Innsbruck an unlikely destination to be discussed with regards to ‘budget’ ski or snowboarding, but the term budget is relative, and for this part of the world I believe my recent city-ski (snowboarding) trip to Innsbruck showcases great value! … albeit with a bit of help on the flight.
It goes a little something like this.
Silly O’clock on a Tuesday morning I haul both myself and a 5ft snowboarding bag onto two local London buses as a means of reaching Heathrow airport via the cheapest means possible (aside from daddy cabs). My flight departed around 9am, reaching Innsbruck for around midday. An early flight set me up nicely for a full afternoon in glorious Innsbruck, an entirely new destination for yours truly, after spending the previous two season visiting the same resort (Krvavec) in Slovenia.
After a quick transfer to the city centre via the K Bus from directly outside the main terminal building (€3 single fare – takes around 25 mins to reach the central train station), and then a short walk to my Airbnb, I dumped my bags and was ‘ready’ to begin my exploration of Innsbruck by 1pm.
Now, my original plan prior to arriving was to dump my bags, suit up, and head straight to the nearest snowboardable (that a word?) mountain – Nordkette, however the conditions weren’t great at this point, and I was somewhat determined to see a little of the city and so decided I could wait until the morning before finding snow. I was still confident of getting two solid days of snowboarding in anyway, even with a first afternoon spent on flat land – as apposed to sloped, snow covered pistes.
Of course, sods law the one thing I was particularly keen on experiencing, and walked for over an hour to reach – the Innsbruck Olympic ski jump – was closed on Tuesdays – Doh!
The ski jump in the south of this small city looks great, and the walk up the majority of the hill was fun and afforded some lovely views, but the closest I got to the jump itself was this lovely wire fence (see pic above). A word of advice, avoid this part of the world on a Tuesday … although, as already mentioned, the views back over Innsbruck were none too shabby.
Despite a closed ski jump, all hope for the rest of my afternoon was not lost. Despite the afternoon ticking along, I was able to spend some time exploring the old town, discovered some awesome street art, scoffed down a pizza which was both hench and delicious, and finally I got to research and fact check all my logistic details for the next two days ahead. I was keen not to waste a minute more of potential snowboarding time.
With alarm set for 7am the next morning, Wednesday would see me visit 2 separate resorts, Nordkette and Patscherkofel, using the free (for anyone in snow gear) J bus to connect the two, via the city centre.
The plan for Thursday was to grab another one if the cities free ski buses, this time to the Stubai Glacier.
Wednesday and Thursday went a little like this …
Nordkette (Wednesday AM)
So from the front door of my Airbnb to the top of Nordkette took no more than 35 mins. A crazy quick transfer, whereby there were more incredible views to take in, although I had a great view from my Airbnb to begin with!
Come 8am I walked maybe 5 minutes down the famous and architecturally marvellous Congress Station, and picked up a half days snowboard pass from the ticket office which also included travel on the Hungerburg funicular, and two following cable cars which transported me to the Hafelekar peak, 2300m above seas level.
Image Source: https://www.innsbruck.info
Now, time for some truths. Whilst I COULD have travelled all the way to the Hafelekar peak and snowboarded down one of the Europe’s steepest runs (70% incline), I did not – although some brave sole did, check him out on the climb in the photo below.
It would have been a brave first run of my Innsbruck City-Ski trip, but also potentially a very stupid one. Instead I travelled back down to Seegrube (1,905 meters) and strapped in from there. Much more sensible.
It had felt strange earlier that morning, walking down the sunny and snow free Innsbruck streets in full snowboard getup, but I was not alone thankfully, and a crowd of maybe 10 of us all made our way through a series of easy connections until we reached the top of Nordkette, and could look back down on where we just came from … almost, damn cloud!
Nordkette’s proximity to the city is a major selling point, and the snow park appears extremely popular. The rest of the resort was mainly red runs, totally around 7km in distance, however the two most interesting looking runs (see piste map), snow roads down to the mountains base, were closed upon my visit, and so like the visibility, my options were limited. My purchase of only a half days ticket fully justified and whilst I had a good couple of hours on Nordektte, two couple were more than enough.
Come midday I called it, and headed back down the mountain to hop on the J bus, and a 45 min bus ride over to Patscherkofel to spend the afternoon.
Patscherkofel (Wednesday PM)
Now, this is what I’m talkin’ bout!
Jeeez I loved this place, Patscherkofel, what a dream.
Wide open pistes dissected by great frosted trees, log taverns serving refreshing Austrian ale dotted around various corners, a compete lack of drag lifts, and barely another sole out there. At points it felt like my own personal snow resort, and the runs were great. On the piste map Patscherkofel looked small, but for an afternoon I had plenty to keep me busy, and I dare say I could probably have spent another day there quite happily, had no other option presented itself.
