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Innsbruck is as close as you’ll get to a ski-in, ski-out city in Europe.

After landing at the airport, it only takes 20 minutes to arrive in the city centre. Ditch your bags and grab your skis before hopping on the funicular railway, with a station designed by Zaha Hadid, whisking you from the city centre to the slopes of the Nordkette in just 20 minutes. All in, you could be skiing less than an hour after getting off your flight!

© TVB Innsbruck / Klaus Polzer

Although the Nordkette ski area isn’t huge, its interesting terrain and freeride possibilities attract many skiers and snowboarders each year. Freeriders will appreciate the eye-wateringly narrow couloirs and the ski routes on the Hafelekar, many of which have 70% descents making them some of the steepest ski routes in Europe. Beginner skiers are well catered for too, with a magic carpet, snow hill and practice pistes (and excellent childcare facilities/programmes). The magical panoramas over the colourful city of Innsbruck, nestled amongst the jagged peaks, make it hard for skiers and snowboarders to leave the pistes. Luckily, the Cloud 9 Iglu Bar, at 1,905 km, hosts DJs on a regular basis and keeps the party going until 11 pm at weekends.

Nordkette isn’t the only ski resort Innsbruck has up its sleeve, in fact with the Olympia Ski Pass you can experience 9 resorts in the Innsbruck area with free bus transport included, the resorts covered by the pass are Axamer Lizum, Glungezer, Kuhtai, Muttereralm, Rangger Köpfl, Nordkette-Seegrube, Schlick 2000 and Patscherkofel.

Patscherkofel is just a 30-minute bus ride from the city centre with services leaving every 10-15 minutes through the winter. The ski area is again small but mighty, with the 1964 & 1976 Olympic downhill courses being run on the resort’s 3km red run from the summit to the base, this is the slope where Austrian hero Franz Klammer won his Olympic Gold medal.

Slightly further along the valley, but still only 40 minutes bus ride, Glungezer ski area boasts one of the longest runs in the Tirol at 15km from top to bottom. It’s also great for ski touring with marked trails, several huts and a dedicated transceiver training area.

Next closest, 50 minutes by bus, is Axamer Lizum, the resort that hosted all the other alpine events at the two Innsbruck Olympic Games. With a slightly larger area than the first three and more red runs, it’s great for intermediates. It’s also good for ski tourers, with dedicated night skiing on the slopes until 11 pm throughout the week.

For those that love Nordic skiing, Seefeld is Austria’s cross country mecca, with more than 247km of perfectly groomed trails, some of which have floodlights for night skiing. Seefeld also has more than 20 lifts and loads of cruisy blue runs making it perfect for families. The resort is only 35 minutes from Innsbruck by train. Fantastically efficient public transport in the area means you can enjoy several ski areas without hiring a car, which is not only easier on the environment, but also on your wallet.

A little further afield you have some of the more famous Tyrolean resorts, Soelden, Stubai, Ischgl and St. Anton am Arlberg – which are probably better reached by car, though St. Anton is just over 1hr by direct train making a day trip very manageable.

For dedicated ski tourers, the Karwendel range to the north on the border with Germany offers endless possibilities but it’s best to book a guide as the terrain can be quite challenging and the historically large snowfall in the area can lead to unstable conditions.

Not all city breaks involve skiing, but all should include food, drinking and merrymaking, none of which are in short supply in Innsbruck.

Austria is famous for its bierkellers, or beer halls, of which Innsbruck has a plenty – Gastgarten Zur Eiche, Stiftskeller and the Tribaun being some of our favourites (although memories are a little hazy). Tirolean food should also be on your ‘to eat’ list - wiener schnitzel, Kaiserschmarrn, Spätzle and dumplings are all hearty winter warmers that tend to be on most menus. Après ski in the town mainly takes place in the old town plaza, which has bars and cafes lining the archways either side. In winter they often have outdoor heaters and blankets to keep you warm as you enjoy a Glühwein or two while you’re admiring the medieval architecture of your 500-year-old surroundings. Many of these buildings are open to the public and worth visiting as they are often as beautiful inside too, the Hapsburg Imperial Palace is not to be missed with its unique gothic castle and Goldenes Dachl (golden roof). Climbing the 133 steps of the Stadtturm tower gives you a 360 panorama of the city and surrounding mountains, one to save for a clear day.

If you are visiting in the festive period don’t miss the Christmas market, one of the biggest in Europe and certainly the one with the most beautiful mountain backdrop.

A short bus ride out of town, Swarovski Crystal World is an impressive collection of artworks and installations, they take on a magical element in the snow and in the evening, light shows make it a winter wonderland.

For sports fans and thrill seekers the Olympic sites at Igls & Bergisel are all easy to reach, here you can take in views of the city and mountains by peeking over the top of the Zaha Hadid (again!) designed ski jump. If you’re feeling even braver, jump in a bobsled with a professional pilot and reach speeds of up to 115km. You can also take in an Ice Hockey match at the OlympiaWorld stadium and cheer on local team HC TWK Innsbruck, A.K.A. the ‘Sharks’!

Getting to Innsbruck from the UK is simple, there are direct flights from Gatwick, Stansted, Edinburgh, Bristol, Birmingham & Manchester with Easyjet, FlyBe, British Airways and several charter airlines.

If you want to add a bit of cosmopolitan chic to your stay, the Penz Hotel in the heart of downtown Innsbruck has ultra-modern style, a generous breakfast buffet and a rooftop bar with incredible views of the surrounding mountains.

 

The Tirol is one of the Ski Club’s favourite regions in the Alps, offering its trademark Leader service in many resorts and Instructor-Led Guiding services in St Anton as well as several Freshtracks holidays in the area.