Innsbruck Ski Resort Guide – Snowboarding on a Budget
Cheap trips series - Innsbruck, Austria. Our handy guide to Snowboarding on a Budget
We’d all love to spend more time on the snow, but we get it – we picked an expensive hobby. Prices for a week away can be astronomical and they’re just getting steeper each year. The Whitelines team is all for taking trips on a shoestring, and while we’re still hoping for an estranged great-uncle to come out of the woodwork and have left us a few million quid in his will, but until then, Snowboarding on a Budget will take a closer look at resorts for all of us who are ballin’ on a budget. For our second location we’ve chosen Innsbruck, Austria.
Those of you who’ve ever been to Innsbruck have probably only briefly visited its tiny airport before transferring to one of the resorts nearby or ended up having a night out in the city only to wake up with a half-eaten döner next to you the following morning. Despite the great memories either one of these experiences may have resulted in, we can assure you that the ones gained through spending a week snowboarding around the resorts of Innsbruck, are much more rewarding.
When planning a snowboard trip to Austria, Innsbruck is hardly the first destination you’d think of. We’ve all heard epic stories from Mayrhofen and St Anton, but if you prefer a snowboard trip with less après and more mellowness, then Innsbruck is definitely worth a look. It is after all a city, a very tiny one, but still a city, so the options are less limited than in a resort.
As for getting to Innsbruck, it’s super easy as you can get a direct flight from London with EasyJet or British Airways for as little as £100 (roundtrip) if you’re lucky. You’ll avoid all the hassle of booking a transfer to a resort, which might end up costing you as much as the actual flight, and can simply take the F bus from Innsbruck Airport straight into town. Alternatively, you can fly to Munich and take the Flixbus (for only £34 return) from Munich Airport to Innsbruck. Ideally, you’d like to avoid the train if you’re travelling on a budget – it’s more expensive and the scenery is way nicer from the bus anyhow. The bus takes around 3-3.5h but the views will keep you busy daydreaming.
In case you feel like your budget allows, you can get a rental car to drive to the resorts with, though we highly recommend using the local buses, both for economical and ecological reasons. However, if you are keen to find a car share, check out the go-shred Facebook group for shared rides to the resorts. Usually you end up paying between €3-8 return, depending on the resort and the amount of people you’ll be sharing the car with. Most of the posts are in German but don’t let that scare you, just write a post in English asking if anyone from Innsbruck is going to a specific resort and if they could fit X amount of people in the car. Don’t count on people planning their days weeks ahead, it’s more of a “looks like the weather will be nice tomorrow, let’s go and shred” kind of a mentality in this city. We know our parents told us to never get into a stranger’s car but it’s all safe.
Innsbruck is surrounded by plenty of resorts, and you’ll find everything from family friendly fun, to hardcore free-riding, to casual park chilling – here’s our top five picks to help you find the right resort for you.
You’ll be quick to realise this is the place where all the cool kids hang out from the smell of weed. If you’re unsure where the park lift is, just smell your way to it. Or follow the cool kids wearing fisherman hats and carrying boards you can hardly recognise since they’re so covered by stickers. Fair enough though, it only takes you half an hour to get up here from the city centre, so what better place to spend your afternoons after uni.
Nordkette is the closest resort to the city. You can either take the cable car from Congress or the J bus up to Hungerburg, which runs about every 10min. As we like to keep it cheap, we’re in for a treat here – the cable car lift up to Hungerburg is included in the lift pass and the J bus is also for free for anyone going snowboarding – you simply just have to look the part (so the ones snowboarding in a leather jacket and jeans might need to prepare themselves to convince the not-so-fluent English speaking control people that they’re actually heading up the mountain). Once you’ve reached Hungerburg you’ll have to take the gondola up to the actual ski resort.
For such a small resort as Nordkette it surprisingly has it all, hence its popularity. Nordkette is one of the steepest mountains around, and the slopes running down from Hafelekar (the top station) have up to a 70% incline so, if you’re a beginner we strongly recommend somewhere else for powder days. Freeride world tour riders can be seen here on powder days, so you really don’t want to push your luck if you’re unsure about your skills. The bits below Seegrube (the lower station) aren’t as steep though, so if you’re a bit unsure, just enjoy turns a bit lower down the mountain. No matter where on the mountain you decide to get your turns in, it is still one of the biggest playgrounds you’ll find. Just make sure you know where you’re going and have that avalanche kit on you.
