INNSBRUCK: THE PERFECT CITY + SKI DESTINATION
9th December 2019 | James Cove, Innsbruck
Last modified on December 18th, 2019
PlanetSKI has just been in the capital of the Alps enjoung the city and skiing some nearby ski resorts. All on a new pass.
If there is a better place for a city and ski break in the Alps then I don’t know it.
Here was the view from my hotel window as I threw open the curtains on Day One of my 48-hour December visit.
And then by mid-morning I had sorted out ski pass/ski rental and I was at the top of the glacier resort of Stubai.
One of the highest lift accessed points in the Austrian Alps.
And to get there all I had to do was follow this road for 40-minutes or so.
No great hardship.
And then it was all day on slopes like these.
Perhaps the best in the Alps in my personal opinion.
Innsbruck in the Tirol is not known as The Capital of the Alps, for no reason.
We posted about the concept earlier in the summer as the new initiative was launched.
We will be going into further detail about what is on offer later in the week as we sample city and ski, but in the meantime check out this earlier PlanetSKI article with full details.
And while we are skiing the glacier slopes of Stubai there is another new initiative for this winter from the Tirol that we are sampling.
See more on the Ski Challenge here:
So, what other resorts are on the City and Ski pass?
Axamer Lizum, Schlick 2000, Kuhtai, Hochoetz, Muttereralm, Bergeralm, Nordkette, Serles, Elfer, Patscherkofel, Oberperfuss and Glungezer.
Kuhtai is our next port of call.
Now I should declare an interest as Innsbruck was my home for three and a half months last winter.
On arrival on this visit I had a quick peek at the riverside area I lived in.
I skied some of the lesser known resorts on the new City + Ski pass last winter as I tried to avoid the half term crowds.
Check out the details of some of the others here:
PlanetSKI’s Chief Alpine Xmas Market Corresondent (AKA Mrs Cove) took to the steets for a spot of Xmas shopping.
Crammed with action and activities.
I prefer the latter (especially as I wa sonly here for 48-hours) so I was once again up early, just as the sun touched the top of the mountains overlooking Innsbruck.
Another day another dawn.
First up was a ride up to Seegrube, 1,905m, to the mountains overlooking Innsbruck.
It starts with a short furnicular ride from the centre of the city to Hungerburg, 860m.
The funicular, with futuristic stations, was designed by the architect Zaha Hadid.
It is a toursit attraction in its own right.
The views here were stunning as the sun crept over the mountain tops.
But the next stage, the cable car to Seegrube, 1,905m, is simply stunning.
Especially as most people were probably having their breakfast and I had the place to myself.
And at the top is the small but perfectly formed ski resort of Nordkette.
It is closed at the moment but will open before Xmas.
I have skied here many times.
The run down under the top cable car will certainly get your adrenaline flowing and knees shaking.
It is seriously steep.
But this morning as the clocks struck 9 O’Clock it was a time to simply drink in the views over Innsbruck.
And consider the history of the city.
Now if you like your history read on, and if you don’t then you may want to scroll down a bit.
Traces of stoneage man have been found in the valley and in the 4th century the Romans established it as a military base.
The Counts of Andechs acquired the town in 1180.
In 1248 the town passed into the hands of the Counts of Tyrol.
The city’s coat of arms dates back to 1267.
Innsbruck expanded as a city due to the trade route over the Brenner Pass into Italy and southern Europe.
That’s the route to the Brenner Pass ahead.
A medieval imperial road was constructed and the revenues generated by Innsbruck being the start of finishing point allowed the city to flourish.
Innsbruck became the capital of all Tirol in 1429 and in the 15th century the city became a centre of European politics and culture as Emperor Maximilian I lived in Innsbruck in the 1490s.
More of Maximilian I later as we visited his tomb on our City + Ski break.
In 1564 Ferdinand II, Archduke of Austria , received rulership over the Tirol and the subsequent Archdukes administered Innsbruck up to the 18th century.
Ferdinand II built Schloss Ambras, another site on the City & Ski Pass that we have visited.
Not on this trip, but an earlier one.
I would have liked to stay longer overlooking the city, but I had some serious city siteseeing down below before an afternoon of skiing.
I felt the need to go an explore some of the city on foot.
The City and Ski Pass gives access to a host of attractions in the city.
The aforementioned Maximiliam I’s tomb in Hofkirch is a must see:
Then if you like your bells don’t miss out on Grassmayr on the edge of the city.
It started making bells in 1599 and its bells ring out in over 100 countries across the world.
Its oldest bell still rings in Italy and was cast in 1636.
Grassmayr is the oldest family business in Austria with 11 generations having run it and it remains a working factory.
But I felt a stronger urge.
The ski part of the day.
It’s mid-day and Kuhtai here I come.
And after the tourist hotspots in Innsbruck of the morning (see below) it was time to hit the slopes of one of the 13 resorts on the City + Ski Pass.
Step forward Kuhtai.
Like Stubai that I report on lower down this article it is just a short drive away from the city centre of Innsbruck.