The half day on Patscherkofel was slightly more expensive (see my costs post here) than Nordkette, but I thought it was more than worth it.
The long twisty blues and reds, encompassing tunnels and mogul esq sections provided equal challenge and enjoyment, and there was also a small snowpark to practice a few (small) jumps/falling over.
Whilst Patscherkofel felt a bit more traditional with its log cabin taverns, it also felt a bit more polished than Nordkette. The ticket shop, restaurants and lift system all looked that bit newer, and where to go etc was that bit clearer. It would be more than fair to say that whilst I was glad I experienced Nordkette, snowboarding Patscherkofel was the best half of the day.
I snowboarded Patsch up until the last possible minute, knowing that the J bus ran back to Innsbruck city centre every 10 minutes, and there was no way I could become stranded owing to a missed bus. By this point the blazing afternoon sunshine (contrary to the mornings cloud) has created a bit of slush, but truth be told I cared little. My legs burned, screaming as they drowned in lactic acid, but I told them they just had to suck it up, I was flying.
Now it’s at this point that I might include something about apres ski and the Innsbruck nightlife, but truth be told I was rubbish (read, disciplined) come the evenings, and simply returned to my Airbnb to go video call my son and better half (first time I’d been away without the boy and I missed him terribly), and to also revise for some upcoming exams. Rock and roll I know.
Stubai Glacier (Thursday)
Another day and another free bus 😀
Hangover free – unusual for a snowboarding trip – I rose again at around 7am in order to make an 8am bus from outside the nearby Trend Hotel (one of many designated pick up spots across Innsbruck). Once again I was not alone, and with each stop fewer and fewer unoccupied seats remained. By the time we’d finished pickups the coached was packed out, and I took this as both a good and bad sign.
- Good sign – I’d picked a good resort
- Bad sign – the resort would be swamped
Only time would tell, and we set out on an incredibly scenic, and did I mention FREE(!?), 45 min journey up to the Stubai Glacier.
Upon arrival it was BUSY! … but the ticket counters dealt with the large numbers well, and the lift system was more than sufficient to get us all up the mountain in good time. I was also helped by my having my own board and boots, and not having to rent equipment, as I once used to.
I’d chosen Stubai Glacier on the strength of its online piste map to be honest. Lots of long blues and reds, minimal button lifts, and a highest point of greater than 3000m. I think it’s fair to say I chose well, however I also at the same time realised what my preferred resort set up is.
Stubai was vast, had the type of runs I like, but it was also wide open i.e, no trees. It is not what you’d call picturesque, much more commercial in fact. Whilst facilities were all new and therefore modern, they were grey and lacked much character. I initially missed the log cabins of Patscherkofel and wondered if I’d made a mistake and should have just gone back there for another day.
That was a silly trail of thought though, and as the day wore on and I explore Stubai more, I simply got over it. Despite my initial reservations, I ended up having another great day Exhausting, but great.
The highlight of the day, or one of, had to be the climb to the Top of Tirol, some 3200m above seas level. If you’re sensing a reoccurring theme, you’re spot on, Innsbruck is chock full of incredible views!
Some of the food wasn’t bad either, and after 2 full days snowboarding, with zero exercise (save chasing around little man) over the past 18 months, I was cream crackered and therefore in need of a serious feed and energy! – A giant cheese dumpling in beef broth certainly helped.
With my bus to Innsbruck leaving at 4:30pm sharp, I had allowed plenty of time to take the snow road back down to the base of the mountain, but could not for the life of me find the bleeding run. Instead I took a few more laps of my favourite runs from throughout the course of the day, and slumped into my window seat fully content with a well spent few days. I had missed my boy terribly, but had also sincerely enjoyed my time in this part of Austria, and with my feet strapped back on a snowboard.
Another evening of revision entailed, post long hot shower to quell the somewhat satisfying aching all over my body.
So there you have it, 3 resorts in 3 days. An incredible trip to Innsbruck, which actually cost a lot less than I thought it might. Looking at my Monzo account (get a Monzo card btw! – use my link and get £5 free) on the way home, I was pleasantly surprised. Sure Slovenia the previous year was cheaper, but the slope quality was vastly superior in Innsbruck. Safe to say I’m a fan, and could quite happily return next year, as there are still at least 2 more resorts linked to the city centre via free buses which I am yet to experience.
Right, that’ll about do for the ‘story’ of my 3 day City-ski (snowboard) trip to Innsbruck, but do follow me over to my ‘cost of’ post if you want to find out exactly how much it cost.
Likwise, please head on over to my Sungod Vanguards review post on my sister site, if you fancy being in with a chance to win a free pair of awesome Sungod goggles or sunglasses.
Where in the world?