What brings the scene here on the sunny afternoons is the Nordkette Skyline Park. It’s not the biggest park you’ll come across, but it has a variety of options. The kicker line is quite big, though you’ll find some tiny bumps on the side where you can practice your 180’s and 360’s (or simply just straight air them). The rail set up tends to be a bit more on the advanced side, but there is always something for the less experienced ones as well. Closer to spring, the Sane! crew takes over and reshapes the Skyline Park and in the last years this has resulted in some of the most creative park set ups we’ve come across. Also, if you’re familiar with Ethan Morgan’s top to bottom “coming home” clip, this is the mountain in question.
If you’re looking to spend an afternoon in the sun, doing some park laps, hitting some slushy side hits, enjoying occasional beers with a DJ playing some mellow tunes in the background this is definitely your spot. For families with little kids, there is also a little beginner slope and the opportunity to hire a ski instructor. And on top of this all, it is also the perfect place for powder days. No wonder all the locals prefer to spend time here. Be cautious though, this mountain is steep, so as a beginner you might not get the most out of riding it.
The daily ski pass for Nordkette is €36,50, and if you feel like only doing half a day you’ll only end up paying €29,20.
The J bus is the one you’ll want to be riding in Innsbruck. It takes you up to both Nordkette and Patscherkofel, which is on the south side of town. The drive up to Patscherkofel takes about 25min, depending on traffic (same goes for the bus ticket as with Nordkette – it’s for FREE). Patscherkofel isn’t as steep as Nordkette, which makes it more beginner friendly. However, it is more likely for Patscherkofel to be icy than for Nordkette, especially if the infamous Fhön wind has been blowing about and taking all the snow with it.
Patscherkofel is not massive, but there are definitely more routes to choose from then on Nordkette. At the very bottom of the resort you’ll find a children’s slope and some more mellow pistes for the absolute beginners. It tends to be sunny down there, so shredding up and down that beginner slope will give you a nice tan while you practice those turns. If you’re on a family holiday, or a beginner, Patscherkofel might be more to your liking than Nordkette.
If your group of shredders consists of different levels, Patscherkofel is a good option. The snow park begins at the top of the resort, and if you’re into rails you’ll definitely enjoy the Patscherkofel snow park. The kicker line isn’t as impressive as on Nordkette but there are some smaller ones for you to get creative on. The park is divided into three different sections, so making your way down the piste turns into a bit of an adventure. Patscherkofel snow park is not as busy as the Skyline Park at Nordkette but the smell of weed and sight of fisherman hats cannot be avoided here either.
Patscherkofel is perfect if you’re in the mood for just fooling around the piste, and there are some steep parts that allows you to get your speed up. Parts of the pistes are also quite wide so getting those elbows down and practising your Slice ‘n’ Dice carves is also an option.
If you’re looking to ride powder, Patscherkofel might not be your best option. This side of the valley can be quite windy and often the snow has “gone with the wind” before you can get to it. For a good powder day at Patscherkofel you’ll need to get some hiking in, and preferably have someone show you to the good spots.
Patscherkofel offers a day ticket for the price €38 and the half-day one for €31,90.
There’s no J bus to take you to Axamer Lizum but luckily the City of Innsbruck has invested in other free ski busses. L1 is the one you want to grab for Axamer Lizum but unlike the J bus, you should check the timetable for it since L1 only runs once an hour. It leaves from the main train station (HBF) but stops along the way so you can check if there’s a closer stop to where you are staying. The ride takes about 50min, and the buses tend to be quite crowded, so you usually have to sit holding on to your board. Axamer Lizum is a very bare resort, so don’t forget to put sun cream on. You know how well your skin tolerates alpine sun after sitting inside the office for the past 6 months.
Like the rest of the resorts near to Innsbruck Axamer Lizum isn’t massive, but you can easily spend a day exploring it. It’s also great for powder, if you know where to go (which is probably the case for any resort). In case you’re up for an adventure, take the Pleisen lift up, and once you get off there is only one piste down. Keep on the very left side of the piste and it takes you further out from the resort (don’t turn to the right, that will only bring you back to the resort). You’ll reach a ski route called Axamer Abfahrt, follow that and you’ll find yourself some epic treelines. Once you’re down you’ll have to take the bus back up to the resort, and if you’re lost just ask the locals for help, they’re very friendly even though they might not speak any English.
