Adventure travel has become one of the fastest growing niches within the travel and gap year industries. With the health benefits, the connection with nature and the lure of an adrenaline rush alongside the many traditional benefits of travel, it is not hard to see why. So when I was invited to take part in the Alpine Sports Week in Tirol, Austria, one of the premier adventure travel destinations in the world, I jumped at the chance.
A beautiful alpine retreat with mountain views that will take your breath away is normally enough for most travellers, content to view the mountains from a nice easy hike or the balcony of a rustic pub with a good meal. But delving deeper into Tirol’s adventure travel lifestyle will give you a whole new experience, and let you see the true highs and lows of the stunning Wilder Kaiser.
It isn’t hard to see the attraction of simply enjoying the view of the Wilder Kaiser region. It is a truly picturesque region with more than enough awe inspiring vistas to lose yourself in. But listen to the call of the Wilder Kaiser and indulge in some of the adventure activities that will get you closer to nature and give you views of the Kitzbüheler Alpen and Wilder Kaiser mountains that you may never have thought possible.
The Alpine Sports Week is a chance for anyone – not just skilled adventurers – to try out and experience six different mountain sports and activities over six challenging but very rewarding days. With the watchful eye of expert instructors and guides, anyone can go trail running, hiking through the mountains, swinging through the trees on the high ropes course, mountain biking, canyoning, abseiling or even climbing the newly opened via ferrata course.
It is not an understatement to say that before this trip I had needed to shake some life back into my muscles after a long stint of stressful work, and this provided the perfect opportunity to do just that in the fresh mountain air of the Wilder Kaiser region of Austria. With the chance to engage in some seriously exiting mountain sports, and such a stunning backdrop to enjoy them in, it wasn’t exactly a bad way to revitalise the system at all!
“More people than ever are taking advantage of the health benefits that adventure travel and outdoor sports bring.”
The planned adventure sports through the week were varied – designed to give just a taste of a range of mountain activities – and I was excited to have a go at all of them, but I was also glad that I didn’t get thrown in at the deep end straight away. Horn Park Aerial Forest served as the decompression chamber on the first day of the activity filled week that gave just a small taste of things to come.
Horn Park is a high ropes course among the alpine trees in the picturesque St. Johann in Tirol. This isn’t an adventure sport as such, but is more like an obstacle course in the trees, one that uses a similar system of harnesses and carabiners to keep you safe.
Jumping from tree to tree on a series of obstacle courses, bridges and flying fox parcours was intense fun, bringing out that inner child in everyone who still remembered what it was like to climb trees for no other reason than it seemed like a cool thing to do. Not even the cloudy sky could dampen the exhilaration of zip lining over an alpine lake! I’m six foot two inches and a fully grown adult male, yet I threw myself off that platform with the wild abandon of a six year old on a sugar rush!
While not exactly physically demanding, jumping around from tree to tree and zip lining was great fun, especially knowing that the park is also very environmentally friendly which is something that is important to me, using unique tree clamps and a course rotation system to ensure no harm comes to the trees and the forest can grow naturally. The essential safety training did give a good grounding for the range of outdoor sports that were to come in the days ahead too, because thanks to the Alpine Sports Week I had a whole host of amazing adventure activities planned.
Clambering over the high ropes course and ziplining through the trees had really given me just the slightest taste of adrenaline, and I was really looking forward to the adventure activities ahead, not only to seeing some more of the mountainous scenery up close, but to really throw myself into them and giving my body a thorough workout.
With activities ranging from mountain biking and trail runs to abseiling, canyoning and climbing the spectacular via ferrata, I was spoilt for choice for activities that get the heart pumping, and the Sports Week gave me an opportunity to get a taster of a whole range of them. This is one of the things I absolutely loved about the week. Apart from really getting to see the highs and lows of these truly awe inspiring landscapes, you get to improve your fitness levels and general wellbeing at the same time.
“This is quite literally a trip that can increase your quality of life as well as the length of it. That alone should be enough to convince you that signing up to the next Alpine Sports Week in Tirol is a must!”
The health and fitness aspect to adventure travel is one of the reasons that it is becoming so popular. With an industry reportedly worth $345 Billion last year according to the United Nations World Tourism Organisation’s Global Report on Adventure Tourism, that means more people than ever are taking advantage of the health benefits that adventure travel and outdoor sports bring. Apart from the fact you are visiting a beautiful region and experiencing some truly warm Austrian hospitality, by taking part in the activities you will be increasing your cardio fitness levels, decreasing stress and improving overall wellbeing.
