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All Austrians seem able to ski effortlessly which is a real pain if you're a beginner trying to look cool on the slopes. Vorarlberg and Tirol are the most popular areas, but there is also skiing in Salzburg province, Upper Austria and Carinthia. Kitzb├╝hel and Lech are the jet-set resorts. Those with less money, a distaste for crowds and fine leg definition may find cross-country skiing more rewarding. This takes place just about anywhere where there's sufficient snow and a shortage of buildings.

There are thousands of km of well-signposted hiking trails to explore in the Alps. The Kaisergebirge mountains in northern Tirol are a favourite with mountaineers, though make sure you never climb on your own or without proper equipment and consult locals about weather conditions and avalanche warnings. Paragliding and hang-gliding are both popular, and you can hire gear and get tuition at most ski resorts. Ballooning is also taking off (so to speak), despite the high costs. The lakes in Salzkammergut and Carinthia offer water-skiing, sailing and windsurfing. River cruises on the Danube are a must, especially for Strauss lovers.


The cycle of music festivals is unceasing. In January, New Year concerts consist of lavish balls in Vienna. February brings Fasching (Carnival) which celebrates the return of spring with masked processions and dances. Corpus Christi (the second Thursday after Whitsun) is heralded with more carnivals, some held on lakes in the Salzkammergut. The Vienna International Festival (from mid-May to mid-June) has a wide-ranging programme of arts and is considered the highlight of the year. Midsummer night's celebrations on 21 June light up the sky with magnificent bonfires. The Salzburg International Festival takes place in late-July and August and includes plenty of music by the city's favourite son, Mozart. National Day on 26 October involves lots of patriotic flag-waving. St Nicholas Day, on 5 December, marks the beginning of the Christmas season with parades.

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