As in nearly every resort around, you’ll find a snowpark in Axamer Lizum too, the Golden Roof Park. A couple of years back the park was placed at the very bottom of the resort and wasn’t really worth a 50min bus drive. But once it was moved up amongst the rest of the resort, they really improved their game. The golden roof park is easily the most versatile park around Innsbruck. There are boxes and a beginner friendly kicker line, a more advanced rail set up and two medium kicker lines, one being slightly bigger than the other.
The pistes are steeper than in Patscherkofel but if you take the train up to the top and then turn to the right, you’ll find a long quite mellow piste ideal for beginners. Be aware though, by the end of it there’s quite a long flat bit, so be prepared to keep your speed if you want to get all the way back to the lift without needing to unstrap a foot.
At the very bottom of the station there are a couple more mellow pistes ideal for kids and beginners. Also, if you take the Birgitzkopfl lift up to the other side of Axamer Lizum, you can shred all the way to Muttereralm, another ski resort. However, you won’t make it back, which may be quite unfortunate. In case you are planning to head back to Innsbruck you can explore this fun forest run and then take the bus back to town from Muttereralm, otherwise we suggest you stay put.
What might please people who prefer to have a warm meal for lunch but don’t want to spend heaps on expensive resort lunches is that Axamer Lizum has a public microwave. The outer part of the Hoadl Haus restaurant allows you to enjoy your own lunch and use the microwave there to heat it up.
On a final note, if you’re one for dressing up and getting absolutely smashed during the day, you should make sure you book your trip according to Ugly Skiing Day, which is usually the first Saturday of April. It is epic, though slope safety regulations may be mildly violated (for any family holiday – stay away during this time, please).
For a day pass at Axamer Lizum you’ll pay €39,50.
If you’re looking for a nice little family resort this is definitely the place to go. Muttereralm is a cute tiny resort, only a 20min bus ride from Innsbruck city centre. The L3 bus leaves from the main train station (HBF) and will take you all the way to Muttereralm Bergbahnen for free. L3 only runs once an hour, so be sure to check the timetable the night before.
Muttereralm is ideal for beginners and families – it’s not crowded and there’s no cool kids showing off, so you’ll be safe from all that. If you want to get away from the action this is the place to go. It’s not big, but it’s perfect if you want to have some more peace and quiet and practice your riding without worrying whether the cute snowboarder you fancy/the cool kids just saw you fall over. Most likely the only other people around will be families or others who simply want to enjoy a day on the slopes without the ‘scenesters’.
For a day ticket you’ll pay €35,50 and for half a day €30.
The bus ride to Kühtai makes it pretty high up the list of the most scenic bus rides ever, so that 1h 10min ride doesn’t feel too bad in the end. Just remember to use the toilets before you leave since there aren’t any on the bus (or just skip the morning coffee). Bus 4166 also leaves from the main train station (HBF), and like most of the other ski busses, it is also for free. As said, it is a nice ride, so make sure you have a window seat and your earphones in.
Out of all the five resorts listed above Kühtai is the biggest one, so you’ll easily enjoy a day or two exploring it. It’s no Mayrhofen but compared to the other resorts mentioned there is more to see. Kühtai is divided into two sides. On one side you can find the KPark and the SuperPipe. This is the only halfpipe you’ll find close to Innsbruck and one of the only two SuperPipes in Austria, Germany and Italy, so if you’re one to ride pipe, Kühtai might be to your liking. Next to the pipe, you’ll also find a SnowCross course, which can keep you busy for hours (it’s ridiculously addictive to try and get those turns right). The “halfpipe” side of the resort tends to get quite icy at times. When taking the HoheMutBahn up, the first bit of the slope is quite steep, and once it’s icy, there’s a lot of bum sliding around, so be careful.
The KPark is for advanced riders, so the ones who aren’t comfortable with hitting kickers of that size may be better off exploring the KidsPark on the other side of the resort. The KidsPark is fun, with a lot of boxes and good-sized kickers to practice your 180s. Occasionally the slightly red-faced lift man (not sure if this is from the sun or the schnapps, probably both) offers you anything from mints to schnapps – a truly winning combination.
