If you and your family are looking for a slightly different winter sports challenge this year, but can’t bear to give up the fresh air and stunning Alpine views of previous ski holidays, then you should seriously consider cross country skiing. Nordic skiing (as opposed to the Alpine variety which is basically about pointing your skis downhill and going as fast as you can) is a wonderful way to explore the beautiful mountain landscapes at a slower pace.
But don’t be fooled by the grace with which you see practitioners gliding along mountain trails – this is not a sport for the unfit. Depending on the terrain you choose, and how far you want to push yourself, this is a serious physical challenge which would test the stamina of many downhill enthusiasts. Think of it as hiking on skis: a hard day’s cross country can see you clocking up some impressive miles as well as giving you a full-body workout.
Cross Country in Seefeld
Okay, so if I’ve managed to sell you on trading in your Alpine equipment for cross country skis (and believe me, the boots are a lot more comfortable), then you might be wondering where to go to try out your Nordic legs. Keen skiers will have seen cross country tracks around most ski resorts, but if you really want to go to the home of cross country, then I suggest you head to Seefeld in Austria’s beautiful Tirol region.
With limited downhill slopes, the beautiful mountain plateau of Seefeld is a Mecca for cross country enthusiasts – so much so that in 2018 it will be playing host to the world’s leading Nordic athletes competing in the Nordic Combined World Cup.
Its impressive, snow-sure altitude (the plateau is located at 1200m), combined with more than 256 kilometres of trails, makes it the ultimate cross country destination. Add to that the picturesque charm of the Austrian village with its traditional buildings and excellent local restaurants and shops, and Seefeld makes the perfect place for an Alpine family adventure.
With 256 kilometres of prepared trails to choose from it could be hard to know where to start your cross country experience. So here’s my guide to the best trails for beginners and those looking to push their boundaries a little further.
A1 – Nachtloipe
If this is your first time then it’s advisable to take at least one lesson with the excellent local instructors. If you do, the chances are that they will take you out on the Nachtloipe trail. Set in the valley in the perfect position to enjoy the sun for most of the day, the Nachtloipe is a 3.4km route with only a 12m ascent, which leads into the Möserertal valley.
Thanks to Seefeld’s snow-farming facilities this trail is part of the network that has guaranteed snow coverage, and it’s also flood lit at night until 8pm.
A6 – Alpenbad
For a little more of a challenge that is still ideal for beginners, try the 5.6km Alpenbad. Starting and ending in Leutasch, the trail has a 53m ascent and takes skiers through some of the most beautiful local scenery of any of the trails here. Glide alongside the Leutascher Ache stream, past forests and along the beautiful valley floor on this stunning mountain route. If you get tired there are two welcoming refreshment stops on route where you can enjoy a warming Glühwein and the kids can have a hot chocolate before you head off again.
B2 – Auland
Give yourselves a bit of a challenge on the 5.3km Auland with its 147m ascent; you’ll be rewarded by a trail weaving through stunning Alpine forests and snaking through glorious mountain wilderness. Get the kids to watch out for local wildlife in the forest before you emerge at Seefeld’s Wildsee Lake with breathtaking views of Spitze Mountain and Pfarrhügel.
Make a day of it and stop off at the picturesque Restaurant Strandperle for lunch.
Once you and your family have been bitten by the Nordic bug there’ll be no looking back. The great thing is that you can extend your new sport to incorporate other events like biathlon and night time skiing.
The floodlit tracks around Seefeld add a new dimension to the sport as you enjoy this fairytale landscape as the sun sets and darkness descends. The kids will get an extra thrill from skiing through the night air.
In case you don’t already know, biathlon is an Olympic event which combines cross country skiing with precision rifle shooting and is, in my experience, a huge hit with older children. Head to the strangely named Nordic Competence Centre in Seefeld and you’ll discover that this is where Olympic biathletes from around the world come to train (the rifle shooting ranges here were used for the 2012 Youth Winter Olympics). Instructors are on hand to introduce you and the kids to this tricky mountain sport.
Visit During the Nordic Combined World Cup
There’s nothing more exciting than seeing the world’s elite sports men and women battling it out for a championship, so why not treat your family to the ultimate introduction to cross country, with tickets to the World Cup. The Nordic Combined World Cup is being held in Seefeld from the 26 – 28 January next year. Seeing these guys battling it out for the top spot might just be the spark your kids need for a lifelong passion for Nordic sports.
Where to Stay
Ferienhotel Kaltschmid – Set in the heart of the picturesque town close to the Olympia Sports Centre, the Ferienhotel Kaltschmid is a great hotel for a sports-based holiday. Two restaurants on site and an extensive spa will help you to refuel and relax those tired muscles. There is free WiFi throughout the property.
How to Get to Seefeld
The great news is that Seefeld is only 25 minutes away from Innsbruck Airport, so getting to the resort is quick and easy, especially if you book an airport transfer with Shuttle Direct before you leave home.
There are 36 flights each week from London to Innsbruck, with airlines including easyJet and British Airways. The flight time is just under two hours, so book a transfer with Shuttle Direct and you and your family could be out on the snow the same day.
About Shuttle Direct
Shuttle Direct is the leading provider of airport transfers across Europe and northern Africa, with years of experience in Alpine holidays. Let Shuttle Direct know what sports equipment you will be travelling with and they will ensure a vehicle big enough to fit it all in and will transport it to your accommodation free of charge.