Things to do in Zakopane in winter
Zakopane is often considered the „winter capital of Poland”, and for good reason. The snow-capped mountains and ski slopes are one of the main reasons, why crowds of tourists, not only from Poland, are attracted to this winter resort every year. In this article, you will learn a bit about several fun activities that everyone should try at least once during their visit to Zakopane in winter.
Skiing and snowboarding
One of the best winter attractions in Zakopane, especially during the winter break, is skiing and snowboarding. If you want to try one of these winter sports, here are a few excellent places to do so:
Kasprowy Wierch – this is one of the highest places for skiing in Poland, and also probably the only one, where you can feel like sliding in Austria or Switzerland. That’s because of the cableway to Kasprowy Wierch, which takes enthusiasts of skiing to the ipmressive height of 1959 meter above the sea level.
The Szymoszkowa Meadow – this skiing resort is located at the southern slope of Gubalowka. The bottom station is located by the Powstancow Slaskich Road, which leads from Zakopane do Koscielisko. It began functioning in 1994, and has a 4-person cableway, which was put to use in 1997.
Snowmobiles in Zakopane
A snowmobile is a vehicle, which combines the advantages of a sled and a scooter, adapted for riding only in winter – that’s why these vehicles were originally known as a motor sled.
A snowmobile is adapted for riding on the road as well as on pathless tracts. It can move equally well through the snow and ice. The first functioning prototype of a motor sled was developed and created for the order of a well-known French polar explorer J.-B. Charcot by pioneers of automotive – marquis Jules-Albert de Dion and engineer Georges Bouton. The engine was supposed to be a fume engine.
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Although snowmobile rides can seem like a safe, family-friendly sport, it can be quite dangerous in the hands of unexperienced drivers, because they can reach very high speeds.
However, if you have the proper skills, you can easily enjoy a snowmobile ride in Zakopane, when there is enough snow.
Dog sleds in Zakopane
One of the most family-friendly attractions in Zakopane during the winter is a dog sled ride.
In the past, dog sleds were the best way to transport humans and equipment on routes in Siberia, Alaska, and Arctica, because the dogs were resistant to rigorous climate conditions and their relatively low demands, combined with the animals’ orderliness.
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Although the most popular breed of dogs associated with dog sleds is the Siberian or Alaskan Husky, there are also some other dog breeds, that can pull the sled, including the Japanese dogs of the Akita breed, the Greenland dogs the Samoyeds and greysters, which became very popular in recent times and are a cross between hunting dogs and greyhounds.
Sometimes, dogs pulled sleds to save lives. One of the most famous examples was the so-called „Great Race of Mercy”, during which a musher named Leonhard Seppala and his dog named Togo raced against time to deliver medicine to cure the epidemic of diphtheria in the town of Nome.
Winter hikes in the Tatra Mountains
One of the most popular attractions in Zakopane during the winter are hikes. There’s probably nothing better than admiring the snowy landscapes of the Tatra mountains, accompanied by the sounds of nature and the crunchy snow under your feet.
Keep in mind that you should be well prepared for such a hike. You must put on some warm clothes – hiking boots, a cap and a thick jacket, that will resist the wind and the freezing weather. You should also keep in touch with the weather forecast and the information about avalanche threats, as well as make sure you begin your hike early enough, so you’ll come back before it gets dark.
Some of the best places for a winter hike are:
The Rusinowa Meadow – located between Gesia Szyja and Goly Wierch. Long ago, this meadow was part of the Jaworzyna Rusinowa Hall.
The Koscieliska Valley – this valley is located in Tatry Zachodnie and is approximately 9 kilometers long, with Blyszcz as the highest point in its surroundings. From the valley you can see Bystra – the highest point of Tatra Zachodnie.
Sleigh rides are one of the most delightful attractions during the winter in Zakopane.
They usually consist of one, or several horse-drawn sleighs in a form of a procession. It’s an attraction organized in the last week of the Carnival, which is known as „Zapusty” in Poland. This attraction is often accompanied by music and singing, as well as a Highlander feast by a bonfire.
There’s probably nothing better, than riding in a sleigh in the snowy landscapes of the Tatra Mountains and enjoying a delicious feast by a warm and pleasant bonfire. You should definitely tru such treats, as the Hunter’s stew, bread with Gazda’s lard and sausages, while warming up with a cup of hot tea.
The sleigh rides also have a cultural aspect – they are accompanied by Polish national dances, such as krakowiak, mazur, kujawiak and oberek, and sometimes also regional types of polka.