This side of the resort has some really fun slopes to offer, however as the other side gets icy, this side tends to get slushy and the snow can get quite heavy and bumpy, especially around spring. If you feel like you need a little rest in between laps, the KaiserBahn gondola is a good way to rest your feet. It takes you up to the top, from where you have loads of options to choose what way to go next.
Kühtai is another place where you want to make sure that you’ll bring your sunscreen unless you want to rock the red-faced panda look. For a day ticket you’ll spend €40 and for half-a-day one €36.
Where to stay? If you don’t have any mates, or mates of mates whose sofa you could crash on, there are other options for making this trip cheap. Innsbruck isn’t however the most versatile when it comes to its hostel selection, so in case you’re in the middle of a “I don’t know what to do with my life” phase, opening up a nice cheap hostel in Innsbruck might be worth a try.
People are pretty chilled with renting out their rooms, so if you know anyone at all with connections to Innsbruck, it’s worth asking if they know anyone who’d be up for renting their room. A lot of the locals are away for occasional snowboard trips, so the chances are quite high for you to find somewhere to stay. If not, check Airbnb in Innsbruck or some of the following hostels: Marmota Hostel, Youth Hostel Innsbruck or Hotel Nala Innsbruck.
Where to eat? Austria, the promised land of beer, schnapps and schnitzel. Luckily, Innsbruck has developed quite a bit more than the alpine resorts surrounding it, and the food options are more diverse. So, the ones who tend to fuel themselves with chips and ketchup throughout the week due to their dietary restrictions, are in for a treat when staying in Innsbruck.
First things first, what to eat on the slopes? Do as the locals – bring your own snacks instead of having an overpriced portion of schnitzel mit pommes at the resort restaurant. There are plenty of grocery stores around the city, so simply buy yourself a pack of bread and ready sliced cheese and you’re good to go. And don’t forget the sweets, who wouldn’t love some biscuits in between laps. Just bear in mind that the shops close at 7pm and aren’t open on Sunday’s (except for maybe three, but you can’t count on that either – updating opening hours online is an unknown concept for the Tirolians).
When it comes to eating out, you’ll find everything from the traditional food options to insanely good pizzerias (Italy is only 30 mins away) and vegan food. If you’re keen for some traditional food and Weißbier, then Stiftskeller is definitely the place to go. It’s located in the middle of old town, with a beer garden that is open when the weather allows for it. You’ll have some vegetarian options here too, but be aware, your stomach might need a few days to process them.
One of the best Italian restaurants in Innsbruck is located on Höttinger Gasse and is called Due Sicilie. You’ll get one of the best pizzas Innsbruck has to offer, with some good pasta options too. It might be worth booking a table though as the place is tiny. Another slightly less glamorous option for pizza is Magic Pizza, located in old town, which serves greasy slices of kebab pizza until midnight. If you don’t want to wait around for your food in a fancy restaurant, and you don’t mind stinking heavily of garlic afterwards, this might be more to your liking. For the ones with a slightly more demanding stomach, we recommend My Indigo. You can get everything from beef to vegan curry, salad or sushi here. Café Moustache is another great place for vegetarian and vegan options, with their massively popular Falafel plate. The drinks here are cheap too, so you won’t go bankrupt if you decide to keep on going with those afternoon spritzers.
What to do in the evenings? If you want to have a look at what the fisherman hat wearing snowboarders do when they’re not snowboarding, you should head toMachete. They make the most delicious burritos (massive ones too) and it’s also a great place to start your Friday night out, with quality beer and delicious Moscow Mules. If you feel like continuing your evening further into the night Kater Noster is the natural next step for any considerable hipster. It’s not a club, but they make delicious drinks and it tends to get pretty crowded on Friday and Saturday evenings. If you’re aiming for a proper night out, you should definitely check out Jimmy’s. We still find it quite fascinating how many rolled up beanies jumping up and down to hip hop tunes you can fit inside one room.
A snowboard trip to Innsbruck can be whatever you decide it to be but making it cheap is easy. Innsbruck is as ideal for a family holiday as it is for the ones who are looking for some serious shredding. If it’s enjoying cheap prosecco (bottle for 3€ from the grocery store) on a sunny day up at Nordkette or going all in on a Wednesday night in Jimmy’s, either way Innsbruck’s got you sorted.
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