Innsbruck Skiing Overview
The best skiing near Innsbruck is in the Ziller valley, but the city has a number of local hills if you don’t have time to go all the way to Mayrhofen.
Innsbruck Skiing options
While still at university, I’d been on two ski trips – one to Andorra (which to be honest was more about drinking than snowboarding), and one to Scotland – but it was after graduating that I really finally learned to snowboard. My good friend Alex is half-Austrian, and he was one of my housemates during my final year at university; we hatched a plan to celebrate the end of education by heading off to the Austrian Alps that winter to be ski bums, instead of getting real jobs and a start on the corporate ladder (as it turned out, he eventually spent many more years studying and now holds multiple degrees and a good real job, while I’m still a semi-ski bum with a semi-real job!)
Our first port of call was Innsbruck, where the Austrian side of his family are from. We stayed with his grandmother who fattened us up with delicious home-cooked Austrian food, and we spent our evenings playing chess and our days either snowboarding or making half-hearted attempts to look for work in the city. There are a number of ski areas in the immediate vicinity of Innsbruck, and we rode at three of them; Mieders, Patscherkofel (homepage), and Nordkette (homepage).
The first one we visited was Mieders, a very small family-oriented resort which made for a nice gentle reintroduction to snowboarding after the 2-year gap following Scotland, but which I wouldn’t recommend to international travellers visiting Innsbruck and looking to ski. The city has better options.
Patscherkofel, to the south of the city, was used for the downhill skiing when Innsbruck hosted the Winter Olympics, and the Olympic run is the hill’s main draw. We went there with Al’s uncle and cousin, and they all spent most of the day patiently waiting for me to catch up; I was was way out of my depth at that point! While I didn’t personally have a great day’s riding there, Patscherkofel is the best place in the immediate vicinity of Innsbruck for downhill skiing on groomed trails.
Nordkette on the other hand is smaller, but more attractive to snowboarders (and freeskiers) due to its terrain park and one very steep ungroomed run down from the top gondola station. That run is called the Haflekar, apparently with a gradient of 70 degrees at its steepest – had I tried it at that point it would have ended very badly! I’d love to hit it now, and that’s the first thing I’ll do should I ever be back in Innsbruck in winter. When we were there, access to Nordkette was already fairly straightforward via the city’s tram system and a funicular railway; however since 2005 it’s been even easier, following the construction of a new hybrid funicular system (the Hungerburgbahn) which has its lower terminal in central Innsbruck (near the old town). This will take you all the way from the city centre to the lower cable car station, making Nordkette the most convenient Innsbruck skiing option (the others are accessed by road). Looking down on Innsbruck from the city’s mountainous northern wall, it also offered the best views out of the three local hills we visited. Talking to riders based in Innsbruck, Nordkette seemed to be the go-to spot for those wanting a quick session, perhaps before working an evening shift in the Irish pub!
The other main areas worth mentioning (though we didn’t visit them) are Axamer Lizum, which also hosted some of the Olympic events and which is attractive to boarders and freestyle skiers as it offers park & pipe, and the Stubai Glacier which is a little further afield (on the border with Italy, a 30-minute bus ride away) but is the largest ski area you can hit for the day while staying in Innsbruck (short of going to Mayrhofen).
Innsbruck Skiing Summary
The mountains around Innsbruck have a range of options, which taken together can keep you occupied for a good few days. In addition to the skiing around the city, Innsbruck has a lovely altstadt (old town) and is a nice place to check out in its own right. But really, if you’re in the area for snow, you want to be heading to Mayrhofen