By Chris Hughes:
The vast majority of people who choose winter holidays in Austria do so for the skiing – great downhill and spectacular cross-country skiing exists in many villages all easily accessible from the UK after a short flight and coach transfer. If you prefer to make your own travel arrangements then many villages are on the railway line out of Innsbruck. Seefeld and the next valley of Leutascsh are especially good for cross-country skiing having hosted the winter Olympics events, there are kilometres of prepared ‘loipertrails’ of all levels of difficulty.
But best of all, from the point of view of the walker, there are equally large amounts of cleared winter walking paths. The paths are well signposted, set out on maps available from the Tourist Information office and offer flat or slightly hilly walking through beautiful countryside, woodland and riverside locations. The snow conditions do vary from year to year and month to month but December to march is a pretty reliable time from good winter walking conditions.
A set of heel studs and walking poles are all you need beyond normal UK winter walking clothing as temperatures are usually a few degrees either side of freezing during the daytime and the conditions are usually quite dry, even when it snows! The surrounding mountains provide a magnificent panorama all around the village whether you are looking at it from the high vantage points or from the comfort of your hotel balcony.
The views are frequently breath-taking. The walks often reach Alms serving good food and drinks and you can make use of the ski lifts and cable cars to get up even higher although you can of course walk up. Seefled is on the railway line which allows you to get even further afield to places such as Garmisch-Partenkirchen and Scharnitz in nearby Germany.
Some of the walks have become firm favourites over the last few years and need to be repeated each year, each year’s weather conditions making them always new and different. Seefeld is particularly good for the winter walkers being only 25 minutes from Innsbruck airport and offering a wide range of luxury and basic hotels and apartments. If you do ski, or want to try, both downhill and cross-country is available with hire shops and ski schools readily at hand.
Words & Pictures: Chris Hughes
(You can see a full set of images from Chris’s trip to Austria on his flickr page here)