You may be done with skiing for the day, but not with having fun – at least fun’s not over as soon as you unstrap your skis or board. If you spend your winter holdiday in the mountains, you can come up with a diverse programme of leisure activities for yourself.
The classic: Tobogganing
Everyone who can’t get enough of snow you should best grab a sledge after skiing. Tobogganing hardly costs a thing, and you can almost always combine tobogganing fun with a stop in a cosy mountain hut. – Fantastic!
Nearly every holiday region in the mountains offers one or more toboggan runs that are well-developed, prepared and sometimes even illuminated for tobogganing in the evening. It’s almost impossible to note down the correct number of all toboggan runs in the Alps, but there must be hundreds of them. In Tyrol alone there are approx. 750 km* of toboggan runs. No matter where you’re spending your winter sports holiday – there’s most surely a toboggan run nearby. The longest toboggan run in Europe is called “Big Pintenfritz” and can be found in Grindelwald (Bernese Oberland, Switzerland). It is 15 km long and spreads over a difference in altitude of 1,650 m from the peak of Faulhorn (2,680 m) down to Grindelwald. Its only downside: it doesn’t have illumination, so it is advisable to bring headlamps. The longest illuminated toboggan run can be found in Bramberg in the Wildkogel Arena in Salzburger Land. From the Smaragdbahn lift’s middle station the run goes down to the valley on 14 km – and the entire track is illuminated in the evening. If you go rapidly, you manage the track in 30 minutes. If you prefer to go at a slower pace, take one or two breaks and are more careful in the turns, sledging down the piste can take up to 50 minutes. Afterwards, every tobogganist clearly deserves a cup of hot chocolate.
Adrenaline rush: bobsleigh riding
You want to try out really special sports? – How about bobsleigh riding? Being able to zoom through the ice channel in a so called “guest bob” or “taxi bob” is a welcome thrill in a usually peaceful ski holiday. There are approx. 20 bobsleigh runs worldwide, four of which can be found in Germany. In Winterberg in Hochsauerland, for example, each three guests and one driver tear through the approx. 1.6 km ice channel at up to 130 km/h. In Oberhof the track is approx. 1.3 km long and has 15 turns, Altenberg offers 11 turns, and the bobsleigh track in Schönau am Königsee even has 18 turns on offer. At the artificial ice channel in Innsbruck-Igls, you can choose between a 4-person racing bob (2 guests, one driver, one brakeman) or a very special guest bob (5 guests and one driver). One of the classics, but a little more expensive, is the Olympia bob run in St. Moritz and the track in Cortina d’Ampezzo. Depending on the location, a bobsleigh ride costs between €30 and €85 per person.
Trend sport: snow shoe hiking
The quiet alternative for all kinds of tobogganing fun is pure winter hiking. This, however, is more and more often replaced by snow shoe hiking. After all, snow shoes allow you to hike on paths off the regular track. Trudging through deep powder snow is, in a way, an “adventure for everybody”, and with a little bit of luck you may even be able to observe wild animals in the forest. Guided tours are offered in many places, as it is important to observe a possible risk of avalanches and to pay attention to the wild animals’ habitat whenever you go hiking off-track. For example, the panoramic routes on Alpe di Siusi in South Tyrol or around Oberstdorf in Allgäu are recommendable. If you’re aiming high and are not afraid of a challenge you should put on your snow shoes in the French Alps. The area nearby Chamonix at Mont Blanc or the paths above Val Thorens in the 3 Vallées are challenging, but reward you with incredible panoramas.
And finally: time to relax!
After all this action in the snow it’s time to relax and ease your muscles. Many go visit the swimming pool, the sauna or even make use of extensive spa treatments. The most important thing is: relaxing! When your hotel or apartment complex does not have its own swimming- or sauna area, thermal baths or adventure pools can be found in many resorts.
Austria has several attractive regions with hot springs, such as e.g. Gastein Valley with its two large bath houses “Alpentherme” and “Felsentherme”. At Kitzsteinhorn, you can find the huge and stylish “Tauern Spa Kaprun”, and Austria’s very first public thermal bath, the “Römerbad”, is situated in Bad Kleinkirchheim.
In Ötz Valley, the bathing highlight is the “Aqua Dome” in Längenfeld, and it is impressive simply because of its outdoor pools’ interesting architecture. Another extraordinary construction is the Merano Thermal Bath in sunny Southern Tyrol: the cubic building has glass fronts all around, allowing for a fantastic view of the surrounding mountain landscapes from every perspective. In the French Alps, the resorts also try to outdo each other with their large and stylish public pools. The “Centre Aquasportif” in Val d’Isère, for example, is a large complex with a beach-, spa-, sports-, and well being area.
The new adventure areal “Mille 8” that was newly built in the heart of the ski area of Les Arcs 1800 also comprises an adventure pool. Here, you practically fall out of the lift and into the pool.
The list could go on and on and on. One thing is clear: European ski areas a perfectly suited for the demands of keen swimmers, sauna enthusiasts and everybody who enjoys relaxation in a spa.
One last advice: With all these leisure time activities, don’t forget about skiing!