Innsbruck, Austria – #1 of #18Citiesof2018

As the first city in my #18CitiesIn2018 adventure, I went off to Innsbruck to do something that I had always wanted to do – skiing! I went with the expectation that I would break at least one bone in my body so I am happy to say that except for bruises sustained from a few falls (though I am reasonably sure I cracked a rib based on the pain), I survived the experience and in fact, wanted more! I can’t wait to go back skiing again and want to do one every year if possible. But of course, time and money will be an issue as always!

Skiing

Innsbruck makes for an interesting location for skiing in that it couples as a nice city break as well, with several ski slopes within an hour’s journey from the centre of the city, accessible by car or buses (which are free with some of the ski passes). One of these is the largest glacier skiing area in Austria (Stubai Glacier) and some of the ski slopes are 3000m above sea level at the highest point! Having hosted 2 Winter Olympics and 2 Winter Paralympics, most of the slopes are for the intermediate and advanced skiers though there are some areas for the beginners which I stuck to most of the time.

The first thing we did after landing was to get kitted out for our ski gear from the rental shop – this was a great experience in itself! Trying on the ski boots and trying to walk around in it made me feel like a clumsy duck – only slightly different from my normal gait!

On the first day of skiing, we did a half hour bus journey to Patscherkofel which was the closest slope and catered to the beginners with a ski school, my first stop obviously. I was very nervous but after some very good work by the lovely ski instructor, I got the hang of all the “pizza” / ploughs and turns and was confident enough to ski on my own from the top of the beginners’ slope. I did have a few falls and one embarrassing incident where my ski got caught to the T-bar lift which dragged me on my but for quite a bit before they had stopped it and rescued me.

The next day we went off to the Stuba Glacier and after a few runs on the basic beginners slope and with some encouragement from my friend / ski travel organiser / ski instructor extraodinaire Rash, we went up to the top of the advanced blue slope. A blue slope is the lowest rating with regard to difficulty but for a guy on skis only for the second time in his life, this might as well have been a sky dive without a parachute. Needless to say, I crashed several times and it was a miracle that I didn’t break a bone on that run, especially as I kept leaning back rather than leaning in! But with lots of encouragement and help from Rash, I made it safely to the end and even though I was ready to give up skiing at that point, once the pain subsided, it gave me the confidence to try part of those runs by myself.

On our third day of skiing, it was back to Patscherkofel and slopes more familiar to me so this time I did a nice ski run on my own with no help!

After which I took the cable cars to the top for a great lunch and some photography.

Right after taking this picture, I got a call to say that the lift cars had been closed down due to high winds and I had no way of getting down as I am ski beginner. After an anxious half hour, I got a a ride down on a snow scooter, which turned out to be the most exhilarating thing I’ve done in my life. Shooting down the snow covered mountain at break neck speed on a powerful, open scooter while holding on to the sides for dear life, is an experience that I won’t soon forget.

The easiest of the slopes to get to is Nordkette which is a quick cable car ride from the City Centre but unfortunately I wasn’t able to ski here due to time constraints. We did take the cable car and enjoyed a lovely lunch whilst taking in the fantastic views on a beautiful sunny day!

Being the 5th most largest city in Austria, it is a typical European city with beautiful architectural mixture of both modern and gothic buildings. One of the attractions are the colourful houses on the waterfront. We also went up the City Hall tower which is the highest point in the City to see some wonderful views of Innsbruck. Another attraction was the Swaroski shop which had some amazing things made out of these crystals. There is a museum as well just out of town but we couldn’t visit this – might be worth it if you are interested in this sort of thing.

Food

Don’t forget to try the traditional Wiener Schnietzel and the local potato salad and wash it down with some excellent Austrian beer or Aperol Spritz.

Photography

It is all about capturing the beautiful snow topped mountain ranges! If you are skiing and not very good at it, taking a normal camera with you is going to be risky and a challenge. A small action camera (like the GoPros) are your best bet so that you can capture your ski runs as well as the wide landscapes. They are also usually weather proofed – ideal for when it is snowing or you fall with it in to the snow!

Make sure you get the cable car up to the Nordkette range and have some lunch up at the excellent restaurant. It will be crowded during the height of the season but if the weather is good, the views are incredible.

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