Winter Fun and Sleigh Rides between Christmas and Pre-Lenten Carnivals
Toronto - Bells keep on jingling in Germany long past Christmas. They warn cross-country skiers, winter hikers and people on a snowshoe outing that others are having fun on a horse-drawn sleigh ride. The months of January, February and March hold special delights for visitors, whether they embrace winter’s magic as downhill skiers, snowboarders, skaters and curlers or by straddling a nostalgic wooden sled.
Germany’s winter resorts long ago developed snow sport facilities and winter attractions on par with the best. In the Alps, along the country’s southern border, the slopes of its highest peak, the Zugspitze (2,962m), provide the steepest downhill run, while the resort town of Garmisch-Partenkirchen boasts Germany’s most challenging one, and nearby Mittenwald holds the record for the longest downhill run.
Snowboarders wouldn’t want to miss Germany¹s highest half pipe, at 2,600 metres in the Zugspitze terrain, if only for the scenic 75-minute trip from Garmisch-Partenkirchen by cogwheel train required to reach it. Garmisch, as the town is called for short, is also home to the country’s biggest ski jump, built for the 1936 Olympics. The Bavarian village of Schönau, on Lake Königssee, grooms the 7.5 kilometres of Germany’s longest toboggan run, with a drop of 670 metres.
While Bavaria is home to most of Germany’s winter resorts, other areas with mid-size mountain ranges offer their own magic in winter. The Black Forest, for example, where Germany’s first ski club was founded, in 1895, lures downhill skiers with slopes no more than a half-hour’s drive from the city of Freiburg, and cross-country die-hards with a 100-kilometre trail.
Germany’s northernmost ski region, in the Harz mountains, southeast of the city of Hannover, has developed a full range of winter attractions, including downhill and cross-country skiing, winter hiking on groomed trails, skating and curling rinks and, of course, sleigh rides.
Even in places without mountains and reliable snow, no one needs to miss out on winter fun. In fact, some places enjoy fresh powder snow 365 days of the year. On the opposite bank of the Rhine from Düsseldorf, the city of Neuss has built Germany’s first -- and Europe’s largest -- indoors winter sports facility. The Jever Skihalle contains a ski slope 300 metres long and 60 metres wide, with challenges for old pros as well as beginners. Three ski lifts and a Œmagic carpet¹ take fun-seekers to the summit, 110 metres above the Rhine, a perfect starting point, too, for tobogganers on inner tubes!
Looking for après-ski diversions and a bit of shopping? Crossing the bridge takes you straight to the heart of Düsseldorf and the 260 pubs of its Old Town -- and to the stylish avenue called Kö, short for Königsallee, the King’s Boulevard, where fashion and design run the gamut. Go in the week or two before Ash Wednesday, and you might run into wigged and costumed locals having a pre-lenten Karneval party.
A good hour’s drive northeast, in the Ruhr valley city of
Bottrop, the Alpincenter boasts the world’s longest roofed ski slope, at 640
metres, along with a wide variety of fun winter activities and instruction.
Après-ski is writ large here, too, in Alpine-inn style, complete with a
wood-burning tile stove and, on sunny days, a roof-top biergarten with a
Most ski areas provide ski card packages -- one-day, multiple-day or all season passes for various slopes and other attractions. The three-day Happy Ski Card of the Zugspitze area, for example, (www.zugspitze.de), costs 83 euros per adult, approximately $128, and a day pass for the Black-Forest Feldberg region (www.feldberg-schwarzwald.de) provides access to 28 ski lift and 50 kilometres of runs for 22 euros per adult, approximately $34. If you purchase the Black Forest Card, though, good for three non-consecutive days per year, those lifts and slopes are included plus many other regional attractions. It costs only 43 euros, approximately $66, for ages 12 and older, or 149 euros, approximately $230, per family of two adults and up to three children (www.schwarzwald-tourist-info.de)
For Web site information on hotels and inns in Germany, see www.hotellerie.de.
For more information on Winter Magic fun places and general information on Germany’s sights and attractions, please contact the German National Tourist Office’s toll-free number, 1-877-315-6237, send an e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org,, or visit GNTO’s Web site www.cometogermany.com.
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