Winter Holiday for Beginners
Where to go, what to do, what to pack, and how to make sustainable choices.
As winter approaches, you may be considering taking that long overdue holiday. But you usually travel in summer and have absolutely no idea where to start. Don’t worry, we are here to help!
What kind of holidays are available?
Downhill skiing or snowboarding: The usual choice for a winter holiday. You usually stay in one resort and use lifts to get to the top of the mountain, where you follow marked pistes to the bottom.
Pros: It is exhilarating, the whole family can take part together, there are a wide range of resorts and accommodation options to suit all needs and budgets.
Cons: Can be prohibitively expensive for some people. Ski resorts can be incredibly destructive to the local environment.
Snowshoe hiking: Snowshoes are effectively large tennis rackets that you strap to your feet in order to stop you sinking through the snow. They allow you to reach places in winter that most others will not get too.
Pros: Explore remote areas under your own steam, choose from a range of easy relaxing hikes to challenging hut to hut tours in high alpine scenery, you can do this across Europe.
Cons: You need to be fit, often you will need to employ a guide to ensure you are safe from avalanches.
Cross country skiing: Does what it says on the tin. You can either do this on marked ‘loipes’ or untracked terrain through the wilderness. The first option is perfect for those who would like to stay in a resort or a small town. You can explore the small valleys on your skis, stopping at local guest houses for food and hot wine. The latter allows you to cross wide expanses of wild terrain.
Pros: Much easier on the body and knees than downhill skiing, allows you to escape the traditional ski resort and explore more alternative areas in winter such as Scandinavia.
Cons: It can be extremely tiring, if you are on the loipes that have been groomed you are usually one behind another-not great for conversation! Maybe three days is enough?
At MoaAlm we combine snowshoe hiking, cross country skiing and rodelling with daily yoga, delicious vegan food and a cosy family atmosphere. Don’t want to decide on a particular winter sport. Choose our holiday and see which you like best!
Where should I go?
The world is a very different place to what it was last winter season. This year people will certainly be looking closer to home for their winter holiday. Depending on what your interests are, there are a number of options in Europe:
Downhill Skiing and snowboarding: You cannot beat the Alps for the sheer number of resorts and the quality of the skiing you will find here. Perfectly groomed pistes, reliable snow at high resorts and accommodation for all budgets.
Snowshoe hiking: Again the Alps are unbeatable for this sport. You can choose to meander through snowy valleys, or walk on high ridges. For long distance snowshoe trekking, you may consider a hut to hut tour with a guide. For those wanting to stay closer to home, Bavaria or Scotland offer interesting alternatives to the Alpine region.
Cross country skiing: Scandinavia offers unparalleled cross country skiing with vast expanses of stunning wilderness. Take a day on the cross country pistes and learn your skills before heading out on a three day expedition. Sample amazing hospitality and delicious food in the winter huts.
A bit of everything: MoaAlm offers exactly that. A chance to explore the wild Hohe Tauern National Park in winter, perfectly groomed cross country ski tracks and a small but excellent ski resort nearby. Our remote accommodation offers vegan food and is as sustainable as we can make it! After a day of snowshoeing in stunning scenery, relax in the hot tub or take one of our evening yoga sessions as the sun sets.
What clothing do I need?
When preparing for your first winter holiday you may be tempted to go out and buy the thickest warmest jacket and insulated trousers that you can find. But often this gear leaves you feeling hot and stuffy when out and about in the snow. As with all outdoor activities, layering is key. Layering allows you to regulate your temperature and adjust your clothing to suit the conditions you find yourself in.
You should always start with a base layer, usually a T-shirt or vest. Choosing a material like merino wool for this layer is imperative as it wicks away your sweat and dries quickly. Wet cotton will quickly freeze and you will be uncomfortable and chilly. Next you should wear a long sleeved layer such as a merino crew neck top or a thin wicking long sleeved top. On top of this should be your warmth layer. A light down jacket, or a jacket insulated with a material such as PrimaLoft is perfect. This layer should not be too thick as otherwise you will get too hot when you move. Finally you will need your shell. This should be a waterproof (not water resistant) layer, GoreTex is recommended. For your bottom half, a good pair of insulated underpants followed by merino leggings and a shell layer. This setup will allow you to tackle anything from snowshoe hiking to downhill skiing. A warm hat that covers your ears and a pair of gloves that are water resistant as well as insulated. Don’t forget to pack an extra layer such as a fleece in your rucksack!
Can my winter holiday be ethical and sustainable?
Yes, more and more companies are offering sustainable winter holidays. While ski resorts can be highly destructive to the environment, activities such as snow shoe hiking or ski touring in the back country are great alternatives, especially for those who enjoy being close to nature. There are a few ski resorts across the world that are now carbon neutral-check them out here: There are also some great projects that are initiated by some pro winter sport specialists like Jeremy Jones. Check out POW for their ideas on finding ways to make winter sports more sustainable to help protect the mountains.
You can also make sustainable choices when travelling too and from your holiday. Throughout the Alps there are ‘ski trains’ that stop at or near most major resorts. Check out our blog post on train travel to Austria from the UK. You may consider not flying to another country, instead finding out what options are available to you in your country.
Winter and outdoor clothing is also making huge steps forward when it comes to sustainability and ethical production. A number of large brands are now ensuring their products are not damaging people or the planet. Great websites to check these out are weekendbee and then the ethical outdoor clothing company Patagonia. We also love La Sportiva for their range of vegan hiking boots, with absolutely no compromise on quality for those days of snowshoe hiking and winter mountaineering.