Crocus at the Koralm. Copyright by Robert Erhart.

Out into nature - but properly!

The first spring flowers are blooming and with them the hope for an early relaxation of the Corona measures. The past few months have probably not been easy for anyone. Home office, distance learning, predominantly digital communication - a lot of time spent at home and in front of screens. As we saw last year, this is an ideal breeding ground. A breeding ground for desire... for freedom, self-determination, real experiences. So it's no wonder that more and more people are drawn to exactly where they can find that: in nature.

The fact that there are more and more of them is not only proven by the statistics of the Austrian Alpine Association, which now has over 600,000 members. Reports from long-time hut keepers and mountain rescue staff also confirm this trend. A trend that is gratifying from a personal and health policy perspective: (Mountain) sports have been proven to strengthen the cardiovascular and immune systems and contribute to psychological stability. It is not uncommon for outdoor enthusiasts to report almost magical moments of self-efficacy and refilled energy tanks afterwards that give strength and motivation for the challenges of daily life. Therefore, all those who have not (yet) made this experience can only be suggested: seek and find your "ways into the outdoors"!

Freedom in the Mountains. Copyright by Norbert Freudenthaler.

Feeling of freedom in the mountains by Norbert Freudenthaler.

Ways outdoors - with responsibility and respect

A motto to which the Alpine Club has dedicated itself. But there is more to this being outdoors, this being free, than the pursuit of individual moments of happiness:

"Freedom consists in being able to do anything that does not harm another," the German lyricist Matthias Claudius already stated over 200 years ago. Or Albert Camus even more radically: "Freedom consists first and foremost not of privileges, but of duties".

It is important to keep this in mind for one's own (post-)activity in (mountain) nature. The increase in recreationists described above also brings problems with it: parked driveways, carelessly discarded trash, hay barns used as toilets, disregarded restricted areas - this leads to trouble for landowners, hunters and damages ecosystems. Again and again, demands are made to permanently exclude people from certain regions. The alpine associations see themselves as guardians of the freedom of the trails and representatives of the interests of mountain sports enthusiasts, which is why they resist such demands. Nevertheless, it is also a great concern for them to contribute to a conflict-free coexistence and to motivate people to behave in a nature-friendly way.

The imposing alpine ibex enjoys the peace and quiet. Copyright by Felix Mittermeier.

The mountains are the living room of wild animals that like to enjoy their peace and quiet - let's behave like respectful guests. Photo by Felix Mittermeier.

Where to pay attention to?

Enjoy the beautiful scenery and take care of yourself and your environment. The most important things in a nutshell:

  • Travel as environmentally friendly as possible: Use public transportation or carpool, take multi-day trips instead of several day trips.
  • Observe signs and restricted areas
  • Respect private property
  • Stay on marked trails
  • Take garbage back with you
  • Observe wild animals only from a distance, do not scare and do not corner them
  • Keep dogs on a leash
  • Avoid noise - it works better in small groups than in large ones.
  • Educate yourself - because you can only protect what you know.

Sustainable education - sustainable handling

The Alpine Club Academy, which has been a bearer of the Austrian Ecolabel since the beginning of 2021, focuses precisely on this last point. Its mission is to provide all interested parties, and especially the more than 20,000 functionaries of the Alpine Club, with comprehensive training opportunities. In around 400 courses per year, participants can improve and pass on their skills in the areas of mountain sports, youth and cultural work and in alpine nature and environmental protection.
To the website of the Alpine Club Academy:

Discovery of the plant world. Copyright by Heli Düringer.

The Alpine Club Academy has a wide range of programs for mountain and nature enthusiasts. Photo by Heli Düringer.

The Austrian Alpine Club is not only the largest mountain sports association and the largest youth organization in Austria, but also one of the most important nature and environmental protection organizations as the "advocate of the Alps", which has a say in major approval procedures in the Alpine region.

Many thanks to the author: Benjamin Stern, Alpenverein Academy, 2021.