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A non-skier's guide to winter

Fatbiking in the dolomites
Fatbiking in the dolomites   -   Copyright  Katy Dartford @cayteye
By Katy Dartford

Europe's mountain landscape is not just for people who ski and snowboard. There are many ways to enjoy the scenery as a non-skier, or if you don't want to hit the slopes every day. (Disclaimer: they don't just involve ice skating, or relaxing in a spa).

Check out these suggestions for some incredible frozen adventures - without clipping into a pair of planks.

Fatbiking

Riding through a silent, snow-capped forest on a mountain bike fitted with wide-rimmed wheels and extra-large tyres is becoming ever more popular. It's also perfect for keeping your legs in shape over the colder months.

Many ski resorts are now offering fatbiking or e-fatbiking (for a little boost to get you up the steep climbs).

Val Gardena in the Dolomites have e-fat biking tours, where you can follow groomed paths and recharge with a meal in a traditional mountain hut on Alpe di Siusi. Zermatt is also offering fat bike night tours with special lamps to illuminate the way.

Katy Dartford @cayteye
Fat Biking in Val GardenaKaty Dartford @cayteye

Curling

The ancient Scottish winter pastime of curling - or the alternate Bavarian curling (also known as “ice stock sport” or “pétanque on ice”) - is a fun and sociable game, and is gaining more and more devotees.

Several resorts and curling halls are offering the chance to enjoy the sport on their rinks – including Obergoms and Lischi Arena in Switzerland.

Curling is growing in popularity as a winter sport

Winter via Ferrata

Most people consider via Ferrata - Italian for "iron path" - a summer activity. Many of these climbing routes, which consist of cables, rungs and ladders, were built during the First World War, to enable soldiers to get to the top of the Dolomite mountains where they had their frontlines.

Now, they are popping up anywhere there are mountains, and people have begun climbing them in winter when the activity is more challenging. As snow and ice cover the iron cables, special equipment such as ice axes and crampons are needed.

In December the Saas Valley in Switzerland is launching a medium to difficult graded winter via Ferrata at the edge of the village of Saas-Grund. You may need a head for heights as the climb finishes with a spectacular abseil descent of about 40 meters.

@ CORTINA ALPINE GUIDE, PAOLO TASSI,
Winter Via Ferrata in Cortina, Italy@ CORTINA ALPINE GUIDE, PAOLO TASSI,

Winter hiking trails

Hiking can be a paradise in winter. If you have the winter sun as your companion you can wander the forests along immaculately prepared winter trails, with the thought of a schnapps or hot chocolate in a snug mountain hut to look forward to.

In Switzerland, Saas-Fee, Zermatt, Visperterminen and the Lötschental valley have around 10 new marked winter walking trails this winter.

SalzburgerLand’s Skicircus Saalbach Hinterglemm Leogang Fieberbrunn in Austria has 140km of winter hiking trails and are offering twice daily free guided walks with qualified guides.

Alta Lumina is a series of immersive evening walks in Les Gets in the French Alps. Follow a one-kilometre trail, which features a series of pictures telling a story linked to the history of the area. Lights, fluorescent imagery and interactive sets guide the way. The brand-new concept is a first in Europe and debuts this winter.

Snowshoeing

Strap on a pair of snowshoes and you can hike 'off-piste' as your weight is distributed over a larger area so your foot doesn't sink completely into the snow.

In Montchavin, La Plagne, France you can snowshoe trek with a guide to your very own igloo for the night. An aperitif and fondue await you, and some stargazing before a peaceful night’s sleep.

Local guides in the historic French Alpine village of Megève will also take you via snowshoe for an evening of great food and drink hosted in a secret igloo. The walk starts from the village centre at 17.45 every evening during the winter months.

Morzine is offering a night-time snowshoe and aperitif experience. Explore the beautiful forests by flaming torchlight and enjoy a mulled wine surrounded by nothing but trees and snowflakes.

Italy's wide Ampezzo Valley, with its variety of landscapes, also has countless snowshoeing itineraries that can be discovered with local mountain guides.

Sledging

The 4km toboggan ride in St. Anton in the Austrian Tirol takes about 15-20 minutes to complete, and has a vertical elevation of 500 metres. Hire a toboggan at the bottom of the Nasserein lift in St. Anton, before heading up the mountain to the Gampen for the start of the ride. At the bottom, treat yourself to a warming Glühwein at one of the cosy restaurants.

Other attractions

Enjoy spectacular views across Innsbruck Valley and listen to the wolves howl in unison when the church bells ring. The Alpenzoo, Innsbruck is open until March and is the highest-themed zoo in Europe, featuring more than 2000 animals which are, or have been, typical for the Alps.

You could enjoy a panoramic view at high speeds by gliding down the mountain on an eagle-shaped glider in Switzerland's Jungfrau. To begin with, the First Glider is pulled backwards at 72 km/h. then 'takes off' and glides the 800-metre-long flight route at up to 83 km/h.

Slide down Europe’s fastest and longest zip-wire, the Flying Fox XXL in Leogang, Salzburg. With a length of 1,600 metres, a height of up to 143 metres and potential top speeds of up to 130 km/h, you can see the mountain from a whole new perspective.

Morgen ist der Flying Fox XXL aufgrund der eher schlechten Wettervorhersage geschlossen, jedoch haben wir am Sonntag...

Posted by Flying Fox XXL on Friday, March 6, 2020