Countries to visit for XC skiing.
[ Austria ]
[ Canada ] [ Italy
] [Switzerland ]
[ World Loppets ] [ Norway
] [ back to introduction ]
Austria’s best XC regions are located in the Tirol and
to the south of Salzburg. Snow falls start in late December and may continue
until April. Although many regions promote XC skiing the majority of areas
are centred near towns located in the valleys at an altitude of about
500 metres where good quality snow does not last for very long. If you
are interested in XC skiing avoid all these lower areas. Lermoos
at about 1000m can usually be relied on until about mid February and is
located in a 20km long valley that may have better snow in neighbouring
towns and also has some trails at a higher level. Seefeld is located
on a plateau at 1180m near Innsbruck and has reliable cover but it can
become light towards the end of February and dependant on more snowfalls
to prolong skiing. The adjoining district of Leutasch is connected
to the same trail system and has a similar snow profile. Ramsau
is at about 1300m and nearby, the higher Dachstein Glacier offers
year round skiing. Lienz, 720m, in East Tirol is in the south
near the Italian border in the shadow of the Dolomites and usually has
good snow for the Dolomitenlauf Loppet in mid January but can be disappointing
in February. Nearby the secluded village of St Jacob in Defereggental
at about 1350m has more reliable cover. Many other resorts offer
good snow conditions but have limited XC trails whereas those named here
all offer a variety of trails from 50 up to 250km. The popular alpine
resorts generally do not have much XC to offer and are busier and livelier
than the quieter XC resorts. Click on the thumbnail
pictures for a clearer view of (left to right), Seefeld, Lermoos, Leutasch
Skiing in Europe is interesting
as everything is so different, the mountains, trees, people, farms, houses,
churches, towns, shops and so on. There is the variety of tastes in food,
different methods of preparation, varieties of wine and many different
styles of beer. There are horse sleighs, baby sleds instead of prams,
buses that seem too big to negotiate the narrow streets, plenty of skiing
to be viewed on TV, different musical sounds, squirrels and birds, but
there are crows there, do they migrate from Perisher? It seems all the
women wear fur coats and everyone has a dog with them and the only thing
to complain about is that nearly everyone smokes in restaurants but there
are non-smoking train carriages. Because it is so cold there are hoar
frost patterns in the trees that might last for days and when it snows
the snow just falls gently straight down. The council workers clear snow
and the postman carries the mail in an electric wagon that he walks in
front of. There are horse troughs everywhere with water running to stop
it freezing but often it freezes anyway. There are trout to be seen in
the streams and ducks feeding in the near freezing water. The train sends
up a cloud of snow dust as it rushes past. Paragliders descend from the
alpine ski fields high above while hot air balloons rise up into the sky
and are blown gently along, often over the mountains into the next valley.
There are sounds of ice hockey and curling and the swish of ice skaters.
The spout of your water bottle freezes on a cold day. Helicopters
fly injured skiers for treatment. Avalanches are set off with explosives.
Church bells ring each quarter hour and chime each hour even at night
when you try to go to sleep. You may get to stay in a hotel built in 1650.
You will find plenty to interest you every day and every village is slightly
The local language is German and a pocket dictionary
is useful when eating out. Some restaurants have English menus but may
not include the full range of food or chef's specials. Some English is
spoken at most railway stations and many shops but many bus drivers, landlords,
hotel staff and waiters, especially in smaller communities do not understand
English. Nevertheless most people find that they can cope and get around
without too many problems by using sign language and a smile and when
the going gets tough a bystander will often offer to assist.
Vienna, Frankfurt and Zurich are
convenient cities to commence your holiday. Lauda, Lufthansa and other
airlines fly to these cities and usually offer two additional internal
flights at no extra cost. There are regular flights to Innsbruck and Salzburg
and train links from Munich.
Trains are the best way to move around and they are
reliable, comfortable and run frequently and are reasonably priced. It
is often easier and more relaxing to take a train instead of a connecting
flight to an airport especially on the homeward journey. Payment can be
made by credit card (except for very short cheap journeys). For longer
journeys where a change of train must be made ask for a printed timetable
(Fahrplan) which gives arrival and departure times and sometimes platform
numbers. Some platforms have an indicator board and some trains have the
destination on the side of a carriage or look out for the conductor who
will step out on the platform at each stop. Allow plenty of time for travel
as it takes time to navigate around some stations and connections may
be missed. Ticket office staff are usually helpful. It is handy to know
that if you are dashing to catch a train that tickets can be bought on
the train with cash. It is useful to have a map as a check that you are
travelling on the correct train and to let you anticipate arrivals. Be
aware when buying tickets that some towns exist in different districts
with the same name; they are differentiated by including the district
in the name, and pronunciations are often misinterpreted so one could
finish up in Linz which is a long way from Lienz.
On the other hand bus stops are difficult
to find, buses usually run late and one has no idea which way they go
or where the next stop is located. Fares are paid in cash when boarding.
