Freedom in the Alps

Water sizzles into steam as it hits the heated rocks, blasting up into the sauna and colouring the thick air with hints of lavender. Colin, almost in a trance, begins to wave a towel through the steam, weaving it around his body, taking long breaths in and out. It’s a hypnotising display.

I’m aware of my own breath as he begins to slow down, turns towards me and suddenly whips the towel through the air as hard as he can. I brace myself as the towel flies down inches from my face, its energy tearing apart the steam to offer a brief respite from the heaviness of the sauna. But just as quickly, the steam rushes to regroup in the small space, pressing in over my body with vigour.

It’s a drizzly evening at the beginning of June and I’m at the Forsthofalm eco-hotel in Leogang, a small village located about an hour-and-a-half outside of Salzburg in the Austrian Alps. The entire area is well known for its incredible skiing slopes, accessed through a series of villages seemingly lifted straight out of a fairy-tale.

But, instead of joining the throngs of snow-sports enthusiasts, I’ve travelled here in the off-season to experience the region’s pristine nature without

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