06 May 2018
| THE HEARTBEAT OF WOMEN'S SPORT

Travel: An Austrian Alpine adventure

July 8, 2011
Austrian-alps-adventure

After skiing in the Austrian Alps this winter, it feels a little strange to back in a cable car in search of summer adventures. But the same glorious mountains of the Tirol provide an even broader range of activities at this time of year, offering something for thrill seekers through to those looking for a gentler way to explore the alpine countryside.

Austrian-alps-adventureEven for a short break there is plenty to pack in, whatever the weather, says Katy Dartford, who tried out five activities in just 3 days in the Tyrolean resorts of Kitzbuhel and Seefeld,.

Hike through an Alpine Garden

After landing in Innsbruck in just over an hour I am staring down at the picturesque town of Kitzbühel from the Horn Mountain cable car gliding up to about 2000 meters. Although a gentle start to the trip, I could still feel I wasn’t used to the altitude as I was soon huffing and puffing and stripping off layers as I hiked up to summit, where we were welcomed by glorious panoramic views of the Wilder Kaiser mountains. Our guide, Englebert points out the various peaks and a mud lake, the Schwarzsee, which he says at 21c at the moment, is warm enough for swimming.

 

Thankfully, we then begin a downhill hike through the Alpine Flower Garden, where we are greeted by yellow and white alpine poppies swaying in the breeze and pink and blue native and Himalayan Edelweiss. There are over 300 plants species from all over the world here and as I descend through the garden I pause every now and then to admire the colourful alpine pastures below us. After about 45 minutes we reach the Alpenhaus station where we stop for a well-earned schnapps.

alpine-garden

Info: In the summer every Monday to Friday there are free guided walks for anyone staying in Kitzbuhel: www.touren.kitzbuhel.com.

The Kitzbuhel summer card provides lift passes for 3-14 days and covers 29 cable cars with a network of 20 high altitude hiking paths. www.bergbahn-kitzbuehel.at Prices start at 36.50 euros.

Canyoning through a mountain gorge

Now I am apprehensive. I can handle abseiling, climbing and jumping, but cold water fills me with fear. I can’t quite believe a wetsuit will keep me comfortable in the melted glacial waters pouring through this cavity gorge. I slowly pull on my layers, resigning myself to the inevitable chill. Manfred, our guide is chirpy however; “you are lucky, today its 15c, but later in the summer it can reach 35c so you get very hot in your wet suit, so you welcome the cold water,” which today is about 10c.

Canyoning

Manfred attaches us to an abseil and lowers us down a waterfall, spinning in and out of the cascades we are eventually plopped into a pool of clear bubbling water and I feel the chill of cold run down my spine and into my boots. To my relief the water warms up from my body heat and I am soon bomb jumping from rocks into little pools and slipping down the naturally carved slides of the caves.

Info: Canyoning with elements 3 adventure costs 55 euros for 2 and a half hours: www.element3.at. They also offer mountain biking and Kletternsteig–or guiding along fixed climbing trails

Beating the Tyrolean uphills with an electric bike

It seems to me that electric bikes were made for cycling in the mountains and I eventually welcome having a little boost from the e bikes battery pack to get me up a steep hill. This way you can really go for miles exploring alpine pastures, mountain lakes and lodges around Kitzbuhel and for anyone that doesn’t have much experience on bikes, it’s a much more accessible activity. It’s not a total cop out though; you still have to peddle to get the boost to work. There are 4 settings, no assist, eco, standard and super boost and once I’d got over my initial sense of cheating, it was pleasant to gently glide uphill whilst still being able to concentrate on the views around you, rather than the burning in your thighs.

e-biking

This summer Kitzbühel became part of the world’s largest interconnected electric cycling area. The Kitzbuhel region itself has 70 e bike routes with 5 mountain guest houses where batteries can be charged along the way.

Info: Hiring an e bike costs 25 euro a day: See sport Etz www.etz.at/

Route maps can be found at www.kitzbuehel.com/en/activities/summer/cycling-mountainbike/e-bike/

Downhill thrills through Seefeld’s forests

The following day there was no assisted boost, as we took on the bumps and burns of a mountain bike trail from Seefeld to the hazy lake Möserersee and back. Seefeld is a pretty alpine town about 30 minutes from Innsbruk and Kitzbuhel, and meeting us at one of the town’s bike shop was our guide Peter, a very tall, strapping Austrian. But proving to be a bit of a ‘gentle giant,’ Peter took us through the gears and other intricacies of our mountain bikes with great patience as we cranked our way up the first uphill out of town. Leading us through good forest paths my bursting lungs soon calmed down and we relaxed and enjoyed the views of the Möserer Valley and sweeping down through the forest paths.

Seefeld.

There are more than 5600 km of approved mountain biking trails leading up to traditional lodges, down through valleys and between mountain ranges and they very in difficulty from easy to extreme routes,

Info: The price for a guided bike tour is 60 euros for groups of up to 20.

See www.xc-academy.com

For various circuits and hire click here.

When there’s no snow – Roller-Ski

I’d not heard of roller-skiing before and when I spotted the very odd looking cross between a roller-boot and a ski, I was desperate to give it a go. Across Seefeld I had spotted posters for a Biathlon involving shooting and roller-skiing. Originating in the army, soldiers had to cross country ski, then shoot accurately, so the fitter you were the slower your pulse and the better shot you could make. Roller skiing became a way to keep fit for cross country skiing in the summer and is now also part of the biathlon event. It provides total body training as it uses all the muscle groups as you skate and drive yourself forward with ski poles.

roller-ski

Peter was again our coach and he led us onto a track next to the Olympic sports centre to learn the skills. This involved skating as with normal roller boots, pushing with your poles every two steps and –vitally- how to stop using a kind of snow plough. This proved to be a vital skill to learn and why roller skiing can’t be practiced on roads, as you can reach speeds of 40km an hour. Having spent quite a few weekends at the roller disco as a teenager, I took quite well to roller-ski and found it very thrilling. I was itching to burn down one of the 4km tracks downhill sections, yet aware that whilst I had the boldness, I probably didn’t quite have the skill level yet to stop myself.

Info: The XC Academy offers daily private roller ski lessons in classic cross country or skating style. € 53 for 60 minutes. They also offer group lessons and workshops

www.xc-academy.com

FACT BOX

The new Crystal Summer (tel: 0871 230 8180; www.crystalsummer.co.uk) brochure offers holidays including a range of these activities.

Katy stayed at the four-star Sporthotel Reisch in Kitzbühel. A week’s half board costs from £535 per person including flights from Gatwick to Innsbruck, transfers.

Katy also stayed at the the four-star Hotel Alpenpark in Seefeld. A week’s half board there costs from £735 including flights from Gatwick to Innsbruck, transfers.

Direct flights to Innsbruck are also available from regional airports.

For more information on Tirol:

www.visittirol.co.uk , www.kitzbuehel.com and www.seefeld.com

Katy Dartford, Sportsister
The Women’s Sports Magazine

Select a sport

Find out how to get started, training plans and expert advice.