If you have to travel by bus try to get written directions in advance
from the hotel or tourist office to give to the driver. Buses are orange
and bus stops are indicated on a post by a green on yellow sign with H
in a circle with a timetable underneath. Village bus stops are usually
at the Post office (and possibly the railway station) as well as other
locations. If a train connects with a bus then the bus will wait if the
train is late but leaves as soon as the driver thinks that all passengers
in Austria is bed and breakfast, half board with breakfast & dinner
or possibly full board. Good private accommodation is available in pensions
at a reasonable rate for b& b (see picture) and family apartments
(Ferienwohnungen) with cooking are available. Expect to pay the equivalent
of from $40 per day per person or $130 for two in an apartment. (2001)
Most pensions and hotels are clean, modern and comfortable with reasonable
space and have private toilet and shower and have to meet an acceptable
standard to be listed. Most private accommodation, supermarkets and many
restaurants do not take credit cards. Cash can be withdrawn with
a credit card from ATM’s that are plentiful. Avoid interest charges by
having one credit card in credit and note that daily cash limits apply.
Contact the Austrian National Tourist
Office in Sydney for lists of accommodation and maps and details of the
towns you wish to visit. email@example.com
Make bookings inquiries direct to the tourist office that is located
in every Austrian village or town and they will post brochures if needed.
Some tourist offices will make the booking while others will give you
the details to make your own booking. All the towns listed here have a
bank, post office and supermarket and plenty of restaurants for the evening
meal. When choosing accommodation ask how far it is to the XC trails (Loipen)
and the town centre and if it is on a hill otherwise you may find yourself
2 km from the nearest restaurant or XC trails and have to walk
up a steep hill to get home.
Eating out costs are very reasonable and there are cheaper
pasta and pizza places in most towns. Many supermarkets sell a variety
of cooked (hot or cold) take away food. Lunch can be prepared from bread
etc from the supermarket or bought at trailside restaurants that are located
in every village and every few kilometres along the way. There is a multitude
of local and German beers in the supermarket. In bars and restaurants
it is served in 300 or 500ml glasses. Austrian wines are worth trying
and are available in a variety of sizes of carafe as well as bottles.
The local tourist office, called
by many names but identified by a big green “i” for info sign is a good
source of information about facilities and services in the town as well
as special events, concerts, art shows etc. XC skis, toboggans and ice
skates can be hired from many outlets. There are downhill areas at each
of the towns and plenty of downhill ski hire outlets for those who want
to downhill. Great slopes for telemarking or parallel skiing with freeheel.
It is worth a visit to some of them just to see the sheer size of the
area and the variety and length of the slopes but be prepared as the ski
out down to the valley may be very steep and narrow in parts.
Ski trails are well groomed and well marked. Ask for
a trail map (Loipenkarte) at the tourist office. The use of trails is
usually free to people staying in the area who are provided with a guest
card to show eligibility. Skating trails (with or without a classic track
groomed) are wide and easy to ski on downhill sections. Most trails are
one way but there are many two way trails, sometimes indicated by bi directional
arrows or a sign that says “gegenverkher” and many that have no notice.
On all trails KEEP TO THE RIGHT and where there are two classic tracks
ski IN THE RIGHT HAND TRACK and overtake in the left. Difficult sections
are indicated by a sign of a black triangle with an exclamation mark in
it or a small sign “stark gefalle” or “stark gefahr”
Classic only tracks are only two or three metres wide
and often wind through a hilly area of forest and have lots of curves.
Even in good snow conditions the amount of traffic on downhill sections
scrapes the snow and produces a smooth track the width of a snowplough.
A snowplough does little to slow down progress but they can be skied in
control if one ski is stemmed in the snow that piles up at the side. When
these trails are icy or have snow free patches they are very challenging
to the point of being frightening and the skis cannot be controlled. When
this occurs find another trail to ski. Skiers should approach all these
narrow trails with caution until some experience of them is gained and
always be prepared for someone stopped or fallen just around a blind corner.
Many people ski these trails and a large number are
not confident of the downhill sections and queue up at the top of a slope
and ski down one by one as each person slowly negotiates the slope. It
is a local convention that faster and more capable skiers ski past this
queue, taking care when passing anyone going down the slope.
Other hazards include places where the trail crosses
a roadway or walking trail where the surface may be free of snow or spread
with gravel grit or the trail crosses a railway line. Beware of underpasses
where the trail goes under a road or railway as visibility is restricted
and oncoming skiers cannot be seen until you meet in the middle. Avoid
if possible, or slow right down and keep to the RIGHT even if it is a
one way trail. And to confuse skiers more there is one two-way underpass
at Seefeld where traffic is directed to keep left.
In some areas there can be avalanche danger and some
trails may be closed. Usually there will be a barrier across the trail
with a brightly coloured sign with the word Lavingefahr included. (Lavin
= avalanche) Even if not in English it is clear that the barrier marks
a no go area.
click on links
to [ Lermoos ] [ Leutasch
] [ Seefeld ] [ St
Jacob ] [ Lienz ]
The Italian cross country areas are found
in the Dolomites near the borders with Austria and Switzerland.
click on link to [ Dobbiaco ]
There are XC trails all over Switzerland in eight district
regions and covering more than 100 locations but the only area that can
be reliably recommended is St Moritz in the Engadin valley at 1770m. The
valley extends about 40km from Maloja to Zuoz and is flat.
