Winter sport strengthens the circulation and the heart and is good for your body and soul. Movement in the fresh winter air is a real pleasure for many, with the crunch of the snow under your feet and the soothing mountain climate a source of pure relaxation. Above all, the mountain air is healthy and winter sport helps your body release endorphin, serotonin, and dopamine, its own hormones for making you feel happy. The winter season has just begun in most winter sport regions and will continue to May. Enough time to plan your next winter sport holiday!
The lure of the snow and the mountains
A survey has reported that the most popular winter sports are the biathlon, snowboarding, ski jumping, ice skating, ice hockey, and skiing. Winter hiking, snowshoeing, and cross-country skiing are also becoming increasingly popular. Tobogganing and sledging are also lots of fun. And if movement isn’t your thing, but you still want a good dose of the wonderful winter air, you can always go ice fishing.
But no matter what you decide, winter sport is always healthy if you don’t overdo it. What’s important is that you have a firm handle on your own health when thinking about doing sport in winter. A pulse oximeter is ideal for measuring the amount of oxygen in your blood (a real issue in the mountains) and heart rate.
Skiing and snowboarding
The popular winter sports of skiing and snowboarding are particularly stressful on muscles and endurance. You should therefore always warm up well before skiing to avoid the risk of injury. It is recommended that you start doing ski gymnastics months before your winter holiday so that you’re ready for the stresses of winter sport. You can burn between 280 and 450 calories an hour while skiing and snowboarding and the basic skills are easy to learn. Time spent at higher altitudes also affects the formation of new blood cells, which improves your blood’s ability to transport oxygen. The mountain air often has a positive effect, especially on asthmatics since it is cleaner. Many people can actually breathe easier when doing winter sport.
Earlier this year, 31,000 skiers and snowboarders voted on the most popular spots in the Alps for winter sport. The 20 best ski resorts in the Alps in 2019 were awarded the annual Top Ski Area award by Snowplaza. These include the Stubai Valley near Innsbruck, the KitzSki ski area with almost 230 km of downhill skiing, the Montafon in Vorarlberg, and the Zermatt-Matterhorn with its five ski areas (Rothorn, Gornergrat, Matterhorn Glacier Paradise, Breuil Cervinia and Valtournenche). At an altitude of almost 4,000 metres, Zermatt is the highest ski resort in the Alps and a winter sports paradise.
Other top ski areas include the Obertauern ski area, the Salzburger Sportwelt, the Ski-Arlberg with 305 km of spectacular ski runs, Sölden with the longest downhill run in Austria, and a few more. Having held the top position since 2015, the undisputed #1 is Silvretta Arena Ischgl-Samnaun. In Germany, Garmisch-Partenkirchen is considered the best ski resort for winter sports enthusiasts.
Winter hiking and snowshoeing
Winter hiking and snowshoeing are excellent endurance training for everyone since they give every muscle group a workout, especially the thighs and glutes, but also the back. Many ski resorts offer guided hikes, where you can enjoy the beauty of nature in all its glory in peace. Depending on the terrain and snow depth, this winter sport can also be quite exhausting, depending on the speed you take and the gradient of the trails.
St. Anton am Arlberg, for example, offers new winter hiking trails. The routes for winter hikers have now been extended to a total of 80 km. The trails lead to the Verwall recreational area and the Almfrienden mountain inn 1,530 m above Pettneu. A completely new route runs between the mountain stations of the Galzig and St Christoph cable cars.
Many winter sports enthusiasts use the winter hiking trails in St. Anton am Arlberg at 1,304 meters altitude for conditioning and endurance training because of the lower oxygen levels at medium altitudes. No matter whether you’re in Bavaria, Austria, Switzerland, South Tyrol, the Harz, the Thuringian Forest, or Hochsauerland, you definitely should not set out on a snowshoe hike through snow-covered landscapes without a trained guide.
Most winter hiking trails lead past beautiful guest houses, where you can take a relaxing break and enjoy some delicious food. Snowshoeing also strengthens the cardiovascular system and will lower your blood pressure, even if you suffer from hypertension.
Cross-country skiing: a winter sport for all ages
Cross-country skiing requires power from the entire body, providing a workout for the legs, arms, back, and abdomen equally as well as increasing the performance of the cardiovascular system.This winter sport, also called Nordic cruising, strengthens your endurance, strength, and coordination and is becoming increasingly popular among young people. Hardly any other winter sport burns more calories than cross-country skiing.
