Winterberg: A Winter Sport Paradise
Winterberg is the highest town in elevation in North Rhine-Westphalia, which means it gets a lot of snow in the winter. No wonder it’s a popular destination for winter sports enthusiasts. Here you can go skiing, sledding, hiking – perfect for a weekend trip.
by Lisa Tüch
About the region
The health-resort town of Winterberg is located in the Sauerland region and is a popular destination among winter sport lovers. It boasts the largest connected ski area north of the Alps. Winterberg is also an Olympic training centre for Bobsleigh and Skeleton, and a national training centre for young athletes in Biathlon and Alpine Skiing. You’ll find many athletes here preparing for competitions under professional supervision. That’s the reason why Winterberg occasionally hosts world and European winter sport championships. In winter 2012/2013, over 900,000 people visited the town.
From Dortmund, take the Dortmund-Sauerland-Express RE 57 to Winterberg.
Friday – Day 1 – Winter sports
Before you head up the mountain, you should drop off your luggage first. The Winterberg Youth Hostel is a good place to stay as it is located relatively close to a ski area. At the main train station, take the bus R28 towards Bad Berleburg and get off at the stop “Neuastenberg/ Jugendherberge”. An overnight stay at the youth hostel with breakfast during the peak season costs about 25 euros. This includes the fee for the “Welcome Stamp”, an international guest card which permits you to stay overnight at a German youth hostel.
Once you’ve dropped your things off and put on your ski suit, your winter adventure can begin. The ski village Neuastenberg-Postwiese is situated just 300 metres away from the youth hostel, so you can get there on foot. The mountain offers 16 slopes open every day from 9 am to 4:30 pm until the beginning of March. Students receive a concession rate – a day ticket costs 20 euros. So don’t forget your student ID!
“Hochsauerland Sport” is a store located near the youth hostel where you can rent equipment, such as skis, snowboards and even sledges. To be on the safe side, you should also use a ski helmet. Skis cost 15 euros a day. If you need a “refresher” or introduction to skiing, you can sign up for a ski course at the ski rental store.
Around lunch time, you can take a break and get a bite to eat in the ski village before heading down the slopes again. But don’t worry, you don’t have to trudge up the mountain – you can let yourself be pulled up with the tow lift.
Night sledging and Après-ski
When darkness falls, it’s time to change your gear. Between 6:30 pm and 9:30 pm, you can zip down the illuminated natural sledding run on a sledge. This will cost you another 11.50 euros. The sledding run in the ski village is the only one of its kind in the Sauerland region. The 500-m run takes you along two long curves down forest trails. They also have an extra lift that will take you and your sledge back up to the top.
If you still have energy to spare after that, there are après-ski parties in the ski village, for example, at the “Lawine” located along the route to the youth hostel. By the way, people always wear their ski suits to après-ski, so you don’t have to dress up nicely before you go. At the end of the day, you’ll probably be dead-tired when you go to bed.
Saturday – Day 2 – Sightseeing
After that hard day in Winterberg, the next day promises to be more relaxing. The first item on the agenda is to visit the SalzGrotte. You can get there from the youth hostel by taking the bus R28 or the SkiBus toward Winterberg/Bahnhof (on Saturdays, you might have to wait more than a half an hour for the R28). Get off at Winterberg/Pforte and take the bus R48 toward Düdinghausen/Kirche. Disembark at the stop “Elkeringhausen/Am Knittenberg”. From there the SalzGrotte is just a few metres down the road on your left. The grotto looks like a natural cave, but it’s actually manmade. The walls and floor are completely made of salt. Since they ask you to take off your shoes, make sure to bring along some thick socks. But don’t worry about getting cold feet because they keep the grotto at a cosy 20 °C. Inside the grotto, you can lie on a deck chair, listen to relaxing music and inhale the salty mist – which is supposedly very healthy. The visit costs 8.50 euros and lasts 45 minutes. To avoid unnecessary waiting, you can make an appointment by e-mail or phone in advance.
After your visit to the grotto, the next stop is the Kahler Asten – the second highest mountain in NRW. From the bus stop “Am Knittenberg”, take the R28 back to the stop “Pforte”. From there, take the express bus 40 toward Grafschaft (comes 13 minutes after the hour, e.g. 3:13 pm). Get off at the stop “Nordhang” and take the taxi bus to the Kahler Asten. Make sure to order the taxi bus in advance (phone: 0 800 3 50 40 31). When you reach the top, you’re in for a breath-taking view. If you want, you can go up the observation tower for an even better view (costs one euro). The German Weather Service operates a weather station and info centre on the summit where visitors can learn more about the weather and climate. The entrance fee to the info centre is one euro.
Winter hike on the Kahler Asten
Get ready for more physical activity – on a hike along the winter hiking trails. One of the trails begins and ends at the observation tower. The round-trip hike is rated “easy” so even first-time hikers won’t find it too difficult. The route is cleared of snow and is about 1.2 km long. But you should wear boots with good traction so you don’t wipe out (fall down). Simply follow the trail markers and enjoy the snowy landscape. And if the snow’s sticky enough, how about making a snowman?
By now your stomach must be growling. You can get lunch at either the Berggasthof or the Turmrestaurant. The Berggasthof mainly serves hearty meals, such as homemade soup – super for thawing out frozen limbs! But there’s also curried sausage.
Now with a full stomach, it’s time to head back to Winterberg!