Cross-country Skiing in Austria

Written by Lindsay Cannon 16 November 2023

Last modified on 29 February 2024
Seefeld Winter Landscape Seefeld Winter Landscape

We're heading to Austria this winter! Our new cross-country ski trip has just been launched, six days cruising the tracks and trails of Tirol's Hochplateau, and exploring Pertisau, a lakeside mountain village located in stunning mountain scenery. Two fabulous destinations for cross-country ski enthusiasts which we have brought together into one week long adventure.

Austria is a popular destination whether in summer or winter, and having explored the Tirol on our hiking trips, we felt it was high time we put our skis on and explored the area as a venue. We have not been disappointed and found that the area offers many miles of ski trails all beautifully prepared daily. Tirol's Hochplateau, a gorgeous high plateau which sits at 1200 metres (3936ft), is framed by the mountains, but the area feels 'open' and is not constricted by the high summits. 

Perfect tracks on this high plateau - plenty of 'space' for all


The Hochplateau (High Plateau) is made up of five idyllic villages. Each village is distinctive yet together they bring together a week immersed in Austrian culture and traditions. You can expect to be eating apple strudel, and lederhosen are to be seen on the streets. The main centre is the town of Seefeld which is famous for being one of the leading cross-country ski areas in the world. The five areas are SeefeldLeutaschMösernReith and Scharnitz. 

The Plateau was settled in prehistoric times and became historically significant when the Roman military road was constructed. Seefeld was first mentioned in a document from the Wilten Abbey in the year 1077 when it was called Sevelt. Over the centuries it also was the haunt of kings and Emperor Maximilian I valued its hunting deemed to be the best in the Karwendel Mountains.

However, is wasn't until the 1920's that the hospitality and tradition of the area attracted tourists. It's easy access from Innsbruck and Telfs, as well as Munich and Garmish helped its transformation into a holiday destination. 
Frosty winter morning in the valley of Leutasch

But it is cross-country skiing which has really earned the area its reputation! The Olympic flame has visited the region three times, during the Winter Olympic Games in 1964, 1976, and for the Youth Olympic Winter Games in 2012.
Aside from its Nordic fame, the area also has celebrated alpine ski connections. One of the most famous personalities of Seefeld was Toni Seelos. Toni, (1911–2006) was four-times world skiing champion, and revolutionized the sport by replacing the traditional stem turn with the parallel turn. Although his work as a professional ski instructor prevented him from competing in the Olympics, he raced anyway as a forerunner and finished faster than the Olympic champion!
Today, the area maintains its fame for skiing, but despite the influx of tourists, has managed to keep a balance between old and modern. There are plenty of spa hotels, boutiques, and excellent restaurants, throughout the five villages, but tradition features in the architecture, customs and events that are held annually.

 Mooskapelle - a fairytale setting in the Austrian Tirol


Our other destination on this trip is Pertisau a picturesque lakeside mountain village nestled in the stunning mountain scenery of the Karwendel and Rofan mountains. It takes around one hour to travel from Seefeld, to Pertisau and here we will explore neighbouring Maurach as well as the valleys leading into the Karwendel Mountains.

So many trails to explore in Austria's Tirol

The villages Pertisau and Maurach sit on the shores of Lake Achensee, and at the start of several small valleys leading into the beautiful Karwendel Mountains. Emperor Maximilian I certainly got around as Lake Achensee was another popular destination for the ruler of the Holy Romand Empire. Apparently, he loved going to Pertisau to recover from the strain of governing his empire!  

Pertisau is also well know for the extraction of shale oil which has been mined there for around 100 years, whereas the same product in Seefeld has been mined since the 14th century. The oil extracted in Tirol was burnt in lamps and applied as a waterproof to roofs, but its main appeal was for medical use.  Many local folk will today still swear by this oil. It is still sold today as a cream to soothe and heal damaged skin, maybe try it out on sore feet? Or take some home as a memento?


Cross country trails all around Lake Achensee

But we are in Pertisau and Lake Achensee for the cross-country skiing.  Although the sport originated in Scandinavia, the birthplace of professional cross-country skiing instruction is Lake Achensee. It was in the late 1970's that Gustav Leithner set up the first official education standards for cross-country, a tradition that his family carries on today.

The Achensee offers over 230 kilometres of scenic trails groomed for both classic and skating. The lake itself is Tirol's largest lake with a surface area of 6.8 square kilometres and is known for its intense shades of blue water. Try out the ski trails along the flat lakeside, or explore the impressive Karwendal valleys where the trails are more demanding. We can stop for a snack and a hot drink as we go along at one of the cosy mountain huts. 

Exploring the Karwendal valleys, an escape to the mountains 

We are sure you are going to love visiting this region as it is quite simply a nature lover's paradise set against a backdrop of stunning mountains. As well as our new winter trip we also offer hiking in this stunning area. Check out our hiking trip here.

Keep up to date with Tracks and Trails through our newsletter, click here to sign up. For more information about our trips, either bespoke or Scheduled Departures, speak to one of our expert team by calling +44 (0) 20 8144 64442 or email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.  We offer snowshoeing, cross-country skiing, trail running and hiking.