Mother Earth must have taken a special liking to the Vienna Alps. The sheer variety of landscapes in the smallest of spaces is one-of-a-kind in Austria. Here the Vienna basin shows its true nature – wide and free, while the 'hill country' (the Bucklige Welt) gently climbs to form its innumerable namesake foothills. The Semmering Pass is home to the rather more imposing lower Alpine range, and if you've set your sights on the summits, then Schneeberg or the Rax mountain range are your destinations. The region is a veritable El Dorado for outdoor athletes – summer or winter, spring or autumn. But guide Wolfgang Menzel believes that there's only one season that truly reveals this landscape in all its beauty, "Winter is a uniquely magnificent experience here. And if you want to tread softly off the beaten track to witness nature, then come snowshoeing with me."
"One day it dawned on me: I'm just not cut out for a desk job."
Snowshoeing is a sport for everyone
Wolfgang is committed to this tranquil sport, "It's true that mountain adventures on touring skis have been booming for years. But that sort of thing requires plenty of technical know-how, meticulous preparations, and a vast array of equipment as well as knowing how to use it. Snowshoeing, on the other hand, is something everyone can get into. All you do is strap on your snowshoes and you're off! You just have to familiarise yourself with a few simple rules and you're ready to set off on your winter adventure."
Taking it step by step
He himself 'glided' into the freelance outdoorsman life after taking up paragliding many years ago. "I bought my first glider when I was 19 and travelled all over the place – in Austria and abroad. Whenever the weather wasn't ideal for gliding, I hopped on my mountain or road bike. After working as a bike guide in Italy and Tyrol, I started doing ski and snowshoe tours there in winter. And one day it dawned on me: I'm just not cut out for a desk job." So he founded his own training and exercise centre – Teamwandern (Team hiking) and has been enjoying the amazing nature of the Vienna Alps as his workplace ever since.
Staying safe in the beauty of the high Alps
What's your gain from a guided snowshoe tour? As Wolfgang explains, "We lead our guests safely through Alpine terrain. You shouldn't forget: the number of mountain rescues is rising every year. A bit of recklessness and a little overconfidence, along with the shorter winter days, often combine to take inexperienced snowshoers by surprise. We ensure your safety by accompanying you." From booking the lift to renting your equipment and planning the route, Wolfgang's experienced team arranges literally everything. All you have to bring is your outdoor clothing – ideally waterproof as well as wind and cold-resistant.
There's no such thing as bad weather
To actively minimise any needless pressure to keep up with the others, Wolfgang assigns his guests to different groups, "Basically, you've got the speed freaks and the chill crew. Being in the right group allows you to really enjoy the different moods and guises the winter landscape presents." Wolfgang is partial to the more obscure trails and likes to share them with his guests. "I love showing you the sweet trails where, even on weekends, you're not likely to meet a soul." And you can snowshoe these 'secret' trails even under less-than-ideal winter weather conditions, because "when snowflakes drift lazily down from the sky and the forest thickens with silence, you can really feel the magic in the air. Once in a while, shy wildlife will suddenly emerge from the trees and cross your trail. That's when you stand absolutely still and simply watch. You surrender completely to winter and fully engage with nature, forgetting the world 'out there' for a small eternity. Those are the moments that stay with you."