The hills are alive
GO AUSTRIA:A walk in the Austrian Alps brings out the ‘Sound of Music’ in DARRAGH REDDIN, who then visits Salzburg to find out more about the von Trapps and Mozart
YOU HAVEN’T LIVED until you’ve been on a skiing holiday,” a fresh-from-the piste colleague smugly informed me, after a week spent on the Austrian slopes earlier this year. Sadly, my one and only flirtation with winter sports, during a boozy January break in the Catskills in the US, ended in my careering – Bridget Jones style – into a carelessly positioned tree, an episode from which I’ve never truly recovered. Even a Christmas card illustration of a child blithely tobogganing down a hill is enough to trigger a grizzly flashback.
The fact that I’m in the skiing resort of Kitzbühel, staring up at the vertiginous slopes of the 2,000m-high Kitzbüheler Horn, should be enough to induce a meltdown – were it not for one thing: the absence of snow. It’s the middle of June, a very pleasant 25 degrees and, given I’m here on a hiking holiday, the chances of my incurring serious injury are, hopefully, reduced.
A walled medieval settlement about 90 minutes southwest of Salzburg, Kitzbühel has been popular as a winter resort for more than 100 years. In January 1893, local thrill-seeker Franz Reisch got a pair of skis by mail order from Norway, then set about introducing the sport to Tyrol. Since then, Kitzbühel has become a destination for skiers who divide their time between dicing with death on the famed downhill Hahnenkamm route, and kicking back in the resort’s boutiques and restaurants.
Still, it would be a shame to discount a visit in the summer, when its fairytale meadows are so verdant and carpeted with wild flowers you’ll long to run through them wailing the title track from The Sound of Music (I know, because I did).
The surrounding countryside has some 1,000km of hiking trails scattered about the four main mountain peaks (Kitzbüheler Horn, Hahnenkamm, Gaisberg and Resterhöhe) and can be accessed via one of several cable cars that are dotted about the village’s outskirts; a three-day adult pass, which can be used on any of the cars and ski lifts, costs €38 during the summer.
Our first day’s ascent takes us up 2,000m to the tip of the Kitzbüheler Horn, 300 metres on foot and the rest by cable car, affording amazing views of the – whisper it – snow-covered, vastly steeper peaks in the distance.