In January I had a couple of days to kill in Innsbruck, Austria. We planned to head up Nordkette to conduct a review of Innsbruck snowboarding, but it was closed due to too much snow. Instead we checked out the snowboarding in Patscherkofel ski resort, where we enjoyed waist deep powder!
Most skiers or snowboarders have at some point flown into Innsbruck. It is a transport hub for ski resorts in western Austria, the Italian Dolomites and parts of Switzerland. But have you ever stopped in Innsbruck to find out what the city is like?
With a couple of days between trips in Italy and Slovakia we decided it was pointless go back to the UK. As we were due to fly home from Innsbruck we decided to stay in the town which is known for offering the best freeride city break on the planet.
We arrived into Innsbruck with everything covered in around 30-40cm of snow and more falling. A tenth of the amount would shut the entire UK, but here in Austria they work with it, clearing it efficiently so everything is kept open, even public transport is on time.
We were staying at the Adlers Hotel which is central and near the main train station. Arriving in Innsbruck not long after 9am our rooms were unsurprisingly not ready. Fortunately, we were able to use the spa area to get changed into our gear in order to get out on the slopes to conduct a review of Innsbruck snowboarding.
We did a fairly slow turn around as we could see online that the Nordkette Cable Railway was closed, but it was expected to open around midday. So we had an early lunch put on our gear and walked 15 minutes to the lift, only to find out it was not going to open at all.
What followed was some frantic research into other ski areas we could reach. It was slightly difficult to find out what would open and what would not – as like Nordkette the message online seemed to be opening soon. We got back to the hotel and they phoned around a couple of resorts and found that only Patscherkofel was open.
By then is was after 1pm and having just missed a bus we would have to wait an hour for the next one. We figured that getting to the ski area after 14:30 would not be worth it and scrapped the review of Innsbruck snowboarding for the day. Instead we checked in to the hotel, changed back out of our snowboarding gear and went to explore Innsbruck.
From the centre of Innsbruck you can be whisked up to the heart of the Nordkette mountain range in around 20 minutes. With around 1500m decent and some of the steepest terrain in Europe, it is well known as a freeride playground. There is also a snowpark and six pistes of varying difficulty. So it’s small but offers something for everyone.
There are also buses to Axamer Lizum which is just 19 km away, it has 40 km of pistes and again excellent freeride. A little further out, but still under an hour on the bus, you’ll find Stubai Glacier (Austria’s biggest glacier with 108 km of piste) and Kühtai-Hochoetz (Austria’s highest ski area with 85 km of piste). Both have glaciers, very long seasons, good snowparks and plenty of freeride.
Unfortunately for this review of Innsbruck snowboarding all the above ski areas were closed or inaccessible due to unprecedented amounts of snow. For two consecutive nights more than 50cm of snow fell. And with steep slopes or dangerous access pretty much everywhere was closed during our visit.
Innsbruck is part of the Olympia SkiWorld pass with nine ski resorts and 260 km of slopes. These include the aforementioned Nordkette-Seegrube, Axamer Lizum, Stubai Glacier and Kühtai. The pass also covers Patscherkofel, Muttereralm, Rangger Köpfl, Glungezer and Schlick 2000. As the only decent sized area that was open we went snowboarding in Patscherkofel ski resort.
Getting to Patscherkofel from Innsbruck was very simple. We hopped on a bus from almost outside the hotel and around thirty minutes later we were in resort. The bus was free – skiers and snowboarders get free travel in the Olympic SkiWorld pass area. On the way we got seats, but on the way back we gave our seats to some Austrian OAPs who seemed very surprised to be offered.
Patscherkofel has over 1000 metres of vertical to play in spread over 20 km of pistes. 60% of the slopes are red, with black making up 30% and blue just 10%. It is all accessed by a new and very fast gondola that takes just ten minutes to whisk you from 956m up to 1965m.
During this review of Innsbruck snowboarding in Patscherkofel ski resort we were blessed with unbelievable amounts of snow and relatively quiet slopes. Around 40-50 cm of fresh snow had fallen on the pistes since they had been bashed. Off-piste the snow was thigh deep and more.
In normal conditions there would essentially be two routes down the mountain that cross over with each other. You can either take the mainly black or the mainly red pistes. There are also a couple of blue sections with specific lifts for beginners, and there is even a small snowpark, although this was buried under snow during our visit.