And with the fresh snow dripping off the tress I could think of no finer way to spend an afternoon after the siteseeing.
We cruised the slopes.
And like in Stubai it was an opportunity to do one of the Ten Tirol Ski Challenges.
This was a tricky one.
I had to sample some typical Tirolean food.
Honestly the suffering I put myself through in the mountains.
A pit stop at the appropriately named Kaiser Maximilian Hutte.
What better than a Kaiserschmarrn to round off my day and complete another Tirolean Challenge.
It is perhaps the most typical Tirolean fare of them all.
I approached it with gusto.
Now who wants to know the story behind the Kaiserschmarrn?
As legend has it the Austrian Emperor Francis Joseph I (1830-1916) and his wife were traveling through the Alps and stopped by a farmer’s home for lunch.
The farmer’s wife was so nervous that she threw all the fanciest ingredients she could muster into a pan to make a pancake for their royal visitors.
However because of nervousness and shaky hands she scrambled the pancake.
Hoping to cover up the mess she then covered it with jam.
Luckily, the Kaiser thought it was scrumptious.
A national dish was born.
Er, not a bit of it.
It was time to hit the city again…..
The Christmas Markets were in full swing, but I decided to just wander the streets catch a few sights (beers) and soak up the pre-Xmas atmosphere.
Now I have seen some strange things in Austria in my time.
One is the somewhat surreal Hannibal event that takes place in Soelden every couple of years.
I popped in to see the spectacle last winter as piste bashers pretend to be elephants with all sorts of pyrotechnics going on.
But what was on offer in the inner courtyard of the Imperial Palace in Innsbruck, the Hofburg, took things to another level.
Billed as ‘The Light Show Mountain Magic’ it transforms the huge interior courtyard walls into a giant screen measuring more than 1,300 square meters for what is described as ‘in part surreal and in part dream like’.
It was like nothing I had seen.
From marine life:
To crumbling castles:
To marmots dancing and going full on pschedelic:
And after the psychedelic finale it was time to get back to some Innsbruck history at the other end of the scale.
A look at the churches.
And what’s that tower there?
Accesible on my City + Ski pass: the 15th centry bell tower, Stadtturm, that has acted as a lookout station, a prison and now a tourist viewing platform.
I headed up the tower for a birds eye of the evening proceedings in my favourite city in the Alps.
I puffied my way up the 133 steps to the top.
Then peered down.
What on earth was going on at the foot of the Golden Roof?
I am happy to report that PlanetSKI’s Chief Alpine Xmas Market Correspondent happened to be at ground level for the action.
Just another night in the city of Innsbruck: City + Ski…
And as I looked back on my day I am scratching my head to think of a better and more interesting all round day out in the Alps.
Nope, nothing comes immediately to mind.
And then I tried to think of a better place for a City + Ski trip.
Nowhere came to mind.
WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW:
All destinations are connected through a comprehensive bus network.
Passes can be bought online and redeemed either at the first ski resort or cultural event visited.
Passes are valid from 2 to 21 days and must be used on consecutive days or forfeited.
For example a suggested 72 hour trip could include:
Day 1: Daytime skiing on the Stubai Glacier followed by an evening swim and relaxation in the StuBay.
Day 2: Morning at Ambras Castle, afternoon skiing at Axamer Lizum and an evening sledging on the Elfer.
Day 3: Morning at Swarovski Crystal World, midday Innsbruck museum tour, and afternoon swim in Axams.
A standard adult 3 day pass for Stubai only, is 144€ while a 3 day adult SKI plus CITY pass is 153€ .
Children up to 8 years go for free.
The finer detail of the pass:
13 ski resorts included: Stubai Glacier, Axamer Lizum, Schlick 2000 Ski Centre, Kühtai, Hochoetz, Muttereralm, Bergeralm, the Innsbruck Nordkettenbahnen, Serlesbahnen, Elferbahnen, Patscherkoferbahn, Oberperlfuss – Rangger Köpfl and Glungezerbahn.
22 lifestyle, cultural and sightseeing attractions included / one-time admission:â€¨ Alpenzoo, Hofburg Imperial Palace Innsbruck, Stadtturm, Swarovski Crystal Worlds, Goldenes Dachl Museum, Innsbruck City Archives, Innsbruck Folk Art Museum, the Court Church, Tyrolian State Musuem Ferdinan- deum, Armoury Museum, Tyrol Panorama with Kaiserjägermuseum, Bergisel ski jump stadium, Anatomical Museum, Grassmayr Bell Museum and Bell Foundry, Tyrol Cable Car Museum, Ambras Castle Innsbruck, Audioversum Science Centre, Taxispalais Art Gallery Tyrol, Hasegg Castle, Mint Tower, Per Pedes City Tours (1 tour), Die Börse bicycle hire (3 hours), ice skating – Olympiaworld Innsbruck
3 indoor swimming pools included: Neustift leisure centre, StuBay sauna and bathing (one-time admission to the swimming pool for a max. period of 4 hours), Axams leisure centre (one-time admission to the swimming pool for a maximum period of 4 hours).
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