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Fun and excitement are never in short supply!

Fun and excitement are never in short supply!

Fun and excitement are never in short supply!

For children and teenagers, the gorges cut by the Bregenzerwald’s rivers are an adventure-rich playground. For outdoor guide Jürgen Strolz, this is his office! Here he offers canyoning tours ideal for those seeking adventure and time outdoors.

Growing up, the gorge on his doorstep was his playground. Coming home with wet shoes, however, was forbidden. With that in mind, he and fellow children in the district of Nesslegg climbed around on the banks of the torrent, built dams and swam in the ice-cold water. “The waterfall was the limit of our adventures,” says Jürgen Strolz.

Even today, the waterfall remains both his profession and his source of adventure. Jürgen lives in Schröcken, a small village just below the tree line where the road’s hairpin turns wind up the steep slopes towards the Hochtannberg pass. His father, Erich Strolz, is the former head of the Schröcken ski school. In addition to the farm in the Nesslegg district, the Strolz family of four also managed an Alpine pasture during the summer months of his youth. Jürgen’s first apprenticeship was as a carpenter: “Spending the whole day only seeing the mountains from below wasn’t for me,” Instead, Jürgen became a hiking guide, a member of the mountain rescue and ski instructor. In the mid-1990s, a friend told him about the emerging sport of canyoning, which at the time only existed in the south of France. Intrigued, Jürgen set off for the birthplace of canyoning and completed his training to become a guide. But it was only later that he realised that he had the perfect place for tours right on his own doorstep.

Jürgen Strolz’s canyoning centre is located at the “Holzschopf,” an inn with a restaurant and bar, which he opened in 1998. The entrance to the gorge is just across the road. For many years, Jürgen, 51, managed the “Holzschopf” himself, but these days the inn has been leased and is managed by someone else. “My daughter Emily is twelve years old and my son Levi is nine. When they were young, I made a conscious decision to be a father who had time for them.”

From May to September, Strolz and his team of four guide hundreds of people through the Bregenzerwald’s gorges. Prior to descending the nine waterfalls while wearing helmets, wetsuits and canyoning shoes, participants must first practice climbing and abseiling. “When they are in the waterfall, it’s important that participants know how to manage on their own.” What about the fear of heights? According to Strolz, this disappears when struggling with the torrential current that rushes down the waterfall: “Water is a tangible element, which makes height become secondary for most people.” After all, “doing it yourself” in the face of your own fears is the appeal of canyoning: “In the waterfall, you have to overcome all your fears. This adrenaline rush and the knowledge that you’ve done it give you great satisfaction.” Strolz’s job also has a lot to do with coaching: “For guides, it’s important to be a ‘people person.’ In the evening, the team is both physically and mentally exhausted. It’s not a job for introverted mountaineers.”

All tours beginning at the “Holzschopf” are customised to the needs of participants and are ideal for adults, children, teenagers, company outings, bachelor parties or school classes. It’s also an ideal experience for families. “These days, teen canyoning is a great way for parents and teenagers to bond.” Oftentimes, there are long faces at the start of the tour. After all, hiking holidays are not typically what teenagers have in mind when imagining a fun getaway. But according to Strolz, once the entire family is clipped in to the rope, the mood of young people changes abruptly: “They see that their parents are capable of things they never would have imagined. Such an experience brings family members closer together.”

Author: Babette Karner
Issue: Bregenzerwald Travel Magazine – Summer 2021

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