Gentle hilly landscapes framed by the Chiemgau Alps. Sparkling lakes set against snow-white plains and quiet forests. Perfectly traced cross-country ski trails which even the most experienced cross-country and biathlon skiers won't be able to resist. Idyllic views that remind you of Canada. An infrastructure that is fully committed to winter lovers on two skis; an arena which brings the best biathlon athletes here every year and drives them to peak performances. Ruhpolding, Germany's cross-country skiing mecca, is all of that. But just what it is that makes Ruhpolding so special?
We all have to start somewhere. It was in Chiemgau that professional athletes such as Andi Birnbacher, Evi Sachenbacher-Stehle and Tobi Angerer clicked into their cross-country skis for the very first time. Ruhpolding’s snow sports schools have a way of helping newcomers gain confidence on those wobbly narrow skis. Fritz Fischer, a former Olympic biathlon champion and national trainer, will even teach the biathlon anybody who is interested. This challenging sport combines shooting and cross-country skiing - and believe us, hitting the target after pushing yourself on a cross-country skiing trek is easier said than done! "With your pulse racing at 160 beats per minute you must learn to master your movements. Hold your breath, take the shot. It’s all in the feeling and training," explains the pro, and excitedly carries on: "Anyone can try!"(Photo: © Ruhpolding Tourismus GmbH)
While cross-country skiing comes second to downhill skiing in most places, Ruhpolding focuses all its energy on it. If you're after a sport that gets your heart rate up while taking you through beautiful winter landscapes off the beaten track, this is the place for you. Ruhpolding has plenty of cross-country trails between 3 and 15 kilometres long, but beginners haven't been forgotten either. There are also specially created nursery slopes for your first glide across the snow, and some of the trails start right in town. In the Chiemgau Arena, groomed floodlit trails allow you to experience the wonder of this sport by night.
Speaking of the Chiemgau Arena: every year this peaceful Bavarian town is transformed into a biathlon Mecca. When the BMW IBU World Cup Biathlon pitches its tents, Ruhpolding gets thrown into a frenzy of excitement. Up to 25,000 fans make their way to the arena every day to watch exciting head-to-head races on cross-country skis, shots that hit (or miss) the mark and emotional award ceremonies spread across five days. Insider tip: Starting in February, you can also go behind the scenes during the World Cup and follow in the footsteps of the professionals.
The 3-Lakes cross-country trail is Ruhpolding's hallmark. The starting point is the Seehaus hiking car park in Ruhpolding. Listen to the branches crackling underneath your feet as you set off into the snow. You'll quickly find your own rhythm as mountain slopes rise around you on each side of the path, and you'll enter nature on a nearly flat track along the valley. After a few metres, you can see the sun reflecting off the crystal-clear Lake Förchen: a small taste of things to come. White frost hangs like crystals in the trees and bushes protrude from the snowy carpet. Your breath sends small puffs of clouds rising into the crystal-clear air. Apart from you, there is no other sound. Spending even just a brief moment in nature has already lowered your blood pressure. And then suddenly the valley opens up: the three lakes Lödensee, Mittersee and Weitsee and their azure blue, crystal-clear water are truly amazing. The snow-covered mountains are reflected on the smooth surface, framed by ice at the edge of the lakes. The return route leads you through snow-covered paths in the forest. Small ups and downs provide a bit of a variety and before you know it, you’ve already completed the twelve kilometres. Too bad, actually!
Every cross-country skier needs to master Chiemgau at least once. Not only does the location offer the most beautiful natural experiences, Ruhpolding is also easy to reach and offers guaranteed snow cover. Everyone can explore nature at their own pace, from professional athletes to beginners, all of whom will take back memories of the perfect cross-country skiing holiday in Bavaria. If you prefer hiking to skiing, several kilometres of winter hiking trails and signposted snowshoe trails lead across snow-covered meadows and through immaculate forests dotted with rustic cabins, such as the Haar Alm. The Chiemgau Arena and the three Ruhpolding ski resorts at Unternberg, Westernberg and Maiergschwendt round out the Bavarian winter feeling.
If you can't get enough of winter and the forest, Bavaria should definitely be on your bucket list. This famous German state has a range of unique and traditional winter experiences, including:
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Born and raised in the ski paradise of Vancouver, Canada, I learned to ski before I can remember, balancing precariously on my parents’ skis as they sailed down the hill. I started snowboarding in my teens and am now delighted to be exploring everything Europe’s ski scene has to offer!
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