Summer Holidays in the Alps
n winter, the Zell am See-Kaprun region is a skier’s wonderland, with a glacier, three ski zones and 138 kilometres of pistes. But what few people know is that this paradise in the heart of Austria—an hour and a half from Salzburg—welcomes holidaymakers 365 days a year. Bathing in one of Europe’s purest lakes, visiting an art exhibition high in the mountains or competing in one of the most demanding triathlons in the open countryside are just some of the activities you can enjoy here during the warm months of the year. Here are some refreshing ideas for an Alpine summer.
At a height of more than 3,000 metres, with four climate zones and a viewing platform that is known as the rooftop of Salzburg, the Kitzsteinhorn Glacier is undoubtedly one of the region’s major attractions. Ski season extends to the end of July, but the secrets of the Glacier can also be discovered along the many trails and excursions. One of the most recommended is a guided tour with the park rangers, covering the diverse climate zones of the Kitzsteinhorn, from the sun-bathed valley to the inside of the mountain. The tour also includes a visit to the Gipfelwelt 3000, with breath-taking views of Kaprun Valley, Lake Zell and Hohe Tauern National Park from the observation platform. Reaching the 3,203-metre summit with a certified guide and safety ropes fills you with a sense of wild freedom.
This mountain is wonderful for hiking and skiing across the beauty of the alpine landscape, but what makes it unique is the Schmittenhöhe, Europe’s largest open-air art gallery. Art on the Mountain covers 18 hectares with a permanent exhibition of 27 sculptures that seamlessly combine nature and art. Since 1995, when the project began, it has been an original museum for both skiers and hikers. Most of the pieces are fashioned from wood, ceramic, stone and other local materials, accentuating the harmony between the works and their surroundings.
The water of Lake Zell is so clear and pure you can drink it. Melting snow and ice rush down from the glaciers of Hohe Tauern, creating endless opportunities for fun. In summer, the temperature reaches an inviting 23 degrees Celsius, perfect for a dip amid the soaring mountain scenery. Motorised boats are not allowed in order to preserve the water quality, but electric, rowing and paddle boats are available for hire, along with other water sports including surfing, kayaking, diving and children’s activities. Three areas are particularly good for families: Zell am See, Thumersbach and Schüttdorf, where you’ll find water slides, children’s pools and cafes for those who prefer to drink coffee or beer instead of the water from the lake.
Austria is a mecca for athletes, and Zell am See-Kaprun is one of the best places for trail-running, with numerous summer competitions for runners. ANITA Women’s Trail takes place in May and includes a number of women-only activities, such as a 15.3-kilometre scenic trail run. The Grossglockner Ultra Trail, held at the end of July, is an extreme trail-running event around Austria’s highest mountain. The route loops the Alps twice and crosses 14 glaciers. In the IRONMAN 70.3, held in August, athletes are put to the test in three disciplines: swimming, cycling and running. When they’re not competing, they train at the Run & Walk Park, open all year round.