While everyone talks about ski holidays in Austria, people tend to forget the potential for other healthy activities in the alpine land of Mozart and everyone’s favourite all-singing Teutonic family, the Von Trapps. The hills may indeed be alive with the sound of music, but they are also alive with mountain bikers, Nordic walkers and cross country skiers, three of the best forms of exercise out there for improving cardiovascular fitness at the same time as enjoying the wonders of the outdoors.
For those not yet familiar, Nordic walking is walking with poles. If that sounds a mere cosmetic adjustment then it’s not. Performed in the correct way, the forceful use of the poles with each stride allows for a full body workout that exercises the core (chest, lats, triceps and biceps) and increases heart rate. It’s an activity that has increased in popularity over the past decade, and Austria is one of the top places with specific routes to do it. Two of the best are Bad Kleinkircheim, where there are three different Nordic routes into the Nock Mountains National Park, or Carinthia, which recently won the title of Europe’s most untouched natural valley.
Cross country skiing
The attraction of downhill skiing is the speed and exhilaration. Cross country skiing, the traversing of variable gradients by an energetic pumping of legs and arms, is a different beast altogether. Austria offers superb opportunities for getting to grips with what has long been known as the top calorie burning activity in the world. One of the top spots to start from is Seefeld, at the base of the Leutasch valley. In the last five years the tracks here have been voted winner of the Excellent XC Ski Trails category by a panel of experts. Newbies to the sport can receive lesson individually or in groups from qualified expert instructors, before setting out across the snow slopes on their own.
Now a recognised Olympic sport, mountain biking is not for the faint-hearted. Following a lung-bursting uphill climb, you may then be required to negotiate a tricky downhill section full of twists and turns. But don’t let that put you off. The Tirol region of Austria is a great place to start, with plenty of easier routes for those less keen to come off the bike. Companies such as the appropriately named Uphill Downhill offer accommodation packages and guided cycles along a huge variety of trails in this beautiful mountain region.