When you think of Austria in Winter, outdoor watersports don’t usually spring to mind; so it was obvious to Austrians Wolfgang Leeb, Andrea Freibeger, Armin Walcher and Sebastian Kuklar that they would have to get a little creative this winter if they wanted to find a local spot to pursue their passion for SUP.
The four paddlers hail from the area of Austria known as the “Land of the Lakes” – the Salzkammergut – where there is a hidden jewel of a spot that is unique to the world. Five minutes from the shores of Altausseer lake, where the Austrian emperors of old used to spend their summers, is a salt mountain that has attracted tourists for nearly 700 years. Salt mining has been historically documented in the region since 1147 A.D., but is rumored to date back to the Bronze Age. In 1943, the mines were used as warehouse for the Nazi’s looted art and some 6,500 pieces, valuing a total of 3.5 billion USD, were stored inside the mountain. Shortly before the end of WWII, the art was ordered destroyed but thanks to some brave miners, much was saved – including Leonardo Da Vinci’s Mona Lisa. Now once again a working mine, 550,000 tons of salt is extracted from the mountain each year which ends up as both road salt for winter protection and commercial table salt.
The mine shafts of salt mountain rise high above the valley and extend several kilometers deep into the mountain, but it was the legendary “Salt Lake” that captured the adventurous group’s attention. Salt Lake lies 800m horizontally into the mountainside, and is normally only accessible via a guided tour. Armed with a one-time-only authorization, the group loaded up their SUP boards, paddles and walked the 30 minutes through cold, narrow tunnels to reach their goal: the elaborately lit Salt Lake. Watch the video below to see what the four experienced!
In their own words: “It was a world’s first. The mountain men who accompanied us were amazed by our SUP action. After two exciting hours and some involuntary diving into the salt water, we left the lake at peace again. A great SUP experience that we will shorten the time of the memorable winter.”
Riders: Wolfgang Leeb, Andrea Freiberger, Armin Walcher, and Sebastian Kuklar
Video: Max Eisl