Become a ripper on the slopes at Edelweiss Lodge & Resort

For more than 70 years, American servicemembers have vacationed in Garmisch-Partenkirchen, Germany, at the Armed Forces Recreation Center Resort, now known as Edelweiss Lodge and Resort.

Situated under soaring Bavarian peaks, the resort touts itself as the perfect place for servicemembers to clear their minds in fresh mountain air and enjoy their families before or after difficult deployments.

According to the resort, Edelweiss operates the only accredited Professional Ski Instructors of America ski and snowboard school outside the continental United States. Every year, it provides ski and snowboard rental equipment, instruction and lift tickets to more than 6,000 servicemembers and their families. Skiing and snowboarding instruction is available for ages 5 and up.

“The best way to learn to ski or snowboard is to participate in our weeklong snow sports instruction week,” said Leigh Plowman, ski school director. “Getting personal attention from the instructor, you will really be able to progress quickly and confidently navigate the mountain by the end of the week.”

Edelweiss is surrounded by more than 400 mountain peaks soaring almost 3,000 meters (about 10,000 feet) high and boasts 203 kilometers (about 126 miles) of prepared slopes and 33 ski lifts. However, skiing is not the only thing to do during the winter at the resort. It also offers guided tours in English to the top sightseeing destinations in the area, such as Innsbruck, Austria; Munich; and Bavaria’s Neuschwanstein Castle and Linderhof Palace. The resort recommends a soak in its giant outdoor hot tub and a hearty steak dinner at the restaurant following a day of energetic sightseeing.

Make reservations at the resort’s website, www.EdelweissLodgeandResort.com. Or follow Edelweiss on www.facebook.com/edelweissresort.

Time to hit the Paris sales

Fashion-conscious bargain hunters, sharpen your elbows: the Paris winter sales are underway. Over a six-week period running through Feb. 16 in 2016, stores throughout the capital (and other French cities as well) offer drastically reduced prices. Discounts of 70% or more are not unheard of during these legally regulated sales periods that are held twice a year, in both the winter and summer months. It’s not only the large department stores that offer sales, nor are the bargains confined to clothing. Boutiques, designer outlets, shops for electronics and housewares, and other retail establishments all use this period to shift stock.

There are different advantages to shopping throughout the life cycle of the “soldes.” During the first weeks, the choice of items and sizes is greatest, but as the sales progress, prices are slashed yet further. As the end of the sale period looms, the range of styles and sizes is obviously greatly reduced.

Travel fairs for destination inspiration

Many avid travelers find pleasure in not only the trip itself but also in its planning. Would-be tourists and dreamers alike can use the upcoming weekends, when festivals and events remain thin on the ground, to gain vacation inspiration by attending a travel fair.

Often held at a city’s congress center or trade fair premises, these events bring tourist board representatives from countries or regions, tour operators, travel agents and other players under a single roof where they present their destinations or services to an eager public. Subsections of a fair will sometimes highlight specific activities such as cruising, cycling tours or golf holidays. To bring cultures or experiences to life, live music, dance performances or tastings of local specialties are sometimes offered. At the very least, attendees can return home well-armed with glossy brochures – and those who come ready to purchase a trip on-site might net themselves a bargain price.

New Year’s unique welcome in Interlaken

The picturesque mountain resort town of Interlaken, Switzerland celebrates the New Year with the Harder-Potschete, a festival with ancient and mysterious roots.

In the days when Interlaken was governed by a monastery, young men wearing masks would take to the streets Jan. 2 to demand bread, wine and money from their rulers. The tradition stemmed from a cult of the dead, with the masks representing the deceased, who would be pacified by these offerings. The monastery witnessed a decline in its power around the 16th century, and commemorations took on a darker tone. Masked youths would engage in violent fistfights with boys from the nearby town of Unterseen. In 1956, the residents of the two towns gave the date a welcome revamp by invoking the legend of the Hardermaennli, which tells of a monk who molested a young girl as she was gathering wood in the forest. To save herself from dishonor, the traumatized child leaped to her death from a cliff. The monk was banished and condemned to witness the scene of his crime for a thousand years. Thus was the modern incarnation of the Harder-Potschete born.

