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AVOIDING THE CROWDS - James Cove, Innsbruck, Austria
Sunday February 17, 2019 - Email this article to a friend

The slopes can be packed in February but there is an alternative. We've been skiing some little-known resorts in the Tirol. Five in total.








All the main resorts in the Alps have been full over the past half-term week.

But there are alternatives to the crowded slopes - the key decision is 'where to go'.

Smaller resorts which are less attractive to the masses are a good option.

PlanetSKI is currently in Innsbruck in the heart of the Alps, surrounded by many big-name resorts: St Anton, Ischgl, Mayrhofen and Soelden to name a few.

Here were the slopes of Ischgl in the half-term week:

Ischgl, the Tirol, AustriaIschgl, the Tirol, Austria

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

We decided to shun the main resorts and head to the smaller ones that are all within an hour of the city.

They are also all on a single Innsbruck lift pass.

It offers 90 lifts and 300kms of runs - the same as the combined area of Tignes and Val d'Isere in France.

A 6-day pass for the Innsbruck area is €235 for an adult and €141 for a child.

One for Val d'Isere/Tignes is €294 and €234.

We did it in part to avoid the crowds, but also to check out some resorts you may not have heard of: Axamer Lizum, Patscherkofel, Muttereralm, Glungezer and Nordkette.

Thursday - Axamer Lizum

Now before I tell you about my new favourite resort I would like to point out another benefit of touring round a few random ski resorts to escape the half-term crowds.

You get a flavour of the country you are in and escape the bubble of a week-long trip to a single resort.

None of the resorts we have driven to from Innsbruck have been more than half an hour away, but we have seen some fabulous villages in the Tirol en route.

Giving a flavour of this part of the Alps.

From the alpine churches.

Goetzens, the Tirol, AustriaGoetzens, the Tirol, Austria


























(BTW that's Patschkofel in the distance that I visited the other day and is written about lower down this article).

Inside the little Tirolean churches are well worth a visit as you drive past.

Churches in the TirolChurches in the Tirol

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Churches in the TirolChurches in the Tirol

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


To the ancient buildings.

Goetzens, the Tirol, AustriaGoetzens, the Tirol, Austria

























Goetzens, the Tirol, AustriaGoetzens, the Tirol, Austria

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

And some decorated with, er, corn.

As you do in this corner of Austria


Goetzens, the Tirol, AustriaGoetzens, the Tirol, Austria































And here is the village of Axams on the way up to its ski resort of Axamer Lizum that I'm skiing today.

Axams, the Tirol, AustriaAxams, the Tirol, Austria




























And as I arrived in the resort car park it looked like a proper mountain resort, and reminded me a bit of Canada.

Axamer Lizum, the Tirol, AustriaAxamer Lizum, the Tirol, Austria



























And I LOVE skiing in Canada.

(Spoiler Alert: there's a few more Canada comparisons coming!)

Well, that's something I hadn't seen for a while.

A lift queue.

Axamer Lizum, the Tirol, AustriaAxamer Lizum, the Tirol, Austria

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

And once on the lift things look rather promising as things unfolded themselves.

It's a moment I savour - heading up the first lift in a ski a resort I have never visited before.

A blank canvas ahead.

And at the top.

If anything I had under judged things from the lift.

The terrain is simply superb - whichever way you look.

Axamer Lizum, the Tirol, AustriaAxamer Lizum, the Tirol, Austria



























Axamer Lizum, the Tirol, AustriaAxamer Lizum, the Tirol, Austria



























Axamer Lizum, the Tirol, AustriaAxamer Lizum, the Tirol, Austria




























Axamer Lizum, the Tirol, AustriaAxamer Lizum, the Tirol, Austria



























And the train close up looked even more impressive.

Axamer Lizum, the Tirol, AustriaAxamer Lizum, the Tirol, Austria



























Axamer Lizum, the Tirol, AustriaAxamer Lizum, the Tirol, Austria



























And there were surprises a-plenty.

I occasionally take pictures of restaurants, but rarely of their windows.

This one at the top of the resort is an exception as the whole of one side slides open for the sun.

Axamer Lizum, the Tirol, AustriaAxamer Lizum, the Tirol, Austria



























So, what of the skiing?

And have I mentioned the views?

Here's a 360 from the top of the long black bump run:

Little is certain in life, but as I left Axamer Lizum I knew I would be back.

And likely many times over the next few months - I have found my new favourite resort and it is about half an hour from my front door.

Axamer Lizum, the Tirol, AustriaAxamer Lizum, the Tirol, Austria



























I had barely scratched the surface of Axamer Lizum.

And have I gone about avoiding the hordes and crowds in the busy half-term week in this blog as promised?

No.

There have been other things to write about, but for the record the queue at the bottom of the first lift was the only one we saw all day long.

And so this little journey to avoid the half-term busy slopes ends.

What's next up on my 3-month residency in Innsbruck?

Well, the Freeride World Tour is taking place over the coming weekend in Fieberbrunn and I am lucky enough to have been invited along by the organisers to see the event up close and personal.

Be rude not to show my support really.

