With stunning scenery, miles of quality trails, and traditional Tyrolean hospitality, the region of Leutasch and Seefeld in Austria is the ideal place to enjoy a cross-country skiing or winter walking holiday.
One of the beauties of a winter holiday here is the flexibility. If you fancy a break from skiing you can easily have a go at walking, and vice-versa. And for those who like something a little different there’s also toboggan runs, snowshoeing, curling and sleigh rides.
With so much to do, we just had to see how much we could cram into one perfect winter’s day!
I awaken and open my shutters to spectacular views across the Gaistal Valley. It’s a perfect alpine morning of blue skies, glorious sun and a pristine covering of crisp, white snow. The region couldn’t be prettier – chocolate-box villages nestle in the valleys, watched over by mysterious pine forests and spectacular alpine peaks.
The 4* Hotel Xander has been welcoming guests for 900 years, and the accommodation is just the right mix of alpine charm and modern luxury. Breakfast is a generous continental buffet including bread, pastries, cereal, cheese, cured meats and fruit – a great healthy-but-filling start to the active day ahead.
Leutasch is a world-class cross-country centre, and has hosted the Winter Olympics twice. Its trails are some of the most extensive in Europe, taking in dramatic plateaus and peaceful valleys. And with a good mix of beginner, intermediate and expert runs, there is something for every skier – even novices like me!
Well fed and watered, I wrap up warm to give cross-country a try. I’m a bit nervous as I’ve never skied this way before, but Headwater leader Steve Barrington soon has me swooshing along. His patience and great sense of humour make him an ideal guide for beginners, whilst more experienced skiers will benefit from his local knowledge.
We follow a lovely flat blue route through the valley, making it back just in time for the delicious afternoon buffet at the Xander. There’s soup, salad, pasta and a tempting array of cakes. I go for a warming bowl of Guaschsuppe, and a crisp, delicately spiced slice of Apfelstrudel – it tastes fabulous after all that work on the piste!
Part of me would love to linger in the cosy atmosphere of the dining room, but there’s still so much to see and do! Keen to explore more of what this beautiful valley has to offer, I catch the local bus to Seefeld – just a short ride away.
With over 140km of lovingly prepared trails, the Leutasch and Seefeld area really is a walker’s paradise. The paths are meticulously maintained, enabling you to explore with little more than a sturdy pair of walking boots. You can go on a peaceful stroll between the sleepy hamlets, or take a more challenging hike onto the plateaus for incredible views.
Headwater guests have the option to go on a guided walk each day, but I fancy going off for an adventure of my own. Armed with a clear map and the excellent signposts, I’m free to enjoy the glorious scenery without worrying about getting lost.
Just like the ski pistes, the winter walking routes are colour coded for difficulty. I choose a red looping route with a gentle climb to help me burn off that strudel! The path takes me past the pretty village of Mösern before bending into a magical pine forest, all the while watched over by the spectacular Brunschkopf and Gschwandtkopf mountains.
This is walking like nothing I’ve experienced before. The peace and solitude are breathtaking, and without my skis on I’m able to take my time and really lose myself in the environment. Sunbeams gleam through snow-laced branches, and a red squirrel in his striking dark winter coat scampers by on the hunt for buried nuts.
Back in Seefeld I treat myself to a Glühwein in a traditional cafe, before catching the bus back to Leutasch.
I’m worn out after my adventures, and decide to unwind in the Xander’s sauna. The wellness facilities are excellent, including an indoor pool, two saunas, a steam bath and fitness room. And if you really want to pamper yourself, treatments such as massage, skin packs and scented baths are also available for a fee.
For those who like to take things easy, these facilities offer a great alternative to being out in the snow all week. You could quite happily wave off your nearest and dearest and enjoy a blissful day of relaxation whilst they make the most of the snow.
It’s soon time for dinner, and I can’t wait to discover what our four course meal will hold. Guests always rave about the food at the Xander, and I’m not disappointed.
We kick off with healthy salad, followed by traditional Tyrolean Speckknödel (bacon dumplings) in a delicious clear soup. We’re spoilt with a choice of three main courses – meat, fish and vegetarian – and I go for the trout and almonds, which is delicately flavoured and cooked to perfection.
Finally, there’s a dessert buffet featuring cakes, trifles, and Kaiserschmarren – fluffy shredded pancakes served with rich fruit compote. All of this is of course washed down with a fragrant Austrian Riesling from the Xander’s well-stocked wine cellar.
After dinner, I’ve booked myself one last treat – a drawn sleigh ride by starlight. I climb into the quaintly painted sleigh, and snuggle in the warm blankets provided as two beautiful horses pull me through the sleepy village. The snow glows blue in the moonlight, and thousands of stars twinkle in the crisp, clean air – it’s the perfect end to my snowy day in Leutasch and Seefeld.
There really is something for everyone in Leutasch and Seefeld. You can explore the snowy scenery on foot or on skis, relax in the Hotel Xander’s luxurious facilities, or indulge your inner child with tobogganing or a sleigh ride.