Why you should care
The feats of sledding prowess you imagine you’re pulling off in the yard? They could actually come true.
To the outsider, Bavaria may mean Oktoberfest beer tents and lederhosen. But come winter, there’s another reason to make for Munich. As soon as the snow cooperates, Bavarians hoof it up hillsides with old school wooden toboggans in tow and scream down sled runs that are a far cry from sliding atop garbage bags down slushy East coast driveways.
“The trails here are quite long and thrilling,” says Locke McKenzie, a Michigan native who owns Munich food truck The Bean Bros., describing a sledding style that’s more like luge or bobsled. “You end up on long, winding mountain trails where you often have quite steep drops and inclines, and end up picking up quite a bit of speed.” The standard sled, says McKenzie, is a wooden toboggan that you lie down on to ride (make sure to wear sturdy boots). For more speed and control, he says, there are sport-version sleds with wooden rails and woven nylon bands to lie on.
The over 4-mile-long run and 2,700-foot vertical descent is one of Germany’s longest sledding trails.
McKenzie recommends getting your sled on in the Tegernsee area, about an hour south of Munich near the town of Rottach-Egern. The over 4-mile-long run and 2,700-foot vertical descent at Mount Wallberg there is one of Germany’s longest sledding trails. Two-trip tickets cost $21 and you can rent a sled for $6. The best part? There’s a cable car to bring you to the top of the run for continuous loops.
For some of Bavaria’s best off-the-beaten path sledding, however, you’ll have to schlep your own sled up the mountain, says Astrid Daerr, a Bavarian travel writer. Daerr says Breitenstein mountain is one of her favorite spots. “You walk an hour up a mountain road to a little wooden hut where you can warm up with käsekuchen (cheesecake) and glühwein (mulled wine) before sledding back down.” While there’s no fee to sled here, it’s BYOT (Bring Your Own Toboggan).
For night sledding, Daerr says the floodlit run at Blomberg near Bad Tölz is just $18 (including sled rental) to ride the cable car up and zip back down a steep 3-mile run. And on the Tuesday of Fasching week (Germany’s annual carnival, Feb. 17 this year), Daerr says to head to Firstalm in Spitzingsee to watch the annual sledding competition. Contestants ride large traditional sleds while hundreds of spectators “drink glühwein and watch,” she says.
It all sounds wunderbar, but not all Germans consider Bavaria a sledding mecca. Daniel Hug, a German photographer from the Black Forest, says Austria is where it’s at for serious rodeln (Austrian for sledding). “This is rodeln paradise,” says Hug about Silvretta Montafon resort, located about 2.5 hours south of Munich. “The sledding here is at a higher altitude than in Bavaria, closer to the main ridge of the Alps, so there’s more precipitation.” And better snow makes for a better sledding ambiance, he says.
Since there’s glühwein in both countries, you really can’t go wrong.