There aren't many cities in the world where you see people walking around on their snowboard boots with snowboards under their arms while others are waiting at the tram stop with their skis and ski boots as if it is the most common thing. In Innsbruck this is an all too familiar sight in winter though. While most people are on their way to work there are others, mostly students, who get on the tram in the direction of the surrounding mountains. Within half an hour they are either on top of the Nordkette just above Innsbruck or halfway Schlick 2000 in the Stubai valley.
If you choose Innsbruck as your next snowboard or ski destination you will be able to take part in this morning ritual.
The panorama from the Nordkette ski resort above Innsbruck.
If you are from North America or anywhere else in the world and you are planning a snowboarding or skiing trip to the European Alps then Innsbruck may just be the perfect destination as it has its own airport. From main hubs like Amsterdam Airport, London Heathrow, Paris Charles de Gaulle or Frankfurt, Innsbruck can be reached in less than an hour by plane. When choosing a low cost carrier you will even be able to do this quite cheaply.
Once there you can either rent a car at the airport or take the bus into town. It takes only 10 minutes to get from the airport to the train station downtown from where you can find many hotels and restaurants within walking distance.
There are plenty of hotels in different price categories in Innsbruck. If you are on a budget I recommend Pension Stoi, pretty much next door to the Hilton Hotel for when you aren't. Both hotels are downtown Innsbruck close to the famous Triumphpforte and the old town.
When you are staying in the Hilton then breakfast is included, when you are staying in Pension Stoi it's not so you will have the opportunity to check out one of the many breakfast places in town. Either one of the many Backer Ruetz or Baguette bakeries which can be found on pretty much every street or my own favourite; the Breakfast Club in the Maria Theresien Strasse. Don't expect Emilio Estevez or Molly Ringwald here but you can expect their coffee to be some 'serious gourmet shit'.
Snow and the City
If you want to go snowboarding or skiing after breakfast then the quickest way up the ski slopes is to take the train to Innsbruck's own ski resort called the Nordkette. If you are staying at the Austria Trend Hotel Congress Innsbruck then you will find the train station to the ski resort right at your doorstep. The train will take you up to the gondola on the Hungerburg which in turn will transport you to restaurant Seegrube at 1905 meters (6,250 ft).
From here you will have a breathtaking view on the city of Innsbruck down below and access to a modest ski resort. Snow conditions permitting you can go all the way down to the gondola by taking the 'Tobel', 'Dreier Abfahrt' and 'Zweier Abfahrt' ski slopes.
If you are looking for some gnarly freeriding then take the Hafelekar Seilbahn up from Restaurant Seegrube and take the 'Karrinne' or 'Seilbahnrinne' black slopes back down. Be aware that these descents are for expert skiers and snowboarders only and make sure you check the avalanche report before going here.
The Annasaule in the old town of Innsbruck. The Nordkette ski resort with its freeriding possibilities form a nice decor in the background.
I recommend going up to the Nordkette ski station only when it is sunny and when the snow level reaches down to the bottom of the Nordkettenbahn gondola. When it is snowing though you may want to take the tram called the 'Stubaitaltram' from the central train station up to the town of Fulpmes from where you can access the ski resort Schlick 2000. The '2000' in the name refers to the altitude of the resort in meters (6,660 ft) and 'schlick' literally means 'sludge'. So in proper English this resort is called 'Sludge 6660'. On cold snowy days you will be more likely to find knee deep powder than sludge here though.
An alternative snowboarding destination is Axamer Lizum. If you don't have a (rental) car then you can take bus #4162 that departs from the central station. You may never have heard of Axamer Lizum but it is actually an Olympic resort that hosted all the Alpine Skiing events during the Winter Olympics hosted by Innsbruck in 1964 and 1976.
When you have a (rental) car at your disposal there are many more snowboarding destinations around Innsbruck that you can visit. More than 20 different ski stations can be found within an hour's drive. Between Sankt Anton am Arlberg in the west and the Hintertux glacier in the east you will be able to find ski stations big and small. Some of them have famous names like Stubai and Mayrhofen while others may sound less familiar. Places like Serfaus-Fiss-Ladis, Zams, Kuhtai (also reachable by tram from Innsbruck), Hochfugen, Kaltenbach, Zell am Ziller, Gerlos and Königsleiten may not be that famous but they have just as much to offer and they are usually a lot less crowded.
If you take the train up to the gondola of the Nordkettenbahn you will reach at this station designed by famous architect Zaha Hadid.
Things to Do in Innsbruck When You're Not Dead
At night there is ample choice in restaurants in Innsbruck. Every time I visit I go to the Buzihütte just outside of town but you will need a car to reach it. Don't expect anything culinary elaborate here but if you want to submerge yourself in Austrian cuisine (and calories) then this is the place to go. I recommend an 'Eiterbeule' (don't translate please) main followed by 'Kaiserschmarren' as dessert. After that you won't be able to move anymore.
If you are trying to watch your calorie intake you may want to go somewhere else in Innsbruck like Restaurant Olive which has a vegetarian cuisine, the Thai Li Ba for Thai cuisine, Madhuban when you are into Indian food or Ludwig when you are looking for a culinary burger. The Krahvogel restaurant does not only have a nice international cuisine but also has a nice bar for a beer or two.
When you are looking for a place to lounge and drink cocktails then either try the CU Bar in the Pfarrgasse or the 360° on top of the Rathaus Gallerien. The CU bar (pronounced as 'see you') is found on the floor above of the empty FU bar. I truly recommend the 360° wine-bar, not only because of its overpriced drinks and pretentious guests but also because of the amazing panorama you will have from the top of the Rathaus (City Hall) on the surrounding city and mountains. The bar is found on the 7th floor of the Rathaus Gallerien after taking the elevator up.
And if you feel like going out to a club late at night then Club Aftershave underneath Cafe Moustache or Blue Chip below Jimmy's Bar are the places to go.
The view from the 360 ° wine-bar.
As you can see Innsbruck offers the perfect combination between a city trip and a snowboarding holiday. I am sure you are going to enjoy it as much as I do every time I visit.