With the lift link to the Ski Juwel area closed in summer, little Alpbach quietly reverts to what it used to be, the perfect destination for hikers, bikers and other adventurers amid quite extraordinarily pastoral surroundings.
Despite international tourism it remains essentially the farming village it always was, with ancient buildings clustered around a 15th-century church.
The skiing is family-oriented, but there’s tougher and more challenging terrain for those that want it. The same theme morphs effortless into summer. You can take a tame amble through the meadows, admiring wild flowers and the cows. Alternatively you can ride the lift system to explore much steeper slopes above the treeline.
Classic hikes here can take up to six-and-half hours, but with the weather uncertain, we opted for the ‘red run’ Panorama Weg billed at two hours.
Tip: the guys who measure the length of Alpine trails tend to live at altitude. Add 25-50% to the publicised time, especially if walking with dogs or children.
The route took us up from the top of the gondola around the shoulder of the 2127m Wiederbergershorn. It’s a steepish scramble with spectacular views and the Horn Alm restaurant at the top acts as the perfect carrot.
The first stage took us an hour and the return route around the Horn is half-an-hour longer. The lift closes at 4.30pm and you need to take this into consideration in choosing your downhill route. If you miss the last cabin, you need to factor in another two to three hours to get back to the village.
A summer visit to Alpbach isn’t all about hiking though…
Tubing on the Brändi
Take the short drive from Alpach to Kramsach, and you’ll find plenty of distractions at Sport Ossi. The outdoor centre here offers a range of water sports including kayaking, rafting and white-water swimming.
The highlight? Tubing. Waterpark fans may be accustomed to drifting down a river in a giant, inflatable inner tube normally found inside the tyres of an HGV. But the white-water rapids of the Brandberger Ache make for quite a different experience.
Equipped with wetsuit, life vest and helmet, our guides for the morning – Max and Xavier – led us on 1.5km mad dash down this stretch of ‘the Brändi’.
Locals claim this sport was actually invented right here, with some claiming their families have been riding the river on truck tyre innards for 50 years. In any case, Sport Ossi have been taking tourists along this route since 1989.
And with good reason – it strikes a perfect balance between being a serious adrenalin rush for anyone, whilst ensuring all but the weakest of swimmers will be well within their depth physically.
For those preferring to stay dry, a tour of the nearby high-rope gardens can be arranged through Sport Ossi, whilst the via ferrata routes at Lake Reintal are a particularly challenging highlight.