Amazing Alpine adventures
Amazing Alpine adventures
Winter in Europe is a spectacular time of year. Fresh powder falling from the sky and blanketing the jagged peaks is a snow sport enthusiast’s dream. However, if you happen hail from a warm, tropical climate, the frozen white stuff may have you at a bit of a loss. Perhaps the thought of strapping two thin planks of wood or metal composite on your feet and hurdling down a mountain doesn’t quite appeal to you. Or maybe you just want to try something a little new and a little, well … exotic. Don’t worry — there are plenty of amazing alpine activities waiting for you! All you need is a healthy sense of adventure and a little extra courage.
If hanging off the side of a frozen waterfall or giant boulders covered in ice sounds like your cup of tea, ice climbing may be right up your alley. Although ice climbing does require proper training and specialized equipment, Europe is a fantastic location to get acquainted with this thrilling sport.
Some of the most popular ice climbing spots are located in the picturesque Bavarian Alps. Traverse your way through frozen outcroppings, and scale ice-covered ledges and cliffs against the breathtaking backdrops of Zugspitze, Oberstdorf and Jochberg.
Feel like zipping down a mountain face-first on your stomach, on a sled about as big as a boogie board? Skeleton is the perfect to try for daredevils and adrenaline junkies. This epic thrill sport was established in the early 1880s by English soldiers in St. Moritz, Switzerland. Although, it’s been around for some time, it wasn’t added the Winter Olympics as an official sport until 2002.
While there are only 17 official tracks for competitive use in the world, the majority of them can be found in Europe. A great place to learn is La Plagne, France — home to bobsled, luge and skeleton tracks of the 1992 Winter Olympics in nearby Alberville. Once you’ve mastered it, head to picturesque Cortina d’Ampezzo, Italy. This 1,350-meters-long championship track boasts a vertical drop of more than 120 meters and 13 curves.
If you’re not quite ready to whizz down the slopes face-first, but still want the excitement of skeleton, check out luge. Using the same icy tracks, luge is a great combination of skeleton and bobsled. Luge riders lie almost flat, feet-first, and use their reflexes to steer the sled and make adjustments as they fly down the track.
If you want to get a crash course (not literally) in luge, head to La Plagne. The resort offers speed luge, which has riders sliding down the 1,500-meters-long track in a specialized sled. This sled is outfitted with a metal cage to protect riders of all levels and abilities, as they zoom at speeds of more than 90 km/h. If you’ve got slightly more advanced skills, head to Schönau am Königsee, Germany. Located directly above the crystalline waters of Lake Königsee, riders will experience up to 1,300 meters, 16 turns and more than 10-percent grade on this World Cup track.
Those who love the sea know that winter can be really long when the sailing season ends. However, it doesn’t have to end! During the 17th century, merchants eager to find a mode of transportation in the Baltic countries discovered ice sailing as a quick and reliable solution. Boats were modified by adding steel runners to the hull.
Nowadays, ice sailing prevails as a thrilling sport in European countries such as Austria, Germany, the United Kingdom, Poland, Norway, Sweden, the Netherlands, Finland and Estonia. During races, competitors line up their rigs, get a running start and are quickly flying at speeds of up to 100 km/h across frozen lakes. Many techniques are similar between normal sailing and ice sailing, and lessons are often available for those who curiosities are piqued.
Looking for something a little more grounded, with really no experience necessary? Grab a pair of snowshoes and hit the trails. Snowshoeing is great for those that just want to stop and take time to enjoy the stunning scenery that surrounds them. Many resorts and outdoor recreation centers offer snowshoes for rent. All you need is a sturdy pair of hiking boots (preferably with a waterproof sealant) and a thick pair of wool or moisture-wicking socks. Simply strap the snowshoes on to your boots and go.
With the popularity of hiking and Volksmarching during the spring and summer months, it’s no surprise that Germany’s Black Forest is well-known for dedicated winter walking paths and snowshoe trails. Inclines are often minimal and the trails typically range between 6- and 12-kilometers long.
Whether you glide along icy lakes or tromp through the quiet forests to jaw-dropping panoramas, winter is a fantastic time to head outside. Although, it can be just as fun to curl up next to a cozy fire with a steaming cup of hot chocolate and watch as snowflakes drift through the air.
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