Access is by private jet or more likely by train from
Zurich or from Austria via Arlberg and Buchs. Trains run about every hour.
Languages spoken in the Engadin are Swiss, German and
Italian and in most establishments someone will speak English. The German
dictionary will be useful here also as the written language is German
but some restaurants have Italian menus only. The cost of living is slightly
higher than in Sydney but apartment accommodation and meals can be had
for about $280 a day for two (2003).
In most respects details given above for Austria also
apply to Switzerland.
for more information [ Engadin ]
THE WORLDLOPPET SERIES
The Loppet’s are a series of races held annually in
Austria, Italy, Germany, Japan, Estonia, Canada, France, USA, Finland,
Sweden, Switzerland, Norway and Falls Creek Australia. Planning to ski
in Loppet events should start about a year in advance as race entries
close about mid year and accommodation and travel services are stretched
with up to 30,000 competitors in some races. It is physically demanding
and quite expensive to enter successive Loppets in Europe as the events
are held at weekly intervals in the above order. Travel between events
may take two days leaving little time to relax, recover and check out
the course of the next event. It is useful to have a non competing travel
companion who can help with travel arrangements. Events can be skied over
successive years and still qualify for the Loppet Master's award. The
events are extremely well organised, accommodation is arranged if required
and transport to and from the start and finish is provided where necessary.
For details of all Worldloppet events follow links on the Kangaroo Hoppet
page at http://home.netc.net.au/~hoppe
Canada is an easy choice of destination when compared
to the USA as the Aussie dollar buys much more in Canada and the quality
of snow is usually better at the more northern latitudes. It is usually
colder and the sky is greyer, what happened to the blue? but you can't
have it both ways.
Like most places high in the northern hemisphere there
is plenty of snow and XC skiing all over Canada but Australians will find
British Columbia and Alberta the most accessible. Most skiing is on groomed
trails. Some off trail skiing is possible and skins are advisable and
for the adventurous there is plenty of heli-skiing. Many areas have
avalanche danger so get local advice on this as trails do not usually
have warning notices. Warning signs such as slopes denuded of trees by
avalanches are usually plain to see, explosions setting off avalanches
will be heard and the sound of naturally occurring avalanches echo around
the mountains. Trail maps and information for off trail skiing, often
following forest roads, are available from ski shops or visitor centres
and these usually show avalanche danger areas and avalanche dangers are
sometimes broadcast in radio reports.
Arguably the best place for XC is at Silver Star Resort.
About 1 hours flying time from Vancouver, guaranteed snow, a village atmosphere
and a huge variety of trails make it the best. There is no avalanche danger.
A great place to telemark using the lifts.
Banff is primarily an alpine ski resort with skiers
being bussed daily to the downhill lift areas but it is a good place to
stay as it is central to many XC areas. Because of distances involved
and a lack of suitable transport a car is essential. Within 50km are the
ski areas of Lake Louise, Kananaskis State Park and the Canmore Olympic
Jasper has many cross country trails set in magnificent
lake and mountain scenery but a car is necessary for transport and it
is a long way from anywhere. A full day from Banff and a longer day from
Silver Star. It takes a day to drive from Silver Star to Banff. Roads
may be snow and ice covered and chains are not necessary as winter tyres
are fitted to hire vehicles. Speed may have to be reduced for safety,
overtaking is not possible on many mountain roads and roads are sometimes
closed (for hours or a day) by heavy snowfalls, ice or avalanche clearing.
Beware of avalanche protection tunnels where the road is often icy and
you are suddenly plunged into darkness as the car headlights are covered
in mud from the road.
The following e-mail was received in August 2002:
Hi, how are you.
I am and Australian who has been living in Whistler, BC for a few years.
I am a cross country ski instructor and coach here in Whistler. I just
happened to be looking at your website this morning to check out the snow
and noticed that you had no info on the Cross Country skiing in Whistler.
There is over 40km of fantastic ski trails groomed daily for skate and
classic. I work for the Cross Country Hut that is situated at the entrance
of the trails. We rent high performance skis and offer high end and beginner
ski lessons. You may wish to look at the web site and post it on your
web site- I was very happy to see the Cross Country ski page so well done
for Aussie Skiing- good job...
Have a great winter.
click on [ Silver
Star ] click on [ Banff ] click
on [ Mt Washington ]
country skiing is possible almost everywhere in Norway. The easiest access
is through Oslo which can be reached by air, train from Europe and Sweden
and ferry from Copenhagen. Currency is the Norwegian Kroner. Credit cards
are accepted in most places. ATM’s may not be found in small villages.
Beer is available from supermarkets but wine and spirits are only sold
through state operated liquor stores.
It is difficult to get information on Norway from Australian travel agents
and from the internet unless one can understand Norwegian but most
Norwegians speak English so it is possible to write to hotels in English
and get an answer. If time permits the coastal ferry trip from Bergen
to Kirkenes in the far north (or part of the trip) is enjoyable even in
winter and the train from Bergen to Oslo travels through some mountainous
click on [ Sjusjoen
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