Are alpine skiing (snowboarding) and cross-country skiing allowed in forests?

Impressions of the National Park Gesäuse
Photo: Nationalpark Gesäuse / Stefan Leitner

In the area of lift facilities (e.g. cable cars) alpine skiing in forests is only permitted on marked pistes or ski routes.

According to § 33 para. (1) of the Austrian Forest Act 1975 anyone may enter the forest for recreational purposes and spend some time there, except in

  • forest areas for which the authority has ordered a prohibition of entry;
  • forest areas with operational facilities;
  • re-afforestation areas and new afforested areas where plant growth has not yet achieved a height of 3 metres;
  • forest areas which are according to § 33 of the Forest Act temporarily or permanently excluded (banned) from use for recreational purposes by the owner of the forest.

Such bans must be indicated by means of information signs to be put up in locations where public roads and paths, marked paths, freight paths and forest roads as well as marked ski routes, pistes and cross-country skiing trails go into the banned area or are immediately adjacent to it.

In the case of temporary closure, the beginning and end of the closure must be indicated on or below the notice board. If hazards are to be expected from forestry work, special reference must be made to this on the information boards.

Skiing in forests
In the area of ascending aids (e.g. cable cars) alpine skiing is permitted on marked slopes or ski routes (e.g. cable cars) only. According to the legislative materials (National Council Committee Report 285 Coll. NR XVII GP), the ‘area of ascending aids‘ is defined as the area that can be reached from the top station of a lift facility without having to accept a thirty-minute walk, and in any case an area of 500 metres on both sides of the lift facility, piste or marked ski slope.

Outside the aforementioned area, skiing or snowboarding is equal to entering a forest and is therefore generally permitted in forests provided that the necessary care is taken. It is important to note, however, that, as has been mentioned above, new afforested or re-afforested areas with vegetation of less than 3 metres in height are excluded from the right of entry and therefore must not be used for skiing (snowboarding) either. This ban does not require any marking.

Cross-country skiing in forests
Cross-country skiing outside marked courses is permitted provided that the necessary care is taken. The above-mentioned prohibitions of use, such as the prohibition of skiing in new afforested or re-afforested areas with vegetation of less than 3 metres in height, also apply to cross-country skiing.

However, the use of forests beyond this, such as laying route markers and using those routes, is subject to the consent of the forest owner.

Is skiing or snowboarding permitted in protective forests?
Yes, subject to the above-described rules for "Skiing in forests", but when using protective forests special care must be taken in order not to damage the vegetation.

Use of forest roads
As forest roads are considered forest, the use of forest roads for alpine skiing, snowboarding or cross-country skiing is permitted to the extent outlined above. The use of forest roads (also if there is snow), for example with motor vehicles, requires the consent of the person responsible for maintaining the forest road.

Administrative offences and penalties
Anyone using a forest in the area of ascending aids outside marked pistes or ski routes commits an administrative offence which shall be punished by a fine of up to 730 or arrest for up to one week (§ 174 para. (3) lit. e ForstG).

In addition, also using a forest area whose use is prohibited (such as the aforementioned re-afforested areas or new afforested areas) and using a forest area without exercising the necessary care constitute offences (§ 174 para. (3) lit. a). Such administrative offences shall be punished by a fine of up to 150.

Federal Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry, Regions and Water Management
Directorate III/2 - Forest Legislation, Legal Policy and Vocational Qualification
Marxergasse 2
1030 Vienna
Director Mag. Katharina Kaiser
Phone: +43 1 711 00 - 606681

Legal basis
• Forest Act 1975, Federal Law Gazette No  440, as last amended by Federal Law Gazette I No 56/2016 "RIS".

Further information on the internet
• Forest Act 1975 in the legal information system of the Federal Government (RIS) under /Bundesrecht - see “Forstgesetz