The year 2017 comes to an end and this is the time for me to travel home to Germany for Christmas. Thankfully this year I could get some more days off for the holidays and this time I wanted to use them for some winter sports activities.

The plan was to explore the mountains of Switzerland and Austria. For the last couple of years, I have hardly been snowboarding in Europe due to the snowless winters. So I packed my bags taking along my snowboard clothes. Once landed in Zurich my friend picked me up from the airport and we headed directly to Flum’s mountains. A great skiing place in Switzerland easily reachable within one and a half hours from the airport. We also found some other great things to do in Grindelwald. Driving out of the city the snowfall welcomed us all the way to the mountains. After a warming cup of coffee, the sky brightened up a little and provided us with great conditions for snowboarding. Due to the weekend, the slopes were full with skiers, snowboarders, and ongoing family contests.

Nevertheless, the ski and snowboard rentals are prepared for the rush and the equipment rental was hassle free. Prices in Switzerland are quite high and for longer stays it is recommendable to bring along your own equipment or even buy it. Also, the ski passes for the lifts are expensive. Many hotels are offering packages including the same which should always be checked for upon booking. After a few runs the weather turned into a snow flurry which made the visibility very low and we decided to spend the rest of the day in the Thermal Baths Tamina of Bad Ragaz. A great place to warm up after a day on the slopes and to relax your muscles. Sitting in a heated outdoor pool it is just an incredible feeling to enjoy the snowfall at the same time.

A couple of days later I already found myself heading over to Austria with my friend for some more snowboarding fun! The trip brought us to Warth, which is a nice sleepy little village in the Alps. The Wellness hotel Wartherhof is the best accommodation in town. Right opposite to the ski lift and ski rental it has the ideal location. The employees are very friendly and welcoming and the service is one of the best I have experienced. Everyone makes you feel at home from the moment you step in. With breakfast and a delicious five-course dinner menu, your palate will thank you! The hotel has a brilliant way of storing food safely and I should say that the food was excellent.

The village itself provides picturesque ambiance for a digestive stroll after dinner. Lucky with the weather conditions we got ready for a day on the slopes. Heading over to the rental shop and getting my equipment together I was positively surprised when I got the bill. Compared to Switzerland it was a third of the price.

Even the ski pass for the lift was distinctly cheaper. One of the biggest ski areas in Austria the Arlberg is offering more than 300km of slopes which can be reached by 88 interconnected lifts. On their website, the area is advertised with guaranteed snow. Easily reachable from either Zurich or Munich Airport it avails a great and affordable winter destination.

Flying into either Switzerland or Germany make sure you have a Schengen Visa if required. As Switzerland is not part of the EU, you will have to cross the border to Austria.

Whether you are a beginner or you are looking for great freeride runs there is hardly anything you will be missing. Toboggan-runs are available if you are not into active winter sports and you still want to have some fun in the snow.

For those who are more interested in hiking, there are snowshoeing trails and guided tours offered. Ask at the reception for advice and they will be happy to help you with bookings. But you can also experience some quiet horse sleigh or husky sled rides.

You might need to book a couple of days in advance for the husky sled ride as this is in high demand but at Florian’s horse sleigh rides in Elbigenalp, you might be lucky to get a spot on short notice. Beautiful Norwegian cold-blooded horses will take you through an amazing scenery of a winter wonderland for about an hour. Just make sure you are wearing some warm clothes and Florian and his horses will take care of the rest for your unforgettable experience.

Once you have had enough of the cold enjoy the great wellness and spa area of the hotel with amazing views of the mountains. You can get treated with massages or just relax in the indoor pool, heat up in the sauna and steam room or just hang out in the whirlpool. ■

Words + Photos by: Denise Ostermann