In the Alps, more and more ski resorts and surrounding villages/towns are realizing that not every outdoor fan is interested in downhill and cross country skiing or snowboarding. A niche market is developing for people who prefer a gentler winter experience, away from the crowds.
Your mind might automatically think snow-shoeing, but there is also an increasing number of winter hiking and walking trails for those who adore exploring on foot. Nowadays, nearly all tourist offices in these regions produce winter recreation maps, showing marked trails for walking/hiking, as well as cross country skiing and snow shoeing. Marked walking paths are specially groomed (usually the snow is flattened) for winter strolls and hikes. While you won’t have as many trails to choose from compared to spring, summer and fall, you will generally have enough treks to keep you busy during your winter walking holiday.
Depending on your hiking destination, you might be able to start walking right from your resort or hut’s front door, take a cable car up to the trails, or both! There’s something quite special about walking in the Alps during the coldest months of the year—spectacular views of snow-capped peaks, serene rambles through the woods as snowflakes graciously fall to the ground, the embrace from the bright sun during daylight hours and some of the freshest and crispest air you’ll ever breathe. Where to start?
In Austria, you could go to the Lungau region in Salzburger Land. There you can take a gondola ride at the Mauterndorf ski centre for direct access to alpine trails or take a popular walking route between the local historic square and ski centre that passes by Mauterndorf Castle, and so much more! For an awe-inspiring experience, you might consider taking the cable car to Braunwald’s Panorama Hiking Trail in Switzerland to experience stunning views of the Glarus Alps and Bächital Valley. Staying the night in car-free Braunwald (Glarus Süd), where the main modes of transportation are horse-drawn carriages or foot is also a treat. MySwitzerland.com adds, “The silence of the winter hiking trails around the village is quite out of this world.” There are also non-alpine regions you can walk during the winter months, such as Germany’s Black Forest, dubbed as the place where “hiking was invented”. Its 20,000 km of hiking trails is a haven for hikers all year round. During the winter, only a percentage of trails are groomed for walking, but you will still have access to a selection of paths, plus you will enjoy more peace and privacy.
We have barely scratched the surface of winter hiking options. For more information on destinations any time of year, visit us, Touching Nature, your comprehensive source for information on walking and walking holidays in Switzerland, Germany, Austria and South Tyrol & the Dolomites.