hiking trails and unplowed forest service roads to those of us who want nothing more than to walk through a silent forest or around a tree-circled lake or, let’s be honest here, to take the back route over the ridge to that place that makes the perfect chocolate cake.

You’re sold on the idea already, aren’t you? Let’s cover a few general travel details before heading out onto the snow.

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About the author

Pam Mandel

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