The second part of our miniseries on tips for winter holidays will take us to the very heart of the Alps – Austria and Switzerland.
18. 12. 2017
The Alps are an obvious destination if you want to enjoy the mountains properly in Europe. This majestic mountain range may at first take your breath away, but then it will take you into its kind embrace, filled with various fun activities you can enjoy both on snow and off. It is of course ideal to head straight into the heart of the Alps – Austria and Switzerland – where you can also find the best amenities for your high-altitude relaxation.
WINTER HOLIDAYS IN AUSTRIA
Everyone will enjoy a winter vacation in the Austrian Alps. In addition to perfect conditions for skiers, snowboarders, freeriders, cross-country skiers, and families with children, Austria also adds amenities for other winter sports. You can experience, as well, Austrian hospitality with a rich offer of regional foods – and even buy them in good quality at common shops.
WHAT TO SEE IN THE SEASON?
26–27 January 2018 the race Schlag das Ass/Beat the Ace at Carinthia’s Nassfeld (25.6 km, 6,400 m drop in elevation).
The race is open to the public
10–17 March 2018 the highest-elevation farmers’ market in Austria, with stands in all five regions of Ski Amadé
Ski jumps: the Four Hills Tournament in Innsbruck (4 January) and in Bischofshofen (6 January)
Behind horses, dogs, a motorcycle or a snowmobile. You needn’t get up to a glacier, as you can also enjoy snowmobiles, for example in Lower Austria (Lackenhof-Ötscher ski area).
The Sky Walk Terrace (17 m, glass floor) in Schladming-Dachstein (Ski Amadé). There also are 70 kilometres of sledging tracks and almost 500 km of cross-country skiing trails available. Children up to 10 years of age accompanied by their parents can ski at no charge in the Schladming-Dachstein area.
At Hintertux, you can find Europe’s tallest half-pipe as well as the natural Natur Eis Palast with giant icicles and ice formations. There is also a “summer” snow Betterpark (April/July, then from September) for freestyle.
Europe’s largest skating area (25 km track + 400 m rink, price EUR 5/day). This year (20 January–4 February), the 30th annual “alternative Elfstedentocht” will be held on the lake (5,000 participants, up to 200 km). There is also an ice hockey rink and a curling sheet, as well as cross-country skiing trails and hiking tracks.
Every winter at the Kitzsteinhorn Glacier (Kaprun), an Ice Camp with 11 igloos – seven as a hotel and four used as common areas (bar, etc.) – is built. There is also a snow park (30,000 m2, 70 obstacles). The local ski slopes start as high as 3,030 m a.s.l. The Gletscher Park is open for almost the entire year.
Winter equipment in Austria is mandatory from 1 November to 15 April. A driver with summer tyres on a snow-covered road can be fined as much as EUR 5,000. Winter tyres must have tread more than 4 mm deep!
Without snow chains you will not be permitted to enter certain mountain centres. In inclement weather, the presence of snow chains is monitored by the police on approach routes to higher-elevated areas. Even four-wheel-drive vehicles must have snow chains (and speed with snow chains is limited to 40 km/h).
Look out for IG-L zones (reduced speed mostly on motorways to limit emissions). There is a risk of high fines both for speeding and for polluting the environment, as well as prohibition to drive for up to 24 hours. High-visibility vests for all the occupants must be directly in the passenger compartment. On motorways, forming an emergency corridor is mandatory.
WINTER HOLIDAYS IN SWITZERLAND
The Swiss Alps are properly pointy and snowy, and the local snow centres are world-renowned. This is reflected in higher prices, of course, but you will get first-class comfort and high-level services for your money. In addition, certain areas offer all-season ski passes free of charge for the youngest children of families with accommodation.
WHAT TO SEE IN THE SEASON?
Lauberhorn in Wengen the longest downhill race of the Ski World Cup SP, the Hundschopf jump is the World Cup’s most photographed jump
(12–14 January 2018)
Inferno Downhill 75th annual 16-kilometre downhill race from the top of Kleines Schilthorn to Murren
(17–20 January 2018)
Geneva Motor Show possibility to combine the visit with skiing in Switzerland or France.
(8–18 March 2018)
AFTER THE FIRST JAMES BOND
Schilthorn boasts the most famous of Switzerland’s four revolving restaurants. Filmmakers (of On Her Majesty’s Secret Service with Sean Connery) contributed to its completion. In addition to views, it also offers a museum of James Bond films. Beneath this peak, there is the Mürren-Schilthorn ski area.
A railway with Europe’s highest-elevation station (Jungfraujoch, 3,454 m a.s.l.) leads from the Interlaken Valley. The trip takes 3 hours and the train operates year-round. At the top, in addition to a lookout point, there is a restaurant, a movie theatre, an ice cave, a museum documenting its construction, and a Lindt chocolate workshop.
The Samnaun Valley (Silvretta Arena), with a connection to Austria’s top area Ischgl, offers 200 km of ski slopes. Another attraction is the duty-free zone, with cosmetics, watches, fashion, alcohol, tobacco, and fuel for advantageous prices.
Europe’s tallest suspension bridge, Titlis Cliff Walk (3,041 m a.s.l., 100 m long and 91 cm wide) above the glacial horns of Titlis Mountain is essentially a long viewing platform as well as a test of courage.
The Saas-Fee hotel village is free of car traffic. From the Felskinn Ski Centre, the world’s highest metro takes you to the Mittelallalin revolving restaurant, which features an ice cave with ice sculptures. There is all-year skiing on the glacier. You can keep your skies in a locker.
Although winter tyres are only recommended, a driver is fined for use of unsuitable tyres and is then responsible for any damage. For foreigners, the depth of their tread must correspond to their regulations. Snow chains are mandatory in indicated places. Car trains are used when travelling to Valais.
There is only a full-year motorway stamp for the price of CHF 40, which has remained unchanged for years. There is practically no way of avoiding paid sections. The border tunnels Mt. Blanc and Grand San Bernardino are paid extra.
Fines are strict for driving over the speed limits (50, 80, and 120 km/h), and maintaining limits in residential areas (30 km/h) also is monitored. Extreme transgressions (+70 km/h at 30 km/h, 100 km/h in an urban area, 140 km/h in a non-urban area, and +80 km/h on a motorway) are criminal offences subject to imprisonment for up to 4 years, confiscation of a driving licence for 2 years, or confiscation and sale of the vehicle. Any use of anti-radar devices is strictly prohibited.
MOTORING TO WINTER FUN
Do you have plans for your winter holiday yet? We have a better tip for you than drawing a finger on the map. In our series you can find articles about selected European countries and their most attractive destinations. Overview of the countries is on the map below - click on each country to find out more. Stay tuned and let our interactive map inspire you.
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