Who says you can’t have a snow holiday without skiing?
So, in a previous blog, I wrote about the start of our epic German/Austrian trip that we did last Christmas. The first few days were spent in Germany at the Munich Christmas markets, but the bulk of our holiday was in a town in Austrian region of Salzkammergut called Gosau. A picture-perfect setting in the bottom of the valley under the shadow of the Dachstein mountain range. It’s about an hour’s drive from Salzburg and 2 1/2 hours from Munich, perfectly located for sight seeing in the region.
The town itself is small, consisting of a main road of chalets, hotels and restaurants, and a few local amenities like a Supermarket, tourist information, cash point etc. But what it lacks in size, it more than makes up for in scenery and snowy tree top mountains. We stayed at Haus Linhard - a quintessential Austrian chalet with mountain views to die for. We prefer staying in local apartments to hotel chains, it just adds to the whole experience of immersing yourself in another culture when travelling.
Because we were only in the area for a few days, we couldn’t ski. The girls have never skied before, and the last time my husband and I were on skis was 17 years ago, and there was just not enough time for days of lessons. But the itinerary for the 5 days was full, and by no means lacking in the fun department.
Here’s how to have an amazing snow holiday without skiing:
Daytrip to Halstatt
Now I know there are a million blogs and photos about Hallstatt, and it being the one of the most magical places to visit in Europe, but believe me, they are all right! There is something about the town that captures your heart from the moment you walk in.
The setting is idyllic in any season. We visited on a particularly cold and misty day, but there was something magical about wandering through the streets, staring up at the quaint chalets built into the cliffside. Enjoy a hot chocolate and the view on one of the benches next to the lake for the perfect end to the visit
Toboggan run, Karkogel, Abtenau
This was by far the highlight of our trip, so good that we came back for a second day later in the week. It’s a 3km long natural toboggan run that you reach by a cable car ride. The starting point is directly next to the mountain station of the Karkogel cable car, and it takes about half an hour to get to the bottom.
It’s a succession of switchbacks which start out at gentle incline, but get quite steep towards the end, and no safety rails here! It’s a complete rush, guaranteed to be loved by the whole family.
The girls were terrified going up in the cable car on the first go, we even had a few tears at the start of the Rodelbahn. But one ride down and they were hooked! You can hire all the equipment from the store at the bottom of the cable car. Two-person toboggans are great for little ones to join in the fun too.
Bonus tip: A thermal face mask is an absolute must for tobogganing, to protect freezing faces and streaming noses. These are top of our list for the next holiday!
Snowtubing, Postalm, Wolfgangsee
Getting here is a bit of an ordeal. It is basically over a snow-covered mountain pass, on the narrowest switchbacks I have ever seen. It’s also one of those times in life when once you commit to something, you cannot go back. Literally because there is nowhere to turn around!. The drive is not for the faint-hearted, so make sure you have a confident driver. (This must be one of the few times even the kids have been quiet in the car). At the top you are rewarded with views that will take your breath away. There are many activities on offer at Postalm arena, including skiing and high altitude cross-country skiing – but we were there for the snowtubing.
You pay a fee for the day and have as many turns down the short but steep run on either a snow tube or bucket sledge. The top of the hill is reached by a conveyor belt used by both snow tubers and skiers, so it’s not too tiring on little legs). There’s a good restaurant on site, so enjoy a coffee or a meal and take in the spectacular mountain views before heading back down the mountain pass. I would highly recommend doing this before sunset.
Horse-drawn sleigh ride in Gosau
There are a number of tours on offer that can be booked through the local tourist information – some during the day, some in the evening, and different routes. We booked an evening sleigh ride so we could get a different view of the town all lit up at night. It was the perfect way to get a local’s view, as the route is down little back streets past quaint chalets lit up with Christmas lights. The tour is a circular route through the forest, with a stop to enjoy some seriously strong Austrian schnapps. Despite the temperature hovering around 0°c, buried under a mountain of blankets and furs in the back of the sleigh, listening to the horse’s jingle bells was the cosiest place in the world that night!
Gosau will always hold a special place in our hearts, and it was the start of a love affair with snow holidays for our family.
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