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Wake up in the UK & be skiing by lunch - James Cove, Innsbruck
Wednesday March 18, 2015 - Email this article to a friend

Is it possible to take an early flight and be on the slopes before lunch? Yes, even better if it is a resort you have dreamt of skiing for years.

Every skier has a bucket list of places they want to ski. 

Verbier, St Anton, Val d'Isere, Whistler, Chamonix and Zermatt. The adventurous might put in Alta, Arcalis, La Grave or Gressoney.

Nordkette, in Austria, has been on my personal shortlist for years.

I had the chance to ski there just for an afternoon on the way to another resort in the Austrian Tirol this week.

"Nord-where?" I hear you ask. 

Well it is the closest resort (time-wise) to the UK. It is a small ski area above the Austrian city of Innsbruck and the ski lift starts in town.

I skied there on Wednesday and left delighted to have survived in one piece. Not from the hectic journey but from the scary and steep skiing (but more of that later).  

Here is my diary of the day:

05.00 - Alarm clock goes off in SW London.

06.00 - Arrive at Gatwick.

07.15 - Plane leaves and clocks go forward an hour.

09.50 - Touchdown at Innsbruck (10 minutes ahead of schedule).

The day awaitsThe day awaits











I picked up my hire skis and walked back to my hotel, the Nala Boutique Hotel, to change. 

The clock had not yet struck 11.00am - there is much clock striking in the Tirolean capital with ancient churches on seemingly every corner.

Kitted upKitted up













I had time to check into my room and change in comfort. 

The bedroom offered the temptation of a quick nap after my early start but I had some skiing to do.













However I did have time for a quick coffee as other people finished off their late breakfast.

Injection of caffeinInjection of caffein












The lifts up to the Nordkette ski area start in the centre of the town and a railway takes you to a cable car that then whisks you up to Seegrube at 1,905m.

20 minutes after purchasing a ticket in the centre of the city I had my skis on.

Made it!Made it!













My warm up run was down a red piste to the lower chairlift.

The views down towards the city were breathtaking.

Nordkette, Austrian TirolNordkette, Austrian Tirol












On the slopes it was similar.

Nordkette, Austrian TirolNordkette, Austrian Tirol












The city of Innsbruck was spread out like a scale model of toy town and it was hard to imagine that just a few hours earlier I had been in London.

Innsbruck, Austrian TirolInnsbruck, Austrian Tirol












Next stop was the Hafelekar cable car and I really should have known what was coming.

I had been doing the obligatory social media posting and a couple of mates had seen my remarks and reacted.

"Nordkette is the best! Front face from the top cable car. 1km super steep couloir... you'll shit your pants!" said my buddy, Chris Moran.

The ex-Olympic skier and PlanetSKI reader, Martin Bell, was more measured.

"Great place: steep skiing, nice views," said Martin.

Now if an ex-Olympic skier says it is steep then it probably is.

Nordkette, Austrian TirolNordkette, Austrian Tirol












It had looked a bit steep from the bottom and as I headed up in the lift.

Nordkette, Austrian TirolNordkette, Austrian Tirol












Nordkette, Austrian TirolNordkette, Austrian Tirol












The macho voice inside my head was quite clear as I loooked at it and contemplated a safer way down - the cable car.

"For God's sake you have never taken a lift down from the top of a ski run in your life, you rarely fall and you are at the top of a steep run that you have wanted to ski for years. This winter you have done some pretty gnarly stuff across Europe and North America.... Just get on with it."

The voice of Captain Sensible said something rather different.

"You are on your own. If you ever have doubts about doing a run after you have sensibly weighed up the options you should never do it. You do not know the way, the number of the local emergency services is not in your phone, you are on racing GS skis rather than off piste skis and I can see that your legs are shaking just looking at the slope."

Some walked the first steep section while another just pointed his skis downhill and set off with a jump and a yelp. 

Nordkette, Austrian TirolNordkette, Austrian Tirol












Even as I was weighing up my options in my head I started clipping my boots on.

Nordkette, Austrian TirolNordkette, Austrian Tirol












On one steep section I started to step down and found myself talking out loud as my knees started trembling.

"Common James you have skied steeper and scarier stuff than this; commit and let it flow".

I carried on side-stepping down.

My legs continued shaking.

I looked back up to tell myself the steepest and hardest was over.

Looking back upLooking back up












I need to make two quick and tight turns on a rather narrow and steep section.

It was tough technical skiing that demanded some concentration.

Nordkette, Austrian TirolNordkette, Austrian Tirol












Slowly the linked turns started to flow and I began to feel like a half-decent skier again as I descended.

When I got to the bottom I looked back up. It was an average couloir, a steep one but only in places.

The snow was thick and heavy, not icy. It was well within my capabilities yet I had skied it badly.

I had though made it down in one piece and a I felt a genuine sense of achievement.

Nordkette, Austrian TirolNordkette, Austrian Tirol












However after that I stuck to the pistes as I had made my point.

I even had a go in the snowpark.

Nordkette, Austrian TirolNordkette, Austrian Tirol












There weren't too many runs open as the lower ones were closed as the snow cover was thin, but here was more than enough for an afternoon's skiing.

There was even a nursery slope.

The other extremeThe other extreme












There is plenty for a day's skiing and there really is no better feeling than being able to hit the slopes before lunch after waking up in the UK.

Innsbruck is a fabulous city in its own right with a wealth of history and it is also a ski town like Banff, Chamonix and Grenoble.

Next time I want to stay for longer and explore the bars, restaurants, churches and museums.

My heart is always in the peaks, but what a base to explore them from.

As I walked through town with skis over my shoulder after my day in Nordkette no-one even gave me a second glance as they sipped their afternoon drinks and nibbled on their cakes.

Summer in the citySummer in the city












A passing skier or snowboarder happens all the time.

And now I am off to nearby Piztal - just one of several fabulous ski resorts in the Tirol within an hour of the city centre.

Can someone please tell me why I live in London not Innsbruck?


View from the topView from the top












Nordkette above InnsbruckNordkette above Innsbruck













For the spirit of the mountains

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