Sports doctors say that 90% of the muscles are used, which is more than while jogging or cycling. Cross-country skiing is especially healthy because it requires everything to be in motion and the joints are spared. Cross-country skiing is a winter sport for all ages and pure relaxation. It’s a pleasure to “run” through the snowy winter landscape.
Cross-country skiing can also be easily learned and is suitable for children or adults of all ages. In addition, the accident risk is low, as it is much safer than the crowded downhill slopes.
P.S. Cross-country skiing equipment for beginners can be had for as little as €250. Beautiful cross-country skiing areas in Germany include Oberstaufen, Bernau, Bodenmais, Feldberg, Titisee-Neustadt, and Oberstdorf. In Austria, the Olympics region at Seefeld, the Kitzbühel Alps, and the Achensee are popular areas. In Switzerland, people flock to such places as St. Moritz, Davos, Grisons Canton, and Andermatt on the Gotthard Pass.
Ice skating is an even more elegant way to get moving in winter
Ice skating: a winter sport for young and old Of course, you have to stay balanced if you want to skate safely. Every type of winter sport, including ice skating, is already healthy simply by the fact that it gets you moving. Skating especially requires coordination, balance, and reflexes. Gliding weightlessly on the mirror-smooth surface is a real pleasure and not just for children. Also, ice skating is an excellent workout for the entire cardiovascular system.
You can also burn calories, somewhere between 100 and 300 per hour. The sliding movements while skating also protect the intervertebral discs and joints. In particular, the muscles of the lumbar, pelvic, and hip region are given a workout by having to stabilise the spine.
The moderate demand placed on the body makes it particularly well suited for reducing stress and to find an inner balance. Today there are many artificial skating rinks in almost every city, where you can enjoy the experience in a group or with friends and the whole family.
Vienna is our very special ice skating tip
If you want to experience a real ice dream, you should make your way to Vienna, because there you will experience a skating paradise in the Rathauspark in front of the romantically lit city hall. With around 9,000 m², this skating rink in Vienna is also one of the largest mobile skating rinks in the world.
Every season, nearly 750,000 people take to the ice here in Vienna. The Vienna Ice Dream is an unforgettable winter experience for all skating enthusiasts, offering eight curling rinks, several large free skating rinks, the new worldwide unique “Sky Rink” on two levels, a quaint alpine hut with delicious food, and music with DJs. The Vienna Ice Dream is open until 1 March 2020.
Tobogganing and sledging
Sledging is also huge fun for the whole family and a winter sport that requires no prior knowledge. Riding down snow-covered hills on a sledge is something that has been making people happy for generations. Who doesn’t have fond memories of it from childhood?
Parents should know that sport is very important for children anyway, because it promotes coordination and movement. Incidentally, tobogganing is the prototype of all winter sports, because the sledge has been used since ancient times as a means of transport. Sledging has not lost any of its charm to this day.
But caution: speed and skill should always be matched to avoid injury. Make sure that there are no trees in the immediate vicinity of the toboggan run. Also, the equipment should be right. Wear waterproof winter sport clothing, sturdy shoes, gloves, a helmet, and goggles.
Here are some of the most beautiful toboggan runs
The number one toboggan run in Germany is located on the Hochschwarzeck near Berchtesgadener Land, while the longest toboggan run in South Tyrol is the Rosskopf in Vipiteno. Wildkogel has the longest floodlit toboggan run in the world and is located at the Wildkogel-Arena ski area near Bamberg. The Big Pintenfritz offers the longest toboggan run in the Alps and is located in Switzerland.
The highest toboggan run in the world is at the Val Thorens ski resort in France and the longest in Germany is at Rottach-Egern. In the Stubai Valley, in the immediate vicinity of the Tyrolean capital of Innsbruck, you can spend the night sledging by torchlight, and you can sledge your way through fairy tales at the Engadin ski area near St Moritz. And finally the Sexten Dolomites: here you can sledge on the 2,000 m high toboggan run at Rotwand surrounded by the most beautiful scenery.
Conclusion: We prefer to leave the biathlon, ski jumping, and ice hockey to the professionals, as those are more about competition. We have focused here on family-friendly winter sports that first do good for your health, provide much enjoyment, and are guaranteed to preserve your inner and outer balance. Winter sport is a nature experience for all the senses. We wish you a good start to the winter season.
We wish you a lot of fast fun! ?