And because of the simple fact you will be enjoying yourself so much you will be getting all of these benefits most of the time without even realising it!
The evidence for the health benefits of outdoor sports and adventure travel is overwhelming. It isn’t just idle speculation or my mere opinion saying this, there is literally decades of research to back it up and it is an argument I can verify from both clinical and professional research and also personal experience. A few days in this beautiful region nullified the build up of stress that I had been carrying around with me from work, and the exercise began to make my muscles feel alive again. It was an amazing experience and one that I would wholeheartedly recommend to anyone. This is quite literally a trip that can increase your quality of life as well as the length of it. That alone should be enough to convince you that signing up to the next Alpine Sports Week in Tirol is a must!
Of all the activities, I had probably been looking forward to the mountain biking in particular, not just because I got to try out one of the new e Bikes that the area is so well known for, but also because I was able to take in some of the spectacular scenery that I had up until this point been admiring from a distance. It was an early start but it was already warm, with just a hint of cloud in front of the now uninterrupted views of the majestic Wilder Kaiser. The guides at Going Bike kitted the group out with safety gear and their enthusiasm for biking was frankly quite infectious. The clouds surrounding the mountains dissipated just before we set off, and we were left with clear blue skies and sunny weather that let us truly enjoy the staggering views as we reached the cable cars that would take us up the mountain so that we could bike down again.
Like every activity on the Alpine Sports Week itinerary, the route pushed peoples fitness levels, but was not overly taxing and in some cases was actually a pleasant downhill ride through some amazing countryside, taking in glorious mountain views and the lakes and waterways of the Hexxenwasser trail, once an area believed to be bewitched and feared as a result, but now a welcoming family area with plenty of children’s play areas and one of the premier hiking spots in the area.
It really is one thing to visit such a beautiful region and stop to admire the views and take a photograph or two, but it is quite another to truly experience the country by throwing yourself into the wild outdoors under the watchful eye of experienced and expert guides. I really was getting an education in the history and culture of the area whilst at the same time exploring some of the most picturesque countryside the alps had to offer, the excellent work out was simply becoming a great bonus at this point!
“The activities on the Alpine Sports Week – just like any true travel experience – will expose your true strengths and show you that you are capable of far more than you ever thought.”
The absolute highlight of the week for me though turned out to be the variety of hiking, climbing and canyoning activities on offer. After all, this is what mountains are there for. From the staggering new via ferrata – a climbing route with fixed steel cables along natural rock – on the Jubilaumssteig and Klettersteig Klamml, to canyoning in one of the regions gorges, the guides will start you off with basic abseiling and via feratta training, which is a morning of scrambling up and down an easy cliff face surrounded by a vast alpine forest. It isn’t as hard or worrisome as it sounds and is actually a lot of fun. Whether you have done this type of activity before or not, you will really enjoy the experience and the expert guides are there to help you.
Honestly, any visit to Austria is beyond awesome and thoroughly recommended. If you only come to Tirol – or anywhere in Austria – to enjoy the views and maybe relax in a spa or two, then it is still more than worth your time. It is a beautiful country with some amazing, friendly and hospitable people, but participating in the mountain sports and adventure activities adds a whole new layer to your trip, and the Alpine Sports Week is an unbelievably good value way to do just that.
I urge anyone and everyone to come and try out the Alpine Sports Week. Even if you think your fitness levels aren’t up to it or you are a little wary of the adventure, just come and try it! The outdoor sports are so accessible to anyone of any age or ability, yet still allows enough action and adventure to be enjoyable for those who are up to the challenge and enjoy a bit more adrenaline in their fitness regimes. The experienced guides are there to test your limits but not push you beyond them to the point you can’t cope, and they ensure you are safe at all times.
For those not used to mountain sports or adventure travel, the activities on the Alpine Sports Week – just like any true travel experience – will expose your true strengths and show you that you are capable of far more than you ever thought. For those of you who are more experienced in adventure sports, this week will give you a taster of other activities that you may never have tried before, and the guides and the region itself can still test your abilities and your stamina.
The Alpine Sports Week takes place in June every year in the Wilder Kaiser region of Going, Ellmau, Scheffau or Soll.
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This article was written in partnership with the Austrian National Tourist Office and the Wilder Kaiser Tourist Board. The views and opinions expressed are entirely the authors own based on personal experiences when travelling and are honest and factual without any bias.