Taking it to Extremes at Area 47
A Crazy Adventure Park in Austria’s Tirol
Is this the Ultimate Outdoor Adventure Park in Austria or perhaps in Europe? Extreme adventure in a safe environment with added blobbing and a water slide or five. Area 47 in the Austrian Tirol takes serious outdoor challenges and mixes them up with madcap sports, inventions and adventures. Area 47 and Visit Tirol invited our teenagers to try out some adrenaline filled activities during our stay in the Ötztal Valley. Talk about taking it to extremes…
Fired from a Water Cannon
I have done many things as a parent but watching my child being shot out of a water cannon isn’t one of them. Until now. Although when I say watching, I can’t actually see him; he has completely disappeared in the blast of water. After he has been dumped headfirst in the lake Cameron swims back with a dazed look on his face that I haven’t seen before. Since an early age he has always been able to vault, climb or fly across anything without too much trouble. Have I finally found a sport that scares him? Watch this video and find out what it’s like to be a human cannon ball.
Close up with nature
It’s been a day of being out of my comfort zone as a parent. Earlier I watched Hannah disappear under white water multiple times as we careered together down a canyon; slipping and sliding down naturally formed curves and drops in the sheer rock, and plunging into pools. Coughing as the cold water found its way into our bodies, going under and coming up again. This is as close to nature as you can get. Yet it is only a bus ride from hundreds of other people plunging and diving and blobbing.
Close up with a blob
Yes I said blobbing. The art of flying off an inflatable cushion. Area 47 adventure waterpark in Ötztal, has the only fixed blobbing facility in Austria. Check out this video to see how it works.
Blobbing? What’s that?
Blobbing isn’t exactly an Olympic sport – it’s more of a 30 second thrill. But it’s certainly a spectator sport – positioned right next to the Lakeside Restaurant at Area 47. Once a year in July there’s even a show where the best extreme blobbers in the country perform. The place is always packed out and the record so far is 27 metres. Now imagine trying to bounce someone 27 metres into the air from a cushion.
One man’s vision for an Adventure Park Austria
It wasn’t always as busy as this. Area 47 began in 2010 with one man and his raft. Hani Nauner started the first tourist rafting experiences in Tirol but soon he wanted to go further and open outdoor adventure and extreme sports up to both his party loving friends and people who wouldn’t normally do them. And to offer them to everyone, no matter what their ability. So in the late 1980’s when canyoning became fashionable in France he started it in Austria. And then he built some accommodation to go with it. And a water park.
Hani Nauner died before he had the chance to see his vision completed. But the park and its ethos lived on and Area 47 continues to grow and develop. It is now a premier adventure park in Austria. A 19,000 square metre Wake Boarding lake opened last year, (with knee boards for beginners and kids), the biggest in Austria. And in the last few weeks a giant water ramp appeared. The park has always asked for input and advice from the local outdoor community and Marketing Manager Susanne Schilcher tells me how the ramp came about.
“The local free-skiers came to him and said ‘OK we are looking for a new training facility in summer.’ And he thought yes it fits the concept. It’s outdoor. It’s crazy. It’s freestyle. So they built it and then said OK what do we do with our normal guests?”
The answer to this was to shoot them down either side of the ski slope. Yes really. On one side of the ski turf people use toboggans to hurtle down into the lake, and on the other they just wear a wetsuit and fly. Sometimes they blast off the end just as someone is walking a tightrope in the middle of the lake, someone else is plunging down a near vertical slide, and a diver is falling backwards from a diving board.
A spot of cliff diving
The diving board is another story. It was put in at the request of and sponsored by the Red Bull Cliff Diving Squad who wanted to train in central Europe rather than coastline locations like France and Spain. The top deck is a jaw dropping 27 metres and reserved strictly for professionals.
“For our customers I think it’s spectacular if they see them training,” Susanne smiles.
Are you getting the sense this park is a playground for adrenaline junkies? Then you’d be right. The guided sports are demanding and can be quite technical, depending on what level you book onto. High ropes, caving, canyoning, and white water rafting all challenge everyone from beginner to advanced (there are six levels of canyoning alone, depending on water levels.) It’s a big operation and there is a healthy demand for it. Over a thousand people are moved around each day in peak season doing overground, underground and water sports and hundreds more hit the waterpark for post tour fun and relaxation. The volume of bodies being transported can sometimes make it feel a bit production line, and it’s rare for anyone to know your name on a guided trip, but everything runs meticulously on time and it’s great value for a family.
Buy a sport and water play comes free
This park has a unique proposition – if you do an outdoor activity then you get to play around on the lake for free before or afterwards. Families are welcome, but they have to be teenage or above. The park turns away families with young kids and they haven’t put in much in the way of relaxing pools and spa facilities. The lake is unheated. There is no non swimming area or playground for little ones. The guys overseeing the pool are not run of the mill lifeguards but experienced outdoor guides. The slides are innovative (one of them is not advised for kids or women!) and the mad human water cannon was re-modelled from a prototype seen elsewhere in the world.
“The goal was to bring all the crazy new stuff here that’s nowhere else,” says Susanne.
The crazy bridge
For utter madness, look no further than the high ropes course. It dangles from a bridge 27 metres above the car park. Natural materials like trees have been used and nothing is stable; the whole course is a wobbling nightmarish test of nerves. (It’s also designed to be quickly removed in the unlikely event of a bridge emergency, a condition of planning permission.) You can even watch a truck go over it if you wait long enough. This time all three boys in the family come back white. While we have been rafting, canyoning, sliding, flying, blobbing, wake boarding and tight rope walking, none of them compare to this.
“That was crazy,” is the general consensus. Just as Area 47 intended. Job done. Come back soon.
Area 47 is in the Ötztal Valley in Austria’s Tirol. Area 47 opens the first weekend in May and closes the first weekend in October.
We stayed for three days at Area 47. You’ll need a similar amount of time if you want to do some of the adventure sports. There are various accommodation options including lodges and tipis. We stayed in the latter which cost just under €150 a night for everyone. Be warned they are basic, but that’s deliberate to encourage you to go out! There’s basically just five wooden beds and mattresses and a roof over your head. Bring your own sleeping bag. The kids were relieved to see power points and there’s wi-fi in the restaurant.
All accommodation includes a good breakfast in the price. There’s a restaurant for other meals. Portions are plentiful and the bar opens till late.
We did three bookable adventures; rafting, canyoning and high ropes. Kiddie Canyoning starts age 10. If your kids are brave and a little bit older (14 or more) they can book onto Canyoning College which follow a route down a different ravine. Hannah and I both found the canyoning quite stretching. The boys tell me Canyoning College begins with a serious abseil off a bridge into a void, just to check you’re up to it before it gets serious. The activities are intended to challenge.
Waterpark facilities are free if you book an activity. Beachball and volleyball are free too. There are lots of package deals so check out the website for current availability and prices. In peak season you’ll need to book in advance. There’s a massive range of sports including motocross and caving; something for everyone, as long as family members don’t mind a bit of adrenaline rushing around their body.
Disclosure Note: Our trip to Tirol was arranged and supported by Visit Tirol. Area 47 provided our stay at the park and a selection of activities. Thanks also to DFDS Seaways who supported our crossing to Europe between Newcastle and Holland. We provided the adrenaline, the water cannon fodder, the words, opinions, experience, photography and videography.