Innsbruck is known as Freeride City for good reason. It’s the largest city in Europe with easy access to ski slopes providing plentiful powder and epic off-piste terrain. In this guide to Innsbruck freeride snowboarding and skiing, we will look at why it is the best freeride city break on the planet.
There are many city ski breaks you could try, but for most you will need to drive out of town to a ski resort. Where Innsbruck differs from other cities, is that the Nordkettenbahnen cable railway whisks skiers and snowboarders up the mountain from the centre of town, providing access to one of Europe’s steepest ski areas.
There are also many great ski resorts that are renowned for freeride, such as Chamonix, St Anton, Whistler or Verbier. However they all have permanent populations of 10,000 or less, Innsbruck is a city of over 120,000 people. It’s the capital of Tirol, and comes with the facilities and amenities you’d expect for a city of this size.
Off the slopes the Innsbruck freeriding scene in vibrant, taking in trendy bars and hangouts, such as the legendary ‘Jimmy’s’ bar. In various hip spots around Innsbruck – the best freeride city on the planet – you’ll find locals and riders from around the word discussing their epic lines and sharing tips on the best powder spots.
But Innsbruck is not the best freeride city break on the planet because of one ski area you can access from the city. Less than an hour away there are three other easy to access, excellent freeride destinations. In this guide to Innsbruck freeride snowboarding and skiing we will look at Nordkette, Axamer Lizum, Stubai and Kuhtai.
For me the Nordkette ski area is the main reason Innsbruck is the best freeride city break on the planet. The aforementioned Nordkettenbahnen cable railway leaves from the centre of Innsbruck taking less than 30 minutes to reach the heart of the Nordkette mountain range.
Nordkette ski region is known as one of the steepest in the world, including the infamous 70% gradient ski run from Hafelekar to Seegrube. But it is the steep challenging off-piste that attracts freeriders. And with 1500m of descent from Hafelekar to Hungerburg there are challenging lines for all – even seasoned pros.
Flo Orley, who’s currently number three in the Freeride World Tour, calls Nordkette home. As a local freeride pioneer he knows ‘there is always powder around the corner’ and has been key in adding Innsbruck to the international freeriding scene.
After freeriding visit the biggest snow igloo of the Alps. There are bars and DJs inside with space for up to 450 people. Every Friday is a big party that is always sold-out so be sure to book in advance. If you are on one of the Innsbruck freeride packages entrance to the party is included.
Located just 19km from Innsbruck, Axamer Lizum provides 300 hectares of epic snow-sure freeride terrain. But don’t take our word for it, as host to Freeride World Qualifiers ‘the Lizum’ has become a household name among freeriders.
The area is known for open slopes with excellent terrain, with numerous natural pipes and features to bust out your best tricks on. There are a number of north facing couloirs that keep their powder well into April, making for a long freeride season.
Great access, snow and terrain on it’s own does not make the best freeride city break, you also need to consider safety. At ‘the Lizum’ swing by the Hoadlhaus Freeride Checkpoint which puts the focus on alpine safety. It provides current snow and weather conditions on the mountain plus detailed information on routes.
Kuhtai, a 45 minute drive from Innsbruck, is the highest ski village in Austria. It helps make Innsbruck the best freeride city break on the planet by offering easier terrain that is rideable if snow cover is limited. There are plenty of freeride options in Kuhtai, and most of the slopes have gentle meadows under the snow.
In the high-alpine Kuhtai ski region all ski slopes are located above the tree line, giving freeriders access to almost limitless backcountry options. There’s a famous marked route next to the Kaiserbahn lift, but there are around 400 hectares of pristine freeride terrain to explore. Check out the free SAAC camp in Kuhtai about off-piste safety.
Stubai Glacier is just a 45 minute drive from Innsbruck, offering backcountry access from October to June. With 15 designated freeride runs that have names such as ‘Cannonball’, Hard Rock’ or ‘Thriller Flake’ you know you’re in for a good time.
Again there is a priority on safety. With designated freeride checkpoints, that incorporate control of LVS rescue devices, as an added precaution to enjoy these fantastic glacier rides. For additional safety, tracking and enjoyment download the free GPS app. Also check out the free Stubai SAAC camps that teach you about off-piste safety.
Innsbruck has an international airport, with flights from all over the UK. So there are no long ski transfers as the city is just 5km from the airport. Being a city there are accommodation options to suit all budgets and requirements.
A new option this year is a comprehensive Freeride Beginners Package. For €499 pp it includes three days with certified snow guides, instructing you on safety and equipment while exploring off-piste. It also includes bed and breakfast accommodation, entry to the Igloo Party and a three day Olympia SkiWorld Innsbruck lift pass that covers the above areas, plus five more.
We hope you enjoyed our guide to Innsbruck freeride snowboarding & skiing. For more information about the best freeride city break contact Innsbruck Tourismus. Tel: +43 512 59 850, Email: [email protected], or visit www.innsbruck.info, www.innsbruck-packages.com or www.freeride-city.com