News from the snow
With the Alps packed with famous names, the less historically and geographically aware may be forgiven for thinking Innsbruck is just another internationally famous Alpine ski village rather than what it actually is - a bustling university city of over one hundred thousand inhabitants, with an illustrious 800 year history as a key European crossroads (it was held in high esteem by the Romans more than a millenium earlier, thanks to its key location). Today Innsbruck attracts more North American winter visitors than any other European ski destination. Undoubtedly, some are drawn by the renown created by two modern Winter Olympics in 1964 and 1976, an achievement which is perpetuated today in the form of a very efficient infrastructure for winter sports fans. Other visitors are attracted by the historical environment of the Old Town with the famous Golden Roof as focal point. Evidence of Innsbruck's heritage of two "golden ages" can still be found around every corner: this is the city beloved by the Habsburg dynasty, who made it their Royal seat. The first great period in its history dates from around 1500 under the Emperor Maximilian I, the second in the mid-1700s under Empress Maria Therèsia. Overall, the city's location, nestled into a narrow valley right beneath rugged mountain peaks, together with its old world atmosphere, historic churches and buildings, interesting monuments, rich museums and galleries, and active commerce, all combine into an interesting sports-plus-culture attraction. It simply makes an excellent destination for those who seek a broader European experience than simply skiing, or for families where some members are less assiduous skiers.
A beuatiful city, Olympic centre and capital of the Tyrol. Excellent guest facilities and remarkably generous ski lift pass structure taking in local and famous ski centres nearby and year-round skiing on the Stubai glacier, all with hotel pick up by bus.
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 crétes and couloirs atop the Hafelekar, and locals can point out lots of other challenges at Axamer Lizum and Stubai. A funicular from the city center runs to the Hungerberg 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, favored by Innsbruckers on their lunch-break. Signs warn that only very skilled skiers should proceed to the top.
The Patscherkofl is one of two Olympic ski sites extending above the plateau village of Igls, and is the location of "Kaiser" Franz Klammer's famous all-out victory in the 1976 Men's Downhill. This run is accessed by an aging two-stage gondola, due soon to be replaced by a detachable quad, and snowmaking has recently been installed. There are a few other runs mainly in the trees. 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 neighboring villages.
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.
The Schlick 2000 ski region above Fulpmes, served by a gondola and six T Bar lifts and recently added to the pass, offers varied and interesting skiing opportunities.
The latest additions to the area pass are Kuhtai, with a dozen lifts anbd Koppl.
The resort added a new ski jump stadium at Bergisel in September 2002. It is a state of the art facility with lifts for jumpers and visitors as well as a spectacular panorama cafe.
Innsbruck's full-service ski rental is a pleasant surprise. The rental shop send a car to pick visitors up at their hotel for fitting, returning them with their equipment. When finished, they collect it from the hotel. There are 200km of cross country trails in the are and a free bus service with an instructor links the city centre with them six days each week.
At the other end of the scale, there is always MacDonald's or Burger King. The night Wurstlstands at main corners around the city are reliable and inexpensive. The Ottoburg Gasthof Sailer, Gasthof Weisses Roessl and Restaurant Goldener Adler are well known for local Tirolean specialties served in atmospheric small wood-paneled rooms.
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 Theresienbräu, or one of the dozens of other hot spots. Innsbruck's ultra modern Casino offers wonderful evening mountain views and modern murals to accompany slot machines, roulette, and blackjack.