SAFE winter hiking

Tips and advice for staying safe in the mountains

Winter hiking is great for your health and provides a sense of community.

Nevertheless, safety is paramount to your winter hiking experience. It is therefore important that you observe and comply with essential rules of conduct and instructions. Accurate tour planning and adequate equipment are also essential ingredients for a successful winter hike.

The Austrian Alpine Club provides ten recommendations designed to make your winter hike as safe and enjoyable as possible.

1. Fit for the mountains

Hiking in winter is an endurance sport. You must make a realistic self-assessment and be in good health to be able to cope with the positive effects of exercise on the heart and circulation. Avoid time pressures and set the pace so that nobody in the group gets out of breath.

2. Careful planning

Hiking maps, guidebooks, the internet and local experts can provide information about the length, difference in altitude, difficulty and the prevailing conditions. Always tailor your tours to the fitness of the group and pay particular attention to the weather and avalanche forecast. Precipitation, wind and cold increase the risk of accidents.

Route planning checklist

  • Select the right tour destination according to your own ability and physical fitness and keep the current snow conditions in mind. (Honest self-assessment; bear in mind that in winter many mountain tours may be inaccessible due to snow!)
  • Have you considered topics such as proper orientation and the risk of avalanche?
  • Keep an eye on the weather forecast and current weather conditions
  • Check out the local conditions
  • Scheduling! Leave early – dusk starts around 4 pm in winter. Note diurnal heating (increased risk of avalanches!)
  • Choose the right equipment!
  • Install and test the "SOS-EU-Alp" emergency call app on your smartphone
  • Get accident and rescue costs insurance

Potential hazards include
: sudden falls in temperature, snowfall, wind, avalanches, fog, ice, sun (diurnal heating – increased risk of avalanches)

Various weather conditions change the terrain every day. You are personally responsible for assessing at your own discretion whether a route is safe!

Current Avalanche Report Tirol

3. Have all the equipment

© Stefan Leitner

Pack appropriately for your chosen tour and make sure your backpack is light. Always pack appropriate protection from the rain, cold and sun as well as a first aid kit and mobile phone (Euro-emergency call 112). For better orientation, consider using a map, apps or GPS.

Check list

  • Backpack: Volume approx. 25 litres
  • Boots: turdy, high-cut, waterproof mountaineering boots with non-slip, treaded soles
  • Clothing: Breathable, Wind and waterproof jacket, insulated jacket, fleece/softshell jacket, hat and gloves, functional underwear, change of underwear
  • Sun protection: high-quality sunglasses, hat, sunscreen (protection factor =30), lip protection
  • Food and drink: min. 1 and max. 2 litres drinking water/tea, fruit/cereal bars, trail mix or simply something that tastes good.
  • Maps: Winter hiking map, route description and information materials
  • Mobile phone: Make sure the battery is sufficiently charged (emergency), if necessary carry a power bank with you
  • First aid package incl. blister plasters and aluminium emergency blanket
  • Bivouac sack & headlamp
  • Hiking poles: Properly used, hiking poles help provide relief to the joints and support balance. On the other hand, our natural balance and coordination ability may be negatively affected. Ensure that your telescopic poles are reliably locked.
  • Snowshoes: appropriate for your weight and height
  • Avalanche equipment:: Depending on the route, you may also require an avalanche transceiver, probe and shovel in open terrain!
  • Documents: ID, insurance card, cash

4. Suitable footwear

Sturdy mountaineering boots protect and relieve pressure on the foot, improving surefootedness. Ensure yours are a perfect fit, have an anti-slip tread and are waterproof and lightweight.

5. Surefootedness is the key

Falls, as a result of slips or stumbles, are the most common cause of accidents. Be aware that tiredness and going too fast can have a serious effect on your surefootedness and concentration. Take special care when descending!

Was ist im Notfall zu tun?
Notruf wählen

140 - Alpinnotruf (Bergrettung)
112 - Europäischer Notruf
133 - Polizei
144 - Rettung

Mehr dazu

6. Stay on the marked trails

In pathless terrain, the risk of losing your bearings and falling increases. Avoid shortcuts. If you have strayed from the route, return to the last known point.

7. Regular breaks

Timely rests ensure that you can recover, enjoy the scenery and the company. Food and drink are essential for sustaining performance and concentration. Isotonic drinks are ideal thirst quenchers.

8. Responsibility for children

Note that children love variety and playful discovery! In passages where there’s a risk of falling, an adult can look after only one child. Very exposed tours that require sustained concentration are not suitable for children.

9. Small groups

Small groups ensure flexibility and promote mutual assistance. Inform trusted people about your destination, route and return time. Stay together as a group. Solo hikers beware: Even minor incidents can become serious emergencies.

10. Respecting nature and the environment

To protect the mountain environment: do not leave any rubbish behind, avoid making a noise, stay on the paths, do not worry wildlife or grazing animals, leave plants untouched and respect conservation areas. Use public transport or carpool whenever possible.

Respect protected areas and sanctuaries harbouring plants and animals!!
- Avoid dusk and dawn (feeding and grazing times) - Plan your tour between 10 am and 4 pm
- Avoid game feeding and wildlife territories (stay at least 300 m away and pay attention to restricted areas!)
- Observe animals only from a great distance and do not pursue them under any circumstances
- Do not enter areas of afforestation or young trees.
- Keep quiet and do not shout.

Dogs
Please use dog waste bags and dispose of them in the nearest bin to avoid contaminating the pastures and natural environment. Help to keep the hiking trails clean. To avoid problems with cross-country skiers, snowshoe hikers and other winter sportspeople, always keep your dog(s) on a lead.

Rubbish
Nature is precious – so please keep the mountains clean and take your rubbish with you. Your rubbish will stay here, even when you’re long gone!

Winter hiking trail-marker system

Winter hiking routes in the Wilder Kaiser region are either marked with a dark green arrowhead and a white snow star on the yellow hiking trail signs or there are also green signs along the cross-country ski trails.
The information on the yellow hiking trail signs from summer is for orientation purposes only and is not valid in winter (especially pictograms/huts, hiking times and trail numbers).

Be careful when leaving the marked winter hiking routes. In snowy conditions, the summer hiking trail network and its markers are not visible, putting you at risk of disorientation and Alpine hazards.

There is no connection between the trail numbers on the yellow hiking trail signs (summer) and the tour numbers on the winter map.

Calculating hiking times:
The rule of thumb for calculating the hiking time for a medium-sized group of 4 to 6 people is as follows:
approx. 300 m elevation per hour in ascent and
approx. 500 m elevation in descent
approx. 3 km
The hiking times for the differences in altitude and for the horizontal length are calculated separately.

More useful information

Im Notfall

Im Notfall

Die Sicherheit im Gebirge ist das A und O in den Bergen. Immer wieder werden Bergsportler von einem plötzlich entstehenden Gewitter oder sonstigen Naturgewalten überrascht oder verletzen sich und stehen spontan vor der Frage: "Wie lautet die Alpine Notrufnummer?“

Please note that the information provided regarding safety in the mountains is a recommendation only on behalf of the Tourismusverband Wilder Kaiser. All information is subject to change without notice.

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