Skiing Down the German Alps

Skiing is über popular in southern Germany and the surrounding countries and is known to be one of the most thrilling sports! Skiing in the Alps of Switzerland, Austria, or Bavaria takes the sport to a whole new level. 

Cable car going up snow mountain with mountain peaks

Growing up in Chicago, the closest ski "mountain" is Wilmot… and it's more like a big dirt hill, often covered in faux snow. Don't get me wrong, we loved skiing at Wilmot, and it was always quite a treat to go up to Michigan or further up in Wisconsin to ski on a larger hill. So you can only imagine our shock and awe when we locked into our skis on REAL mountains with REAL snow. It was an unbelievable experience!  

Woman on skiis near a range

Facing My Fears and Taking Real Black Diamond Mountain Ranges

In 2003, my parents took my sister and me to Austria for a vacation that included skiing in the Alps. It was worlds away from skiing at Wilmot Mountain in southern Wisconsin, and there is one story in particular that still makes me laugh to this day. 

hiking on snow hiking trails in high altitude. In the mountains of the alpine region with mountain peaks

One of the biggest differences between skiing here in the ol' midwestern flatlands and in the Austrian Alps is the fact that here, you go up on the ski lift to the top (which takes a whopping 5 minutes tops) and then back down to the bottom… and repeat.

In Austria, we took a gondola for about 30 minutes and then a series of ski lifts from there. We just went up and down runs all day, and it was so, so fun. When we decided it was time to call it a day, we checked out the map and realized that we honestly didn't quite know how to get back down to the town we came from.

There were some blue and green runs that took you down the mountain, but we would end up in a different town than our car was in. Just to be sure, we asked a local woman, and she confirmed our fears… there was one run to get us down to the car… a double black diamond. 

cable car against mountain summits with snow

"Are you f*ing kidding me?!" (those were the words going through my mind). This isn't a double black like the ones we've gone down hundreds of times at home… this was the mother-flipping Alps!!! It was full of moguls and pretty much looked like a straight drop-down.

My dad (who is a pretty damn good skier) looks at us and says, "OK… let's go!" and shoop, shoop, shoop… down he goes, like a freakin' Olympian. The three of us start slowly but surely making our way down… one mogul at a time.

It took us about 5x longer to get down than it took my dad, but we made it. Just seeing my dad disappear down the mountain still makes me laugh to this day, even though, at the time, we were straight-up terrified. 

cable cars in the central alps. People skiing down the mountain ranges and mountain peaks in the back

There are many unknown and interesting facts about skiing in the Alps. Here are some of the most intriguing fun facts about skiing in the Alpine mountain ranges of Switzerland, Austria, and Bavaria.

cable car in the western alps with snow in background

Fun Facts about the Bavarian Alps

Fun Fact #1

Before being considered a sport, skiing was actually the primary means of transportation in the Alps. Yup… the best way of traveling downhill was by simply letting the slope take you to your destination while you enjoy the views!

Fun Fact #2

Despite the vagueness of its origin, skiing is said to be the Scandinavians' means of following their prey while they were hunting. Evidence suggests that this practice dates back to 4,000 years ago. So it's safe to assume this was when skiing got its start.


Skiing in the alpine countries with the high mountain ranges

Fun Fact #3

Unlike many other winter games, skiing caught the world's interest relatively quickly. Skiing made its Olympic debut in 1936, and the love and obsession with this sport hasn't diminished.

Skiing down the eastern alps

Fun Fact #4

No matter how thrilling it already is, people, the audience, and the athletes alike, always want more. The Giant Slalom Run was introduced in the 1952 Oslo games. Giant Slalom Run is like a regular Slalom Run but with more speed and more sharp turns. And when that wasn't thrilling enough, Super Giant Slalom runs were introduced in the 1988 Calgary games. Just like it sounds, Super G is a Giant Slalom run with even more speed, sharp turns, and longer distances. According to the International Herald Tribune, Austrian ski star Hermann Maier controls his ski edges at up to 90 miles per hour!

Fun Fact #5

Western European countries are home to the uncrowned kings of this high-adrenaline sport. Austria alone had over 85 medals (26 of which were gold medals) in the 2006 Winter Olympics.

Bavarian forest scenery landscape of highest mountain with mountain peaks in the background

Fun Fact #6

More than 80 countries in the world now offer some kind of skiing activity. But the Western European countries, especially Switzerland, Bavaria, Austria, and Norway, have the busiest ski resorts in the world. Over 25% of the population of these countries participate in the sport.

Fun Fact #7

In the 1850s, Norwegian-born Sondre Norheim gave birth to modern-day skiing by developing the 'Telemark' bindings that perfectly bind the ski to the boot. Due to these bindings, it was possible for a skier to fearlessly take off into majestic jumps without any concern of losing the skis while in flight.

Eastern Alps highest mountain with mountain peaks

Fun Fact #8

The person who introduced the sport in Switzerland was none other than Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, who gifted the world with one of the most amazing fiction series ever: Sherlock Holmes.

Fun Fact #9

Germans have always been quick to deliver what the public needs. Just like in many other cases, Germany made alpine skiing a much more interesting sport by building the world's first ski tow in 1908. So, today, people no longer have to climb great heights on their own and consume all their energy, all thanks to the Germans. ;-)

Alpine Regions Mountain Range with mountain peaks

Fun Fact #10

An interesting story lies behind the rescue dog breed of the Alps: St Bernard. Bernard of Montjoux worked tirelessly for over four years around the Alpine mountains. He laid the foundation for countless churches and schools and was internationally known to have built two Alpine Hostels that were to aid lost travelers in the mountain pass. Bernard was declared the Patron Saint of Alpine Skiers and mountain climbers by Pope Pius XI in 1923. The locals showed a unique way of giving tribute to his work by changing the name of the breed of the famous rescue dogs in the Alpine mountains to St Bernard.

Eastern Alps Mountain Range with people skiing down slopesGerman Alps Mountain PeaksSkiing Down the slopes of German AlpsSkiing down the slopes the German AlpsBeer at the German Alps

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January 31, 2017 — Erika Neumayer

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