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A very popular destination for a hike is Mt. Geising, with an elevation of 824 m one of the few real "peaks" that are landmarks above the plateau-like landscape of the Erzgebirge mountains. If the weather co-operates you can even see Mt. Geising from Dresden.
The meadows around the mountain are famous for the flora, thus it attracts most hikers in spring and summer. However, it is also a worthwhile hike in winter - there is a charming, inexpensive mountain hut on top (pic 2, also separate restaurant tip) and there is also the viewing tower. You can see the nearby Erzgebirge landscape with Kahleberg mountain, Komari hurka on the Czech side, the towns Altenberg and Geising, the "Pinge", the mountains in Saxon-Bohemian Switzerland, even the Upper Lausitz hills - weather permitting.
When I was there in early April 2013 they still had lots of snow - so it was a winter hike :-) The sky was overcast, viewing conditions not exactly exciting, it only cleared up when I left the mountain top. :(
Equipment: Good hiking boots are a must. Windproof clothing is highly recommended. Sunglasses also.
The hike starts at the train station in Altenberg e.g., leads through the upper town (not toward the skilift), then over fields to the mountain. The ascent to the top is quite steep and often slippery - think snow and ice. I continued with the trail down to the town Geising (train station), south-facing and sunny, conditions better there (no ice, but snow). There are also other trails that lead to Bärenstein e.g. or the train stop "Hartmannmühle".
The trails are well marked and the host of the mountain hut does a good job maintaining/grooming them. For example, the trail down to Geising was freshly groomed that morning.
Written Apr 13, 2013
Another favourite area of mine for cross-country skiing is from Altenberg and the Kahleberg plateau north toward Schellerhau. You can start again in Altenberg vis-a-vis the train station, follow the trail toward Kahleberg first (pic 1) - if you want you can make the detour all the way to the Kahleberg top viewing point - and turn right (marked and signposted) toward Schellerhau.
You pass the sanatorium "Raupennest" with public spa (highly recommended!) and restaurant, see the frozen Galgenteich lakes, follow the trail that winds through the forest (pic 2) until it runs over meadows along the mountain crest that stretches to the north (pic 3, view back to Kahleberg, and pic 4), Schellerhau village spread on the eastern slope half way up. Be prepared it can be windy on that crest, trees are scarce there. In return it is very sunny (weather permitting) - the upside is you can enjoy the sun during a rest on the many wooden benches along the way, the downside is that the snow quality suffers in late winter.
The daily groomed trail ends at the top station of the skilift Schellerhau, a short minor street leads down to the centre with bus stop, hotel/restaurant, cafe and parish church. From there a trail to Bärenfels continues, this trail is only occasionally groomed. I wouldn't recommend it for beginners - it has two a bit more challenging parts downhill through the woods (pic 5, end of trail) and they are not easy to manage if the conditions are not perfect. For me it is a *must*, though, since my favourite restaurant in the area is in Bärenfels - see restaurant tip "Gasthof Bärenfels".
Written Mar 17, 2013
The most popular cross-country skiing area is the region around the Kahleberg plateau. Reason is that it is easily accessible from Altenberg, Zinnwald or Rehefeld (parking in each, bus stops, train station in Altenberg), the trail network is very dense, and it is very snow reliable.
The best starting point is IMO in Altenberg, vis-a-vis the train station (and 100 m from the big parking at the skilift, fee!) See pic 1! From there the trail slowly ascends toward Kahleberg. I personally prefer to ski in direction Zinnwald first (left trail on pic 2), then head down to Rehefeld if time allows, or go straight to the top of Kahleberg (view back to Zinnwald on pic 3). The detour to Rehefeld is somewhat strenuous as it has the lowest elevation in this area - 700 m. This means the ascent to Kahleberg can be a challenge for skiers that are not in best shape.
Between Zinnwald and Kahleberg is the Biathlon training centre for the professionals (pic 4), you will ski right by it.
The trail back to Altenberg is all downhill, but not steep at all, so it's a pleasant end of the trip.
Written Mar 17, 2013
The region around Altenberg (as the Erzgebirge in general) is heaven for cross-country skiers. Since the peaks rise only approx. 100 m above the plateau with the villages, and the valleys are not too deep the trails are mostly flat, ascents and descents are not too hard to manage.
The elevation of 700 - 900 m and the very eastern location in Germany make the Altenberg region very snow reliable. As long as I can remember - with the exception of the mid 1990s maybe - there has always been enough snow for cross-country skiing from mid Dec through mid March. In 2006 e.g. we had an average snow depth of 3 - 4 ft.
They groom more than 100 km cross-country skiing tracks in the area. In addition, the locals draw their own trails on remote paths in the forests and across fields; you can use those as well. The most popular trails are southwest of Altenberg towards Zinnwald and Rehefeld around the Kahleberg mountain, where you also find the trails for the professionals (German Biathlon centre). But there are also tracks groomed southeast of Altenberg in the direction Geising, north/northwest to Schellerhau and Oberbärenburg. From Rehefeld the tracks extend further west toward Frauenstein and Holzhau. Of course there are links to the cross-country tracks on the Czech side of the Erzgebirge, too. If you want you can even do a multi-day tour along the main crest of the mountains, following the German/Czech border, and end up in the Vogtland region (Schöneck).
No charge for using cross-country skiing trails. Tracks are well marked and signposted. A special map is available at the tourist information (in the train station Altenberg) and at hotels for 1.50 Euro.
Equipment: You can rent equipment in every town and village. I prefer to bring my own.
Updated Mar 17, 2013
If you're not into x-country skiing or any other more or less challenging activities you can just walk or hike. The local authorities use to groom plenty of trails for hikers. Just make sure you don't walk on x-country trails - they (especially skating trails) look inviting ... but you will definitely get annyed looks from the x-country skiers.
Again, the best area is between Altenberg, Zinnwald and Rehefeld. However, Schellerhau, Oberbärenburg/Waldidylle also offer hiking trails with little elevation difference. Trails are marked and signposted, no chance to get lost :-)
Buses or the train take you back to the starting point if you're too tired.
Equipment: Warm clothes and boots. A map. I prefer to take a backpack with a thermos bottle filled with hot tea.
Updated May 28, 2012
Please don't expect dimensions as in the Alps! The region around Altenberg doesn't satisfy the downhill skiing cracks ... it is good for beginners, families and for a day or two good for intermediates. I mentioned previsouly that peaks do not rise up high above the plateaus and the valleys are not too deep - so the elevation difference is not really much.
There are skilifts in Altenberg (2), Geising (2), Hermsdorf (1), Schellerhau (1), Oberbärenburg (1). The most popular and extensive downhill skiing is in Rehefeld, about 7 km west of Altenberg. They have a chair-lift and two small skilifts.
Most runs are not longer than 600 m. Prices for lift tickets are inexpensive, though. You must calculate 6 Euro for a 4-hour-ticket and 10 or 12 Euro for a day.
For more challenging and extensive ski resorts have a look at Oberwiesenthal, further west in the Erzgebirge, or the Bournak in the neighbouring Czech Rep. only a few km from Rehefeld (border crossing station for cars).
Equipment: You can rent equipment in the towns, but I prefer to bring my own.
Written Feb 19, 2006