New Year’s markets

A handful of German cities keep their Christmas markets going past Dec. 25; others rise again in the guise of New Year’s markets. Here are a few to check out:

• Baden-Baden: City center, Kurhaus, 11 a.m. to 9 a.m. through Dec. 30.
• Berlin: WeihnachtsZauber, Gendarmenmarkt, 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. daily through Dec. 31; 1 euro admission fee (about $1.10).
• Kaiserslautern: Silvestermarkt, pedestrian zone near Stiftskirche, Dec. 27-30.
• Mannheim: Silvestermarkt, Kapuzinerplanken, from 11 a.m. daily Dec. 28-31.
• Speyer: Silvestermarkt, pedestrian zone, from 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. daily Dec. 27-30 and Jan. 2-6. Hours of operation on Dec. 31 are from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m.; on Jan. 1, hours are 1 p.m. to 9 p.m. Jan. 1.
• Triberg: The spirit of the season comes alive in the heart of the Black Forest, with thousands of twinkling lights, fire shows, concerts, food and drink stalls, and activities for children. Weihnachtszauber is open from 3 p.m. to 9 p.m. daily through Dec. 30. Adult entry is 14 euros (about $15); ages 9-16 pay 11 euros; kids 8 and under enter free. Learn more at triberger-weihnachtszauber.com.
If you’re in Italy, count yourself lucky, where many Christmas markets remain open through Epiphany, on Jan. 6. The date’s a big deal in the country, as the good witch La Befana arrives on its eve, delivering toys and treats to all good children. Many markets worth a look are found in South Tyrol, including those in Bozen/Bolsano, Brixen/Bressanone, Bruneck/Brunico, Meran/Merano, Sterzing/Vipiteno; in the province of Trentino, markets in Trento and Rovereto are also good bets.

Pre-New Year outings

Kids are home on school vacation, or maybe a relative or two are visiting, and you’re all suffering from cabin fever. The following activities might perk up a drab day off before the New Year hubbub.

• Modave Castle, Belgium: The well-appointed rooms of the chateau are done up to remind visitors of scenes from more than 20 classic films. The seasonal outdoor decor of the castle adds to the ambiance. Open daily from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. through Jan. 3; adults 8.50 euros (about $9.20), ages 6-12, 2 euros. Details at http://tinyurl.com/phkbjy8

• Garmisch-Partenkirchen, Germany: The city’s annual biathlon, which takes place in the festively decorated city center, offers the chance to see top athletes in action at close range. This year’s edition unfolds Dec. 27. Junior races are held from 4:30 p.m.; the main races begin at 6:15 p.m. and are followed by the awarding of prizes to the winners and a fireworks display in front of the Spielbank. Learn more at http://tinyurl.com/oq37qrk

Dogs in Brussels

Love dogs of all descriptions? Some 300 breeds await discovery this weekend at The Brussels Dog Show. The show is organized under the auspices of the Fédération Cynologique Internationale (FCI), also known as the World Canine Organization, a body which governs international dog shows throughout much of Europe and around world.

Up for grabs at Belgium’s biggest international dog show are titles in the International Beauty Champion and Benelux Winner, along with qualification for Crufts, the world’s largest dog show. Five groups of dogs as classified by the FCI are judged each day. Dec. 19 is devoted to Groups 2 (pinschers, schnauzers, Swiss Mountain and cattle dogs) 3 (terriers) 4 (daschunds) 7 (pointing dogs) and 8 (retrievers, flushing dogs and water dogs). Dec. 20 showcases Groups 1 (sheepdogs) 5 (Spitz and the primitive types) 6 (scent hounds and related breeds) 9 (companion and toy dogs) and 10 (sighthounds).

Europe's capital cities set to ring in New Year's Eve

There’s no place like home for the holidays, but when greeting the New Year, many prefer anything but their own living rooms. Countless cities manage to draw crowds without offering any special events, while others put on elaborately orchestrated affairs.

Here are five capital cities where they really know how to throw a party for New Year's Eve.

Horses in Frankfurt

The world’s equestrian elite meet at the Festhallen Reitturnier through the weekend.

Competitors hailing from some 20 nations face off in the disciplines of international jumping and dressage. The event also includes shows and some 100 exhibitor stands offering gifts for the horse lover in the family.



About the Author

Karen Bradbury has lived and worked in Europe for more than 15 years. She has called Moscow, Copenhagen, Rome and now a small wine-producing village along the Rhine in Germany home. When she's not working, whatever the season, she's probably traveling.

Email: news@stripes.com