When the snow melts and the skiers head home, the Austrian Alps don’t just disappear. Some people prefer their mountains served green and pleasantly warm rather than chilled.
With the queues gone, mountain view restaurant tables available and the Edelweiss in bloom this is the time to indulge in Alpine hedonism at bargain rates.
Summer is spectacular in this glorious lakes and mountains emerald landscape: a paradise for cyclists and walkers.
Forgetting snow, skis and snowboards for a summer, all the advantages and infrastructure that make Schladming a great skiing destination remain. This pretty alpine town is still just an easy hour transfer from Salzburg Airport. Those hotels that were packed and frenetic from December to April are suddenly very relaxed. Enjoying its cafe culture, Schladming is laid-back and relaxed.
With the hordes packing the Costa’s airports before sizzling on the Med’s crowded beaches the Alps are blissfully peaceful. They can become your summer far-from-the-madding-crowd playground with temperatures frequently nudging a warm 30 centigrade.
“Wot no skiing?” chorus the sceptics but there’s still plenty of high-adrenaline thrills available. There’s paragliding, soaring above the eagles for breath-taking views, as well as a 2,500-metre zip-wire. The heavier you are, the faster you go. Maybe breaking 70mph as you descend nearly half a mile.
Then again, If you still need your fix of ice, snow and high altitude views – even in summer – you can always take the gondola to Dachstein’s “Stairway to Nothing”. Step out on to a viewing gallery that is an intimidating 2,700 metres above sea level to look way, way down at a tiny Playmobil valley below. Your next step is into the glacier’s innards: The Ice Palace. Sitting on the Ice Throne, eerily backlit by ever-changing lighting, six metres below the glacier’s surface, you’re in Instagram Gold territory. There is a hint of Game of Thrones to this slippery surreal landscape.
Heading back down towards sea-level this is a vast landscape that invites exploration. The Solktaler Naturpark is 228 square miles of beauty, peace and serenity. Take your time as you meander alongside crystal clear sparkling streams. Look out for wild natural snacks: small but intensely flavoured blueberries, mushrooms, raspberries and strawberries.
Wildewasser offers a range of walking routes from gentle family strolls, easy enough for a child’s pushchair – through to a gruelling trek taking a couple of days with overnight stops in the mountain refuges. As you hike up the well-signposted trails you will come across some spectacular waterfall views. Just make sure that your route takes in one of the mountain refugees-cum-cafe. No skinny almond lattes here. It’s hot chocolate, topped with extra cream after a morning’s yomping through the peaks. Forget soya milk too, there are more bell-clanking cows in this territory than humans. In fact, there are only around 150 inhabitants in the entire Solktaler Nature Park.
There are plenty of options for bike hire but e-bikes with their electric motors eat up the miles, giving you extended range and make 1-in-4 ascents an easy reality. You can even e-bike up to the Dachstein gondola for a memorable day’s expedition.
If you develop a taste for the simple good life take an Agricultural Diploma to brush up on your knowledge of local fauna and flora in Austrian. Instructed in English you will learn how to cook Krapfen, rolled out doughnuts for your lunch served with sauerkraut and a shot of snaps – in a typical Alpine Farmhouse. Then you’ll learn how to milk a virtual cow and sawing logs. All good rural fun but possibly not adding too much value to your LinkedIn CV.
Any fears that Schladming becomes a ghost town in summer are harmoniously blasted away by July’s Blas Music Festival. It is an international festival that draws performers from all over the world. “Brass” maybe the theme but it is so inclusive that both Beethoven symphonies and Joe Cocker tributes perform across the five stages. And it ain’t over until somewhere a band plays “Rock me Amadeus.”
Even with a weak pound, Schladming is surprisingly good value. The Schladming Dachstein Sommercard issued by hotels to guests, with free bus and cable car rides, free entry to over 100 other attractions will ensure that many more travellers will be heading for Schmalding in the near future.
Tell me more about Schladming, Austria.
TUI Lakes and Mountains offers a week’s all-inclusive holiday in Schladming from £502 per person (based on two sharing) including flights from Gatwick and transfers departing in July. Direct flights departing from many regional airports.