Look out for reports over the weekend...

I think the call to come and live in Innsbruck for 3-months is turning into one of my better decisons in life.

Wednesday - Muttereralm

This is turning out to be very straight forward.

Arriving in the main car park of a ski resort in the half-term week to be spoilt for choice about where to park, with free parking as well.

Muttereralm, the Tirol, AustriaMuttereralm, the Tirol, Austria



























No queues in the ski hire shop.

Muttereralm, the Tirol, AustriaMuttereralm, the Tirol, Austria



























No queues for a lift ticket if you need to buy one - we didn't as we have the Innsbruck pass as mentioned.

Muttereralm, the Tirol, AustriaMuttereralm, the Tirol, Austria

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

And just a single person ahead in the lift queue.

Muttereralm, the Tirol, AustriaMuttereralm, the Tirol, Austria
























And out on the slopes?

Yes, you've guessed it - barely a soul around and we have the slopes pretty much to ourselves.

Again.

Muttereralm, the Tirol, AustriaMuttereralm, the Tirol, Austria




























Muttereralm, the Tirol, AustriaMuttereralm, the Tirol, Austria




























The resort is aimed mainly at families with a large nursery area, covered magic carpet and some long tobogganing runs.

It goes from 950m to 1,800m.

If you want challenging skiing then head to the resorts I have already visited around Innsbruck- Nordkette, Patscherkofel and Glungezer.

But as mentioned in the video it does have a decent long red run down to the village of Goetzens.

Muttereralm, the Tirol, AustriaMuttereralm, the Tirol, Austria

























And for lunch there is no mad fight for a table or stopping early to secure a seat.

Outside or in?

Muttereralm, the Tirol, AustriaMuttereralm, the Tirol, Austria




























Muttereralm, the Tirol, AustriaMuttereralm, the Tirol, Austria



























The other great thing about skiing these little known and unfashionable resorts are the prices.

None of the rip off prices to be found in some of the mega French resorts I could mention where you need a mortgage to afford lunch.

My lunch consisted of a huge bowl of noodle soup with beef and fresh vegetables, plus a couple of slices of delicious home-made bread - it was very tasty and cost under £5.

Muttereralm, the Tirol, AustriaMuttereralm, the Tirol, Austria



























So where is next on our daily visit to the little-known resorts around Innsbruck.

It's just across the valley.

Muttereralm, the Tirol, AustriaMuttereralm, the Tirol, Austria



























Axamer Lizum....

I'm looking forward to it already.

Tuesday - Patscherkofel

The resort is a 20-minute or so drive from the city centre of Innsbruck.

It has 6 lifts, but there is only one that really counts.

Patscherkofel, the Tirol, AustriaPatscherkofel, the Tirol, Austria

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The utra-modern 10-seater Patscherkopfelbahn that was built in 2017.

It's the long one with a chink in it to the left.

And what a lift it is from its base station.

Patscherkofel, the Tirol, AustriaPatscherkofel, the Tirol, Austria

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

To its mid station.

Patscherkofel, the Tirol, AustriaPatscherkofel, the Tirol, Austria

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

And then at the top a restaurant complex worthy of any of the main and big name resorts you could care to mention.

Patscherkofel, the Tirol, AustriaPatscherkofel, the Tirol, Austria

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


In a strange way it reminded me of some of my favourite small resorts in Canada (Kicking Horse, Revelstoke, Red)  where a couple of lifts offer countless routes down.

Let's be clear, the mentioned resorts in Canada offer far, far more extensive skiing, but the ski vibe is similar.

And I like ski vibes.

After all it doesn't matter how many times you ride the same lift - what matters are the routes off it.

At the top, like Canada, there is the option to boot up or skin up another 300 vertical metres to get fresh tracks.

And the whole area is set in the trees so on a powder day this is a place I am going to head straight to.

One of our reporters, the Canadian skier Marie Taylor, would like it too.

She is currently writing a series on PlanetSKI from Les3Vallees in France comparing it to Canada and she is bemoaning the lack of tree skiing.

Not so here in Patscherkofel - get yourself here Marie!

It is also good place to illustrate just how many resorts are close to Innsbruck.

(BTW There is a little video treat for Klammer lovers at the end of this article).

And as I am primarily here to avoid the crowds I can report that by the afternoon the people had pretty much vanished.

On the Blue runs:

Patscherkofel, the Tirol, AustriaPatscherkofel, the Tirol, Austria



























The red runs:

Patscherkofel, the Tirol, AustriaPatscherkofel, the Tirol, Austria



























And the black runs.

Patscherkofel, the Tirol, AustriaPatscherkofel, the Tirol, Austria

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


If you are a nervous beginner, who doesn't like skiers whizzing past you at high-speed as you practise your snowploughs then these are the nursery slopes to learn on:

Patscherkofel, the Tirol, AustriaPatscherkofel, the Tirol, Austria



























The resort also has some great facilities from modern restaurants to some excellent shops.

There is a main Intersport store at the base station with all the latest kit.

One to rival any of those in the big name resorts.

