Examples of alternative offers for tourist destinations that work with and without snow

Mar 21, 2024

When it comes to tourism and snow, more and more creativity is needed. The classic winter dream of skiing and snow-covered slopes and landscapes is increasingly greener than white. In low to medium-altitude destinations in particular, there is an ever-growing range of alternative offers for anyone who either wants a day off from skiing or generally wants to do something different.
Alpine Pearls deals with the topic of climate change and its effects on winter tourism and destinations in connection with the EU project “BeyondSnow”. Together with other project partners from the Alpine region, we are exploring questions such as “What can winter tourism look like in the future?” and “How can it continue to be successful for tourism professionals and local communities?”.

The Interreg Alpine Space project BeyondSnow aims to increase the socio-ecological climate resilience of small and medium-sized destinations so that they can retain or even increase their attractiveness to residents and tourists.

In this article, we have collected some examples of alternative offers from Alpe Cimbra (Italy) and Werfenweng (Austria).

A wide variety of offers in Alpe Cimbra
Alpe Cimbra is a high plateau in Trentino, Italy. In summer, the mountains and Lago di Lavarone, in autumn the colourful forests and in winter the perfectly groomed pistes and cross-country ski trails entice visitors to enjoy adventures in harmony with nature. The four idyllic villages – Folgaria, Lavarone, Lusérn and Vigolana – are scattered across this gentle high plateau. Each is more enchanting than the next and each has its own specialities and traditions to discover. Just as unique as the landscape and the people who live here is the language, which has stood the test of time. Cimbrian is still spoken and taught in schools in Lusérn today. Because preserving what is valuable is important to the warm-hearted population.

Unfortunately, the snow cannot be preserved if the temperatures are too high. For this reason, the range of activities has been expanded and offers not only classic but also unusual ways to discover the region, especially in winter, like:
– Walk with goats in the snow: Guests can experience the Maso goats, the protagonists of a special trek, together with Serafino, a funny, joyful, and passionate and local shepherd. They can learn about ancient customs and traditions of these lands.
Walk to the Hoffentol Illuminated Waterfall: During the winter months, the small, old painted village of Guardia illuminates its frozen Hoffentol Waterfall, which can be visited during easy moonlight walks in the combination of a warm barley cake afterwards back in the village.
Sunrise breakfast on Mount Maggio: A guided tour, which starts in the darkness and be done by guests to experience the unique silence and the spectacular sunrise from the top of the Alpe Cimbra mountains.
Forest Bathing in Winter: The forest bathing is already well known in summer, but also in winter months it can be a great relaxing and extraordinary experience in winter, while walking barefoot in the snowy forest, reconnecting with nature in Kneipp style and with a herbal tea afterwards.
Fat Bike in Alpe Cimbra: Guests can enjoy active exercise and fun on bikes in winter with fat bikes, as the wide tyres make them very easy to ride even in snow or mud and offer a special experience.
Moonlight sled picnic: After about an hour of carefree hiking, a picnic basket awaits the guests for an energy boost. If the moonlight is sufficient, which is very often the case when there are no clouds, then the descent on the sledge can begin in this magical setting.

Pilot region for climate adaptation strategies: Werfenweng
Werfenweng is a municipality in Salzburg with 1099 inhabitants, nestled in the Tennengebirge mountains. The village lies at an altitude of 902 m, while the winter sports area lies at 902 to 1.834 m. A cold and moderate climate characterizes weather conditions in Werfenweng. The precipitation levels are noteworthy, as there is a considerable amount of rainfall even during months that typically experience dry weather. Throughout the year, Werfenweng experiences a total precipitation of 1841 mm. In the month with the highest precipitation, June (212 mm), there is on average 103 mm more precipitation than in the driest month of February (109 mm). The average temperatures vary over the year by 20,1 °C between the warmest month of July (average temperature 14,1 °C) and the coldest January (average temperature -6°).

Tourism has played a key role in Werfenweng for many years. Its strategic location 45 km south of Salzburg and excellent rail connections, combined with the high-quality services developed for last-mile mobility and plenty of touristic attractions in the region, make Werfenweng a particularly attractive location for both a holiday and a day trip. Werfenweng has been a model village on the topic of soft mobility for more than 25 years and, as a member of Alpine Pearls, is committed to promoting sustainable tourism in harmony with the environment.

In Werfenweng, the number of tourists in the summer and winter seasons is split roughly 50/50. In winter, alpine skiing is still the most popular activity in Werfenweng. It is supplemented by other offers and activities. This leads to a diversification of the offer, which also benefits the end customers, but also represents a form of increased resilience.

Examples of those activities are:
– Hiking: high-altitude hiking trails as well as relaxing walks on the edge of the village (the so-called “Spazierhimmel”), snowshoe hiking, winter hiking
– Mountain Biking, horse riding, tennis, and water experiences at Lake Wengsee.
– For families, there is also the adventure park “Dein Berg” with a mountain cart, rope course, flying fox and much more.
– Paragliding can be done in summer and in winter (very popular also in winter due to the particularly favourable updrafts)
– Besides skiing, winter activities that can be enjoyed in Werfenweng include ski touring, cross-country skiing, sledding, and horse sleigh riding.

Nevertheless, alpine skiing remains the main attraction for tourists in Werfenweng in winter, as well as the largest source of income for the tourism sector.

Climate change has repeatedly challenged operators regarding the length of the season and the possibility (as well as the costs) of guaranteeing perfect skiing conditions even during periods of scarce snow or high temperatures, especially on slopes at lower altitudes or more exposed to the sun. The winter of 2022-2023 was a particularly significant example.

Although skiing will remain a fundamental segment of Werfenweng’s tourist offer in the coming years, a medium- to long-term tourism development strategy must be drawn up now to reduce the tourism sector’s dependence on the snow-skiing sector.
This strategy should be able to guarantee not only environmental but also above all economic and social sustainability.