Watching Sport Events in Austria
Not every tourist in Austria has to be keen to do hiking, skiing or any other sport by himself. There are plenty of occasions where you can enjoy first class sport events as a spectator without working out yourself. For a peculiar local sport, ask the local tourist information office about competitions in "Fingerhakeln":
Two men, usually dressed in Lederhosen, sit face to face by a table and try to pull the opponent over - using only one finger. Today, the fingers are usually connected with a leather ring. Fingerhakeln has formal competitions and even leagues, but it is no sport in the strict sense. The most famous ski jump competition is the "Vierschanzentournee", which takes place on four different venues in Austria and Bavaria: Oberstdorf (29th or 30th of December), Garmisch-Partenkirchen (1st of January), Innsbruck (3rd or 4th of January) and Bischofshofen in Salzburg (6th or 7th of January).
All four competitions are part of the ski jumping world cup and held annually since 2005. They are not only among the most prestigious ski jumping competitions, but also among Austria′s most popular sport events. Usually vast amounts of people follow it and the atmosphere only is said to justify going there.
Slalom, Downhill & Formula-1
January is also a good time to follow the World Cup in downhill and slalom. They are held Schladming, St. Anton and Kitzbühel in Vorarlberg and Tyrol. All three of these places rank among Austria′s most legendary skiing towns. The most famous one is the "Hahnenkammrennen" in Kitzbühel, which is held in mid-January for women and in late January for men. Similar to the Cambridge-Oxford boatrace, nobody cares about the women′s competition. So if people talk about THE Hahnenkammrennen, they mean the men′s race.
One thing you can′t watch any more are Formula-1 car races. As the "grand prix of Austria", 26 races were held in Zeltweg and later Spielberg in Styria, not far from Leibnitz. The race court was built in 1969 and closed in 1987. Later, it was refurbished in the mid-1990ies and between 1997 and 2003, another series of Formula-1 races were held here. In 2004, the site was sold to the founder of Red Bull, Dietrich Mateschitz.
He presented ambitious plans to build a massive racing centre with state-of-the-art facilities and an associated racing academy. After the construction work had already started, the project was formally not granted permission by the province of Styria due to environmental considerations. Until today, the fate of the racing court is unclear.
Other sports that you might want to follow from the spectator′s point of view might be competitions in Alpine winter sports, golf, cycling competitions, horse races or traditional sports. Every province in Austria has its own tourist information service and I recommend to ask there for up-to-date information.