Just without the queues and any hard-sell (and good window reflections too)

Patscherkofel, the Tirol, AustriaPatscherkofel, the Tirol, Austria
























And guess where the busiest place was all day?

The après ski bar just above the final descent.

Patscherkofel, the Tirol, AustriaPatscherkofel, the Tirol, Austria

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

It is Austria after all.

And where next on my daily excursions from Innsbruck to ski deserted slopes this packed half-term week?

Either Muttereralm or Axamer Lizum that I mentioned in the video above.

I'll just make a call in the morning depending on how I feel.

A few things are for sure - there will be space in the car park, the lift queues will be non-existent and I won't have to wait for a table for lunch.

And as promised earlier - the best downhill winning run of all time.

Period.

Accept no substitute.

The Kaiser on the slopes of Patscherkofel:


Monday - Nordkette

Unlike Glungezer that was our first resort this busy half-term week (see below) Nordkette is very familiar to me.

I have skied here several times and thoroughly recommended others to do the same.

It is a ski area with a limited amount of terrain, but what it lacks in size it more than makes up for in variety.

From nursery slopes off the magic carpet, the snowpark and the steep couloirs off the top cable car that really are only for experts.

Nordkette, the Tirol, AustriaNordkette, the Tirol, Austria

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Nordkette, the Tirol, AustriaNordkette, the Tirol, Austria

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Nordkette, the Tirol, AustriaNordkette, the Tirol, Austria

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

It goes from 860m to 2,334m - and all just 20 minutes from the city centre.

And the half-term crowds?

They were there but just not on the slopes.

Like Glungezer it is an old-fashioned resort and has similar stunning views of the Inn Valley.

Nordkette, the Tirol, AustriaNordkette, the Tirol, Austria

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Nordkette, the Tirol, AustriaNordkette, the Tirol, Austria

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Nordkette, the Tirol, AustriaNordkette, the Tirol, Austria

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Now you may be thinking it is all very well visiting these resorts but ... what about the apres ski?

It is Austria after all.

This is where Nordkette also shines - each Friday the Cloud 9 Lounge is the place to be with DJs and apres action into the evening.

Outside Cloud 9, NorketteOutside Cloud 9, Norkette

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Inside Cloud 9, NorketteInside Cloud 9, Norkette

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

So where is next on the list to visit?

The plan for Tuesday is Patscherkofel.

 

Where?

It is a gentle giant of a mountain about 15 to 20 minutes south of the city.

It has 6 lifts, 18kms of pistes and goes up to a respectable 2,248m.

It also hosted the Downhill events at the 1964 and 1976 Winter Olympic Games so there is some decent vertical.

I am going to tackle the course, and unlike many other Olympic runs, I expect there to be just a handful of people doing it this February half-term week.

Sunday - Glungezer.

It sits above the pretty village of Tulfes and is about a 20-minute drive from the city centre.

There is also a local bus to the base of the slopes.

Tulfes, the Tirol, AustriaTulfes, the Tirol, Austria

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

And here is the resort piste map.
 
Glungezer, the Tirol, AustriaGlungezer, the Tirol, Austria

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

It may not look much but looks can be deceptive.

Very deceptive.

It is an old-fashioned resort and pretty much everyone here is a local.

Though the slopes are quiet even though it is a weekend.

Glungezer, the Tirol, AustriaGlungezer, the Tirol, Austria

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

For the powder hounds of Innsbruck it is the place to come after a fresh snowfall.

A hike up to the summit of the Glungezer at 2,677m brings this:

Glungezer, the Tirol, AustriaGlungezer, the Tirol, Austria

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

It has a modern high-speed gondola from Tulfes, and after that it gets a bit more basic, but it brings its own charm.

Glungezer, the Tirol, AustriaGlungezer, the Tirol, Austria

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The views across the Inn valley are truly stunning.

Glungezer, the Tirol, AustriaGlungezer, the Tirol, Austria




















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The ski area starts at 950m and goes up to 2,304m - the top to bottom run is a staggering 15km and one of the longest in the Tirol.

Thigh burn time - even with a pause.

Glungezer, the Tirol, AustriaGlungezer, the Tirol, Austria

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Unless you are a beginner Glungezer would probably be too small for a week, but as an excursion from Innsbruck this week it is near-perfect and with barely a soul around on its wonderful pistes.

Glungezer, the Tirol, AustriaGlungezer, the Tirol, Austria



















 

 

 

 

 

Glungezer, the Tirol, AustriaGlungezer, the Tirol, Austria

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The resorts on the Innsbruck lift pass are 9 in total.

We are shunning Kuhtai and Stubai this week as they are on the radar of international skiers and snowboarders.

However the others are not - Axamer Lizum, Patscherkofel, Muttereralm, Schlick 2000, Bergbahnen Overperfuss and Nordkette.

OK, effort is required to get around but they are all under an hour in a car from Innsbruck and all have a local bus service.

Next up we're planning to visit Nordkette.

And we won't even have to drive.

The main lift station is in the centre of  Innsbruck.

Nordkette, the Tirol, AustriaNordkette, the Tirol, Austria

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Do check back tomorrow...

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