It was one of those days you just never forget. My friend and I had the giggles following the best descent from a winter summit I have ever had.
The peak we were summiting on this day was mostly ascended on a forest road, which meant that most of it could be sledded back down to the car. Wait, sledding down a road? Yep, welcome to the Alps! Now, this only works with a sled you can steer, because forest roads in the Alps are never straight. Helmets are usually recommended as well.
Although more tourists visit the Alps in the winter than in the summer, most of them enjoy the comforts of the ski resorts. That means you can find quite a bit of solitude that is sometimes difficult to come by in the summer. We definitely had solitude as we pulled the sleds up the forest road, and hid them in the trees at our junction with a smaller trail.
Now, summiting a peak in winter with snowshoes instead of skis may not be very European, however, we made up for it with a stop in a mountain hut on the way down for a warm meal and a hot chocolate. After warming up, we did a loop back to our sleds, removed our snowshoes and prepared for 20 or so minutes of speed, curves and pure laughter.
This is just one day of fun in the Alps, but there are so many more winter adventures waiting!
Here are my top ten reasons to visit the Alps with snow:
10. The downhill ski culture is based not only on great skiing, but also on having a good time. Check out an Apre-ski, or after-ski party, in Austria.
9. A sauna spa facility or thermal-heated pool is never far away.
8. Ditch your thermos. Instead enjoy your hot chocolate or gluehwein (a hot, spiced, mulled wine) while sitting in a warm hut right in the middle of your backcountry ski or snowshoe tour.
7. Forget winter driving. Use the extensive public transportation network to get around.
6. Avoid the crowds! Solitude in the Alps is rare, unless you hit the backcountry while the crowds are at the ski resort.
5. Flights to Europe are cheaper in the winter.
4. Rodeln! Sledding (rodeln/schlitten) in the Alps is not just for kids. Imagine steering a sled downhill, while covering kilometers of snow-covered forest roads at a time. Pair it with a winter peak summit for a perfect day.
3. Backcountry skiing is a big deal and the options are endless. Leave the fish-scales and NNN BC bindings at home – the Alps are steep and require randonee gear.
2. Overnight in the winter room of a closed remote hut with comforts such as a stove, wood, and warm bedding (some winter rooms require a key, but many remain unlocked all winter).
1. Treat yourself to a multi-day ski or snowshoe hut tour. Think pristine, snow-covered backcountry during the day, plus delicious meals and warm beds at night.