Discover Germany, Issue 36, March 2016

Page 46

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Page 46

Snowshoeing in Germany’s Bavarian Siberia Can’t ski, won’t ski? Snowshoeing: accessible, astonishingly high on adrenaline and able to offer a real taste of the wilderness. TEXT: EMMIE COLLINGE I PHOTOS: GAESTE-INFO BALDERSCHWANG

I regain my breath as the exertion of the climb eases. It feels like we have been going for hours, but my watch shows a touch over 20 minutes. Urging my heart rate to return to a more reassuring pace, it dawns on me just how underestimated snowshoeing is, being brusquely lumped alongside more leisurely activities such as knitting, book clubs and ice fishing. In anticipation of February’s world championships, taking place just down the road from our base in Northern Italy, we decided to acquaint ourselves with the sport of snowshoeing. And where could be better than Germany’s Bavarian Siberia? Re-

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markably easy to reach from Bregenz, we drive due east and cross the border from Austria into Germany, almost immediately reaching the picturesque village of Balderschwang. Flanked by substantial yet not intimidating mountains, the village with just 250 residents is clearly a hit for those looking to keep fit. Cross-country ski tracks linked with the Austrian town of Hittisau line the road, and the pavements are awash with kids heading out of the quaint town and towards the big, white snow-covered landscape. Gazing around me from the top of the ski slope that we have just ascended – largely

thanks to the poles that I clung on to – I am struck by the vastness of the landscape. We had set off from the somewhat shady village on the valley floor, crossing the flat plains of the cross-country ski tracks before a little wooden bridge over the now frozen stream took us to the bottom of the ski piste (a ski trail with compacted snow). As a non-skier, pistes have always terrified me, but as we criss-cross the gradient in the wake of our guide, the piste is surprisingly mellow. Unlike many locations across Europe, Balderschwang has little to worry about in terms of snowfall. Annually, the village receives the highest snowfall in all of Germany, earning it the loving nickname of Bavarian Siberia. At 1,000 metres, the resort is encircled by summits of around 1,600 to 1,800 metres, meaning it is more than fam-