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Gone are the days when winter holidays were just for skiers. Nowadays non-skiers can enjoy a snow holiday too – more and more destinations are offering a wide range of non-skiing activities. In fact, if you choose the right place, you’ll find that you can easily spend a week in the snow without once donning skis!
What activities can I do on a non-skiing holiday?
The choice of activities is huge, and differs from region to region. If you visit Finnish Lapland, for example, you will have the chance to try your hand at pastimes typical to that area – such as dog-sledding, reindeer safaris and ice-fishing – whereas in many Alpine destinations you can enjoy a relaxing horse-drawn sleigh ride or a thrilling descent by toboggan. Of all the non-skiing activities available, the two most popular are probably winter walking and snowshoeing. Neither require any previous experience nor special equipment, and both are fantastic ways to immerse yourself in the tranquillity and beauty of your surroundings.
What should I pack for a non-skiing holiday?
Where you need special equipment for an activity – such as snowshoes or ice skates – this is usually provided or can be hired locally. You should, however, ensure you take clothing appropriate to the conditions:
- Waterproof walking boots
- Waterproof & windproof jacket
- Waterproof trousers (or gaiters), plus walking trousers
- A breathable base layer and additional warmer layer
- Wool or fleece hat
- Thermal gloves
- Good-quality woollen or synthetic socks
Although temperatures may be low, a number of the activities that can be enjoyed on winter holidays are aerobic, so it’s a good idea to take layers of clothing. It’s also important to remember that the sun’s rays can be very strong at altitude, even in cloudy conditions, so sunglasses and sun-cream are vital. A good pair of waterproof walking boots will be invaluable – particularly if you’re looking to try winter walking or snowshoeing – and you’ll also want a waterproof and windproof jacket; waterproof trousers; a wool or fleece hat; thermal gloves; and several warm pairs of socks.
Where can I enjoy a non-skiing holiday in Europe?
For every well-known European skiing resort, there’s a quieter side of the mountain offering a variety of ways to enjoy the snow. Where you go depends on the activities you’d like to try, but options include the Austrian Lake District, Swiss Alps, Norwegian Highlands and Finnish Lapland.
Top five holidays for non-skiers
Berghotel Rehlegg, Ramsau bei Berchtesgaden
If we had to choose just one word to describe our winter holiday to the Bavarian Alps, it would be ‘idyllic’. Firstly, there’s the hotel: a 4-star superior spa retreat with excellent dining and a privileged location in the midst of the Berchtesgaden National Park. And then there are the activities: gentle strolls through breathtaking mountain scenery; rides in chair lifts to panoramic viewpoints; boat trips across serene lakes – including exquisite Königssee; and horse-drawn sleigh rides through the forest. And not a pair of skis in sight!
Hotel Ylläshumina, Ylläs
There are few destinations that can match Ylläs in Lapland for the beauty of its landscapes or the sheer number of Arctic experiences on offer. Enjoy the thrill of dog-sledding as you whizz through a snow-clad forest with only the eager panting of the dogs to break the silence; soak in the utter stillness and tranquillity on a snowshoe hike; learn about the local way of life from a reindeer herder; take to the trails by snowmobile; or try out snow-cycling on a fatbike. To top it all, you may also get to experience one of nature’s great miracles, the unforgettable Aurora Borealis (Northern Lights).
Belle Epoque Hotel Victoria, Kandersteg
Gathered around the River Kander, and surrounded by high mountains, the Swiss village of Kandersteg enjoys a postcard-worthy location. Perhaps the most rewarding way to explore the dramatic scenery is on foot: there is a good number of winter walking trails in the area, with the mountain transport making it easy to get up high and enjoy scenic hikes above Lake Oeschinen and along the Gemmi Pass. The many other winter activities on offer include snowshoeing, tobogganing, ice-skating and curling, or, for something a little different, you can take the train to visit the country’s medieval capital, Bern.
Hotel Seerose, Fuschl am See
If you like the idea of a holiday in the snow, but are more interested in spending time in a beautiful location than in trying a host of different activities, then Fuschl is for you. Set in the heart of Austria’s Lake District, this tranquil village is the perfect place to escape the everyday and appreciate the quiet beauty of winter. Our chosen hotel offers plenty of spaces to unwind – including a panoramic indoor pool and a lakeside terrace – and the excellent local bus network makes it easy to visit the pretty villages nearby or to enjoy a day trip to imperial Bad Ischl or vibrant Salzburg.
Hindsæter Hotel, Hindsæter
Unusually for Norway, our holiday to Hindsæter is about much more than cross-country skiing. Instead, it offers a unique winter experience, combining the opportunity to learn how to ski (this is Norway, after all!) with a carefully chosen selection of different Nordic activities, including snowshoeing, torchlit sledge races and ice-canyoning. The latter is a highlight for many, and is much less intrepid than it sounds: you are taken on a guided walk through the canyon of the Sjoa river, on a route which leads behind frozen waterfalls, past impressively large icicles and into spectacular ice ‘caves’.
As we’ve said, winter holidays don’t need to involve skiing. But don’t just take our word for it – read this recent review from a customer who enjoyed our Nordic Winter Experience in Hindsæter:
“One of the best trips I've had in a long time! The guided tours were very interesting and varied, and outside of the tours there was plenty of time to explore the surrounding landscape by ski and snowshoe. The four-course dinner each night was fantastic and the staff were very helpful and friendly. The ice canyoning was a particular highlight, and the optional extra dog-sledding was also fantastic with breathtaking views.”