Luge in Switzerland, ski in Scandinavia, skate in the Netherlands

In Europe, the frosty weather has arrived. Though some might already miss the sun’s warm rays, all we can think about is the cold season sports that will soon be possible! What sports are those? We chose three to explore with you today. How did we come to these three? The answer is simple: they were invented in Europe, and they can be done by anyone, no matter their level of experience. So, without further ado, let’s try Switzerland’s famous luge, let’s ski in Scandinavia, let’s ice skate in the Netherlands! Above all, make a trip to Europe this winter festive, active, and filled with memories that will live in you forever. 

Trying the Luge in snowy Switzerland

Switzerland is legendary for being a winter paradise. The snow piles high. The villages glimmer in holiday lights. The food is rich and fortifying against the cold. Many visitors come for the ski slopes but miss something extraordinary and quintessentially Swiss: the luge. Luging involves sliding down an icy track on a small sled, typically lying on your back. This thrillingly fast sport is perfect for amateurs and professionals alike (it’s even an Olympic sport!). Invented in the 19th century, likely as a recreational activity or to transport timber or carry animal fodder, it grew into a popular leisure activity for British tourists visiting St. Moritz in the 19th century.  

How can you participate in the thrill that is luging? We have some tips. There are more than 150 sled runs that snake around the country’s mountainous areas. A great way to reach the starting point is to take the UNESCO recognized Rhaetian Railway route, a historic transalpine rail line that gives the rider a gorgeous view of the mountains he or she will soon be luging down. Some excellent places to luge include Bergün, where there’s a steepled 15th-century medieval church, locals pulling groceries (and kids) atop sleds, and a two-seater chairlift that goes to the top of the town’s most challenging sled run, Darlux-Bergün. Davos is also an excellent choice. It’s home to the Wintersport Museum (which is full of antique sleds and skis) and gives you access to the Light Ride, an interactive, nighttime sled run in Lenzerheide, less than an hour’s bus ride west from Davos. The seasonal run, inspired by video games, equips both the course and its sleds with sensors and sound effects. Sledders streak along, sliding over sensors or punching soft targets with their gloved hands to win points. 

Good to know: Travelers can find sled runs across the country via SwitzerlandMobility. Routes are ranked by difficulty and can be reached on foot, by chair lift, gondola, cable car, funicular, and, in one place, by the world’s only “sled train,” the cherry-red schlittelzug. Rental shops in Bergün and other locations teach beginners the basics, including heading to the side of the run if you wipe out, keeping pace with other sledders, and wearing a helmet. 

The longest toboggan sled run in Europe- Schlittelbahn Preda / Bergün, Switzerland.
The longest toboggan sled run in Europe- Schlittelbahn Preda / Bergün, Switzerland.

Sensational skiing in Scandinavia

The roots of the ski are utilitarian. For thousands of years, people mainly in the Nordic countries, used them to get around and to hunt. The indigenous Sámi were master skiers, using the thin planks of wood to traverse snowy landscapes and avoid the harshest weeks of winter. Skiing as we know it came into being in the mid 19th century, when binding systems were invented and what was once a practical tool became a leisure sport—both as a downhill thrill and as a cross country meditation. 

Today, Norway is the ideal place to try skiing of all sorts. It boasts both steep mountains that are perfect for those who desire the rush of icy speed and the serine rolling landscapes that make for a blissful cross-country adventure. But where to go? We suggest two options: Hemsedal and Lofoten. Hemsedal is located just three hours north of the capital. It has over fifty perfectly groomed slopes but also cross-country trails, twenty kilometers of off-piste terrain and two snow parks. There is truly something for everyone at every skill level here. The mountain itself ranges from 620-1450 meters above sea level, which guarantees remarkable views.  

While Hemsedal might be the most popular skiing destination in Norway, Lofoten is renowned for its quality. Surprisingly, there are no slopes nor lifts. Why? Because here you ski cross-country. Lofoten is situated on part of Norway’s archipelago. The landscape is jaggedly beautiful, with snow everywhere and views of gorgeous mountains in every direction. It’s the ideal option for a meditative skiing experience, where you explore marvelous terrain in the deep of winter.  

Important tip: hiring a guide is essential at Lofoten. This local expert can help you see the best sights and avoid any risky areas. 

Skiing in Scandinavian Hemsedal skisenter, Hemsedal, Norway. @1johan3
Skiing in Scandinavian Hemsedal skisenter, Hemsedal, Norway. @1johan3

Ice-skate across the Netherlands

Did you know that the ice-skate dates as far back as the 1200s, when the Dutch skated along frozen canals from village to village? To this day, there are still rare occasions when the Netherlands’ canals freeze deep enough that such an adventure is possible. In the case that this doesn’t happen during your visit, there are many wonderful back up plans.

Skating in the Netherlands is fun for everyone, young and old, experienced and green. Some of the places for this winter activity include the Schaatsbaan in Rotterdam, which has rainbow lighting on the ceiling and 400 meters of ice laid out in a tunnel. If the weather permits it, the sides of the tunnel can be opened, so you can feel the wind on your face and the gorgeous views of this modern creative city.  

Another is Haarlem’s IJsbaan. Not far from Amsterdam, this incredibly beautiful and important historic town deserves all of your attention. Here’s what we propose: spend the morning on the ice with your favorite company. As morning turns to afternoon and your legs get heavy, retreat to a quiet restaurant in Haarlem’s historic center to eat traditional Dutch winter foods like hearty pea soup (erwtensoep), crunchy bitterballen, and the famous stamppot, a mix of potatoes and kale and a steaming smoked sausage on top.  

Ice Skating in Schipluiden, South Holland, Netherlands. @jarnogommers
Ice Skating in Schipluiden, South Holland, Netherlands. @jarnogommers

Things to consider before traveling

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Some tips to consider while traveling

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