A lake, a glacier, countless mountain peaks. The region Zell am See – Kaprun in Salzburg, Austria has a lot to offer to nature and mountain lovers. Especially during the winter season, the region is filled with life. But contrary to what one might think, there are not only groomed slopes for skiers and snowboarders, but also numerous tracks for cross country skiers.
Some years ago, my husband Kai and I started to spend our cross country ski holidays in the Alps. There are regions in Austria, Germany and Italy that devoted themselves to cross country skiing and that offer all kinds of services to its cross country skiing guests. One of those regions is Zell am See – Kaprun. It is situated in the federal state of Salzburg in Austria. And that’s the place where we intend to spend our next holidays.
It is already late Friday afternoon when my husband and I and our two good friends Yanis and Saskia arrive at Hotel Sonnblick in Kaprun. Yanis and Saskia aren’t much of cross country skiers, but they have wanted to try it since forever. And since they also love to spend their holidays in the snowy Alps, they decided to come with us. In the lobby we receive a warm welcome by the hotel staff. First we bring our luggage to our rooms, then we get a little tour through the hotel facilities. It is really nice around here. The hotel’s furnishing is held in Swiss pine and everything radiates tranquillity and familiarity. I am especially impressed by the hotel’s spa area. It is also held in Swiss pine. Besides bio stone pine sauna, Finn sauna and Jacuzzi, they also have a heated outdoor swimming pool, heat benches with an open fireplace and a relax room with water beds. So I am already pretty sure where I am going to spend my evenings.
But since we have come here for cross country skiing, we want to make full use of every single day. That’s why we put on our cross country skiing clothes and start our first tour right away. Since it is already dark outside, we choose the Night Trail Kaprun. It starts just a few minutes away from Hotel Sonnblick and is 4.5 kilometres long. It leads directly to the thermal bath resort Tauern Spa Kaprun – so if we wanted, we could stop there and enjoy its spa area. Before we get started, we do some warm-up exercises and give Yanis and Saskia some tips. The first part of the track leads over mostly flat terrain and takes us past castle Kaprun. There is just a slight incline which is quite exhausting, but during the descent I relax again. Yanis and Saskia, however, seem to have a little bit more trouble handling the track. When I look back, both of them are already lying on the ground and are covered in snow. I can’t help but laugh at them – it looks just too funny. Fortunately they think it’s funny too, so they start laughing too. Kai and I help them to get up again and to remove the snow from their heads. We ski two more rounds before we decide to go back to the hotel.
At the hotel, we put our cross country skis into the lockable ski room and bring our clothes to the drying facilities. There they have lockers with heater blowers as well as driers for shoes. After that, we go to the wellness area and relax our tense muscles in the Jacuzzi and the Finn sauna. Now I know why we decided to book a hotel of Cross Country Ski Holidays. All member hotels are specialized in the field of cross country skiing and offer services like the ones mentioned before. But there is even more: They also have laundry service, a waxing corner with waxing rack and special waxing accessories and a cross-country ski info corner with free of charge cross-country ski track maps, up-to-date information about the conditions of the cross-country ski tracks, weather forecast and folders with suggested tours. Here at Hotel Sonnblick they offer even more. There are competent cross country skiers like Michaela, the hostess, or the guys from the cross-country ski school who can give you tips for your next tour. There are also weekly guided tours and cross-country evenings in the hotel where you have the chance to exchange views with other cross-country skiers and to get to know the region Zell am See – Kaprun better.
We start the next day with a delicious breakfast. It is made out of organic and regional products and it seems like there are hundreds of different things to try. After that we follow Michaelas recommendation and try the Golf course track. It is 5.4 kilometres long and, as its name already indicates, leads across the golf course Zell am See – Kaprun. It is actually a track of medium difficulty, but since there are no difficult inclines, it is a suitable track for beginners as well. Yanis and Saskia are still a little bit exhausted after yesterday’s first cross-country skiing lesson. But it seems as if they have caught fire and are highly motivated for today. After the first round we stop and enjoy the incredible mountain panorama around us. From here you have the most stunning view of the Kitzsteinhorn glacier and the nearby Hohe Tauern National Park. After a few rounds I recommend that we switch tracks, because the trail “Schlossloipe” is just across the street. It is also 5.4 kilometres long and stretches along flat terrain alongside the river Salzach. Everyone agrees. In fact, they are excited because besides cross country skiing we also want to discover this beautiful new place. And it actually really seems like the network of cross-country ski trails here is perfectly suited to discover Zell am See – Kaprun and its surrounding areas. The region offers 107 kilometres of perfectly groomed trails which lead not only through Zell am See and Kaprun, but also through other holiday regions like Piesendorf, Niedernsill, Bruck, Fusch and Maishofen. With some effort, one can also reach the nearby region Pinzgauer Saalachtal. Its network of trails is even larger and consists of 200 kilometres cross-country skiing tracks.
So during the next days we try all the different trails in Zell am See – Kaprun and discover all the beautiful places and villages around Lake Zell. However, our absolute highlight is the Kitzsteinhorn glacier trail. It is a 3 kilometres long groomed high trail up at 2.900 metres. It is situated at the glacier plateau a little further down the mountain station. It rises in a series of switchbacks. When you reach the top you can enjoy the unique view from Kitzsteinhorn or explore “Gipfelwelt 3000” with its National Park Gallery and cinema. At the summit there is also a restaurant where you can have something to eat or drink. However, the trail is quite exhausting so I would recommend it only for experienced cross-country skiers.
After a whole week of discovering the holiday region Zell am See – Kaprun we all are sure that this has not been our last trip into the Austrian Alps. There are so many beautiful picturesque villages and the Austrian people are so hospitable that we felt very much at home.Region Zell am See – Kaprun