During our visit there was the third option of beating your own path through the trees. In most areas they are spaced out perfectly to snowboard through, with many glades and big areas that are tree free. Not having any avalanche gear we stuck to slopes below 30 degrees and never strayed far from the piste.
But there was so much snow there was no need to go hunting for fresh lines. We took the same few routes all day and even where we had already laid tracks the powder still felt wonderful. As the day wore on, the powder started to become heavier lower down making it harder work and less fun. So we lapped the section above the midstation.
My mate said it was his best day of powder riding ever. Being more experienced I wouldn’t go that far, however it was the best I experienced in 2018 – a year that broke many records for snow across Europe. Based on our experience I would certainly recommend snowboarding in Patscherkofel ski resort.
Even the restaurant at the base of the mountain is very good. Rather than the usual pre-cooked options you get in large mountain eateries here there was table service. I had an exceptionally good burger and chips. Service was quick and very friendly.
As mentioned near the beginning we spent a few hours on the first day exploring the city of Innsbruck. Overall there is a lot to see with much interesting architecture. There are some strange mixes of beautiful old buildings with ugly concrete monstrosities – that would never be allowed in the UK – but it all makes for an eclectic and intriguing destination.
It also feels lively and a happening city with lots going on. Walking around on a Sunday in January there were plenty of other tourists. Particularly around the Old Town, the 800 year old city center of Innsbruck. It combines Austrian Gothic and Baroque architecture in a charming area full of sophisticated shops, bars and restaurants.
On our first night of this review of Innsbruck snowboarding in Patscherkofel ski resort we went for dinner at Pizzeria Palermo. The prices were low and the pizza very tasty. After drinks at the Adlers Hotel Bar, with outstanding views and delicious cocktails, we used the excellent hotel Wifi to stream a movie on Netflix.
On the second evening, we ended up celebrating the powder and awesome day snowboarding in Patscherkofel ski resort. After a delicious and again very cheap dinner at a Alsalam Syrian restaurant, we headed to the Galway Bay Irish Bar. The plan was to watch football over a couple of quiet pints, but the pub was rammed for Monday quiz night.
We left later and drunker than we intended and started heading home. Lured by banging music around the corner from the hotel we found Felix Lounge and went in for a final beer. It turned out to be student night with ludicrously cheap drinks – €1 a beer – and it was very lively. I got back to my room at three thirty in the morning…
This review of Innsbruck snowboarding in Patscherkofel ski resort would not be complete without talking about the excellent Adlers Hotel. It is a lovely hotel, all very modern and finished to a very high standard.
But it is also has a welcoming feel. I am sure not many visitors ask as many questions of the reception as we did. From arriving many hours before check in and using the spa area to change, to hunting down ski resorts that are open and helping us figure out the buses, they were helpful, accommodating and very friendly.
The bedrooms are gorgeous, with floor to ceiling windows giving stunning panoramic views. The bed was big and exceptionally comfy, while the chez lounge in the window made a great spot to sit and read or get some work done. The bathroom was also very nice with a powerful shower and lovely complementary toiletries.
We had breakfast included, and as with most Austrian Hotels it was exceptional, with a good range of hot and cold options. There was a very good selection of cereals, with particularly good options for making your own muesli. The fruit was all very fresh and enjoying breakfast whilst looking out over the snowy city was quite a treat.
Although we did not eat at the restaurant it looked very good, but a bit on the pricey side. The bar is lovely and not too expensive. You get a complimentary drink with each stay, so be sure to head up to the bar on the top floor to enjoy the views.
Having passed through Innsbruck many times it was great to actually stop and find out what the city is like. What we found was an interesting and vibrant destination with great ski resorts on its doorstep. There is a lot going on in the city – we found two busy venues on a Monday night without even trying!
And as for the mountains. On one hand we were unlucky that due to too much snow we only managed one day snowboarding in Patscherkofel ski resort. But on the other hand we enjoyed some of the best powder I got to ride all season. Patscherkofel is a great little ski area and well worth a visit.
I will have to return to try Nordkette, Axamer Lizum, Stubai Glacier and Kühtai another time! With so many ski areas nearby that are easily reached from the city it makes for a very good weekend trip or longer holiday combined with city break.
If you are flying in or out of Innsbruck, I recommend that you push your flight on a day or two and make time for a visit. Not only is there plenty of mountains to keep you busy but it’s a city that is well worth visiting.
We hope you found this review of Innsbruck snowboarding in Patscherkofel ski resort useful and interesting. You can find out more by visiting: www.innsbruck.info