7 incredible winter adventures around the Red Bull X-Alps route
You don’t have to be a paraglider pilot to enjoy an adventure along the Red Bull X-Alps route, especially now that winter has coated most of the Turnpoints in a thick layer of snow. It’s time to put on those crampons or snowshoes, step into some ski-touring gear, and get yourself a winter adventure. Of course, the exact route varies from year to year, but these locations have all featured in Red Bull X-Alps races in the past.
What: Ski-tour and climb
Race fact: Once the start of the Red Bull X-Alps, the Dachstein massif is traditionally the second TP after the Gaisberg. It’s also one of the most adventurous, with most athletes accessing via an exposed Via Ferrata (or Klettersteig).
Adventure rating: 8
The Dachstein (2,995m) is so rad in winter it even has one of the world’s warmest gloves named after it – woollen mittens with a weave so thick they’re virtually waterproof. The massif is home to some great ski-tours but why not crown a day-out with a conquest of the summit? It requires crampons, an ice axe and good mountaineering sense. The ski down to the valley floor is epic.
Lermoos Tiroler Zugspitz Arena
What: Ski tour
Race fact: This was TP4 during the 2015 race but the Zugspitze has featured in previous editions as well. It’s Germany’s highest mountain and situated on the border with Austria.
Adventure rating: 7
“You can do many ski tours between Lermoos and the Zugspitz Arena,” says 2015 athlete Pascal Purin. This is the race leg that sees athletes go from the very northern alps to the main chain of mountains further south. It’s littered with hikes, ski tours and mountain climbs for the adventurous. Stuck for ideas? Let the folks at outdooractive.com do the work for you. Simply type in your preferred activity and location, and browse the results.
What: Climb, ski, hike. And speedride
Race fact: Mt Blanc always poses a dilemma for athletes – bypass via the north or south. In the 2015 edition Stephan Huber managed a near circumnavigation of the Mont Blanc Massif at altitude to get back on track, after hiking up to 2,400m.
Adventure rating: 11
Chamonix, Mt Blanc is the adventure playground of the world. It’s where the serious boys – and girls – come to play. In winter you can choose your weapon from a pair of skis, a set of ice-tools or if you’re Aaron Durogati, a speedwing. (Watch his insane descent of Mt Blanc here). But if you just want to go for a cross-country ski or hike in snowshoes, that’s cool as well.
What: Steep skiing Cima Tosa
Race fact: The Brenta Turnpoint by the Refugio Brentei was the 5th during the 2015 race. It is dominated by the stunning Cima Tosa peak.
Adventure rating: 10
Cima Tosa dominates this little corner of the Dolomites. But what is most eye-catching to any visitor is the steep couloir that separates the two enormous rock towers; a slither of snow that comes down the mountain like a lizard’s tongue. In winter it freezes up and gets a good snow covering. “It’s a classical steep skiing couloir of the Dolomites,” says local Red Bull X-Alps athlete Durogati. Large cojones required.
What: Hike, ride and eat Kaiserschmarn
Race fact: The Gaisberg is the most spectator friendly Turnpoint in the whole race. Thousands of fans gather on the peak to see the athletes off.
Adventure rating: 6
The Gaisberg, that little hill just outside Salzburg? Good for an adventure? Really…? Absolutely. The Gaisberg is Salzburg’s best not-very-well-kept secret among the city’s adventure-minded community. Besides paragliding and hiking, it’s also a noted hill climb for cyclists, and for those who prefer to go down, the off-road descent on fat tires is pretty epic too. The best part? The summit Kaiserschmarrn, a local pancake calorie bomb that should probably be on WADA’s prohibited list of performance-enhancers.
What: The Cresta Run
Race fact: Most athletes never ventured into the town, the TP being the peak of Piz Corvatsch.
Adventure rating: 9
St Moritz may have a reputation as a luxury mountain escape for minor royals and the uber wealthy but with the Cresta Run, it also has a rich heritage in adventure. Invented by a group of intoxicated Brits, the Cresta is a kind of bob skeleton, except without the safety part. Participants charge head-first down a natural ice skeleton racing track on a toboggan, using only spikes on their boots to brake and steer. Flying off the track is not uncommon.
What: Hike, climb, ski
Race fact: The 2015 Red Bull X-Alps passed the Matterhorn TP almost exactly 150 years after the mountain was first climbed in 1865.
Adventure rating: 8
Zermatt should be to the Matterhorn what Chamonix is to Mt Blanc. It sits at the base of the most iconic mountain of the Alps, yet never quite became the Mecca for adventure sports enthusiasts. Which is good news if you want to go there. Away from the pistes, a winter wonderland awaits the adventurous. For an easy ski-tour with incredible views of the Matterhorn, head up Cima di Jazzi.