News from the snow
Igls is a small, pretty village surrounded by forest, on a plateau above the beautiful city of Innsbruck, which lies to the north. The tram and bus link between the two, only 5km (3 miles) apart, means that you can enjoy the best of both worlds - the relaxed village and the cosmopolitan city. Although small, this is no typical Tyrolean village, even if it may appear so at first glance. Twice an Olympic venue, its cluster of hotels includes half a dozen luxurious establishments graded four and five star. The local ski area is small, and yet it has been a venue for two Olympic Games, including the 1976 Olympics where Franz Klammer took his heroic 'all out' Gold. There is an Olympic bobsleigh run which remains a venue for competitions and training. You can even try the bobsleigh run for yourself. The regional lift pass covers another eight other ski areas around the Olympic capital and the Stubai glacier. The local mountain is the Patscherkofel, which has a giant vertical served by a cable-car, chairlifts, so it's remarkable for many to find such a small area with just three additional drags to serve the runs. The local trails are basically two seven kilometres long runs, one easy, one intermediate standard.
Pretty village above the beautiful city of Innsbruck and was the Olympic centre at the 1976 Olympics where Franz Klammer took gold. The regional lift pass covers other areas around the Olympic capital and the Stubai glacier. There are a total of nine ski areas.
You may be able to tackle the red on which Klammer won his medal by the end of your first week if things go well! You'll need to take the rather aged single chair right to the top to access the full vertical. Intermediates will find a day or two of enjoyment on the two long runs, but are likely to be drawn to the opportunities in the surrounding resorts, all included on the Innsbruck 'Glacier Lift Pass', including as it does the glacier lifts on the Stubai, open 365 days a year for guaranteed skiing. The areas are scattered at distances varying from 15 to 45 minutes travel time from Igls and they surround the city of Innsbruck like numbers around a clock face. A free scheduled ski bus links Igls to the other areas. The high value pass includes, going clockwise from Igls, first neighbours Fulpmes and Neustift with the Stubai Glacier beyond then, across the valley and back closer to Innsbruck, there's Axamer Lizum and the Seegrube area to the north of the city.
The premium "Super Ski" variant on the basic lift pass, throws in a day's skiing in Kitzbühel and St. Anton, including the one-hour transfer, and gives Innsbruck visitors access to a total of 200 lifts serving 500 kilometers (313 miles) of downhill trails.
Innsbruck has been unfairly branded a wimpy destination for skiing, although it is true that the mountains offer predominantly intermediate territory. However, only a few very skilled skiers are up to the narrow steep crêtes and couloirs atop the Hafelekar (in the Seegrube-Nordkette sector), and locals can point out lots of other challenges at Axamer Lizum and Stubai. A funicular from the city centre runs to the Hungerburg plateau and a two-stage gondola carries on to the Seegrube-Hafelkar area on the Nordkette mountain range. Midway, the Seegrube is good beginner and intermediate terrain, favoured by Innsbruckers on their lunch-breaks, and there is a halfpipe. Signs warn only very skilled skiers to proceed upward to the top.
The main Olympic ski site, Axamer Lizum, has a relatively modern funicular and 9 ski lifts serving a 762m. (2,477 ft.) vertical. There is a variety of terrain, mainly of the intermediate persuasion, although there's some challenge in emulating the championship courses. There are two much longer runs to be reserved for day's end (not served by lifts) which end in the neighbouring villages.
The Mutter Alm has a 858 m. (2,970 ft.) vertical served by a two-section gondola, one chairlift and three draglifts. The runs are gentle beginner and low intermediate fare. With 1,367 m. (4,442 ft.) of vertical, the Glungezer area at Tulfes is best for long cruising runs. At a peak altitude of 3,240 m (10,532 ft), the Stubai glacier area has 1,474 m. (4,790 ft.) vertical spread over a broad area served by 19 lifts. In bad weather, conditions can be severe, but the area guarantees skiing in Innsbruck throughout the winter (and the summer!). Stubai offers trails for all skill levels and some challenging off-piste runs. Innsbruck's full-service ski rental is a pleasant surprise.
Although cities are rarely child-friendly, Innsbruck is better than most, with most of the busy main roads outside the city. There is plenty of parkland dotted around and trams to hop on and off to get you around. Children enjoy the Alpine Zoo, where indigenous species can be seen in environments similar to their native habitats. Most are also enchanted by the Swarovski Crystal Worlds in nearby Wattens, a three-dimensional adventure of crystal, light, and sound.
As with all other things in Igls you have the option of popping down to Innsbruck for great choice, which ranges from international fast food chains to gourmet extravaganzas.
For a more raucous night life, or just more variety, you need to head down to the big city. With its major university, Innsbruck has a student population that enlivens the evenings there and dozens of bars to cater for them. The centre of activity is in the Old Town in the bars and cafés on the square and along the side alleys. Zwolver and the Piano Bar are popular. There is always an active crowd for drinks, good food, and dancing at the Hofgarten Café, a pavilion in the old palace garden. Later the action moves to Filou, or one of the dozens of other hot spots. I
nnsbruck's state-of-the-art Casino offers stunning evening mountain views and modern murals to accompany slot machines, roulette, and blackjack. If you stay out until after the funicular and buses stop running it's a relatively inexpensive taxi ride back up the hill to Igls. The late night dancing spot in Igls itself is the disco in the five star Sporthotel.