A Snow Hike in Austria

| March 11, 2015

On our way home from Liechtenstein last weekend, we drove into Austria looking for a hike. We would be driving along the Bodensee, which we’d biked last summer. This did not look like the Bodensee we saw last summer.

bodensee lake constance germany austria

Bodensee, summer

Bodensee, winter

Bodensee, winter

Leaving Liechtenstein, we were in search of a nice hike like the one we’d taken the day before.

Instagram post: Old #checkpoints are unmanned, yet my heart still races a little when I approach. #europe #travel https://instagram.com/p/zrgaA-OzNr/

alps, europe

Hoping for something directly on the path home, my husband found some information about Pfänder, a Wildpark near Bregenz, Austria. Hike, animals, Alps. Sounds perfect. What more could a family want?

To not get lost?

To not get lost?

Sequoia took lovely pictures of the snow out her window as we wound up the mountain.

Like literally, just the snow.

Like, literally, just the snow.

It was freezing rain outside, which did not bode well for our hike, but damnit, we live in Germany now. We layer ourselves and spend time outdoors regardless of the elements, like the Germans. As we pulled into the parking lot, we noticed a man. It’s the kind of man you can’t help but notice, because he’s topless in the snow.


Instagram post: Not sure if he’s cooling down or bathing #alps #travel #topless

None of us was thrilled about the freezing rain, but we donned all of our cold weather layers and set off.

Tweet: #hiking in freezing #rain: not one of my better ideas

Cuz it's awesome?

Cuz it’s awesome?

It was a half hour hike from parking lot to entrance.

Tweet: Even the most miserable parts of #hiking are better than a treadmill. #truth

paul snow austria kari sequoia

Why does he never look as miserable as me?

I had to pee. This is nothing new. I always have to pee–often in inconvenient places like a freezing, snowy mountain trail. I held it for the half hour until we reached Pfänder. There, I used the bathroom while contemplating whether it would be worth the consequences to steal the piece of snow equipment sitting outside.

austria snow alps


We arrived at the trailhead, where we were greeted by a map. Things I did not notice on the map: We were about to hike farther up the mountain.

hiking in austria, hiking with kids

This land: not flat.

Things I did notice on the map: the bright yellow sign informing us that the trail was not cleared.

Not that it stopped us.

Not that it stopped us.

And believe me: it was a slippery, snowy trail.

Tweet: #thoughts while #hiking uphill in #snow: “I sure hope the fence I’m about to grab isn’t electric.” #alps

Checking out what the podium has to say about the animals.

Checking out what the podium has to say about the animals.

We walked past pens that were filled with snow and no animals. Clearly they were smart enough to stay inside their little shacks. We spotted some wild sheep with the biggest horns you’ve ever seen.

hiking in austria, hiking with kids, europe, animals with horns


And every single sheep, goat, and friends that we came across shared the same expression: “What the fuck is wrong with those people?”

Instagram post: Us re: them: “cute!”; them re: us: “idiots.”

horns animals traveling with kids

It alternated between rain, freezing rain, and almost-snow for the first half of the day.

The snow seemed to get deeper as we went on. Fortunately, there was a narrow path cleared.

Tweet: Is it wrong that the best part of the first half of the #hike was when I discovered #pralines in my coat pocket?

Where are the legs to this map?

Where are the legs to this map?

austrian alps, mountains


Here’s the thing: no matter how cold it is outside, if you’re trudging up a mountain in the snow, it gets damn Hot. Like, topless man covering his body in snow in a parking lot Hot. Off comes the hood, then the hat, and then you’re unzipping your coat and getting rid of your scarf.

Tweet: The higher you hike in the #snow, the more you’re peeling off layers #itsalmostmardigras #alps #hiking

Please take my clothes from me.

Please take my clothes from me.

hiking uphill in the snow, hiking in europe


When we came to the clearing at the top of the mountain, the rain had mostly lifted and the view was nothing short of breathtaking.  Even a seven-year-old stops playing with snowballs to take it in.

snow capped mountains, hiking in europe

Tweet: My 7-year-old atop the #alps – “look at that view!” #proudmama #doingsomethingright #hiking

playing in the snow, hiking in europe

Then it was back to giant snowballs.

When we’d begun our trek down by the parking lot, we passed a restaurant. We were considering returning to the restaurant once we got back, but by now it was lunchtime and we were starving. Paul pointed out signs to a restaurant.

austria pfander pfaender wildpark alps restaurant

Tweet: #thoughts while #hiking – “that place better be open when we get there”

Oh, the Pfänderdohle Gasthaus was open, all right, and it was, colloquially speaking, amazeballs. I had one of the best desserts of my life that day: the Topfenschaumnockerl.

It was basically light, airy clouds of cheesecake, only better. 

It was basically light, airy clouds of cheesecake in raspberry sauce–only BETTER.

As we walked back, I could feel every pound of food I’d just consumed.

Tweet: Wondered what bird was making that chirp. It was my snowpants rubbing together. #thunderthighs #hiking

walking in the deep snow alps austrian

The crazy thing is, the Wildpark trail ran into another trail toward the top. There were quite a few people hiking up the mountain, with their nordik poles and hiking gear. Seriously, you can’t keep these people inside.

Austria just seems to be a place where I find my face frozen.

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Category: Austria, Europe, FAMILY, Family Travel, Germany, Hiking, In Germany A Broad blog, Shits & Giggles, Travel, Uncategorized

About the Author ()

Kari Martindale is a writer and ESL instructor. She’s visited all 50 states and 37 countries, including many of the big cities of Europe and a ton of Christmas Markets. She spends her days straddling the fence between a sense of adventure and a sense of dread. She is married to what is clearly a patient man and has a daughter who, frustratingly, is just like her. Her academic and professional backgrounds are in linguistics and foreign languages. When she's not teaching ESL, she's writing. When she's not writing, she's thinking about her next trip.

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