Adventure in Bavaria and Austria
Just twenty-something miles from both Italy and Germany, the city of Innsbruck combines so many amazing highlights: an 800-year-old Gothic Altstadt (old city), the architecture and art of the Hapsburg dynasty, and heartwarming Tyrolean Gemtlichkeit (an untranslatable mix of coziness and sociability). All this nestled into the heart of the Imperial Alps, where steep limestone mountainsÂ—including the Alpine park KarwendelÂ—loom in the north, and high and lovely gneiss and slate peaks rise in the south.
Ring My Bell
Go beyond the usual museum-church-Altstadt tour and check out the Grassmayr family bell foundry (www.grassmayr.at/_e/index.htm), where they've formed and fired bells since 1599. That's 14 generations of painstaking craft, often on a grand scale. On top of each bell (technically, the crown, because bells are queens), the casters leave their marks; the Grassmayr design is an angel's head.
Ski buffs have it made in Innsbruck. You get to eat, shop, and stroll around a charming city with a bustling Christmas market and all the Tyrolean trimmingsÂ—and then zip off to ski the Alps.
For multiresort mania, check out the Glacier ski pass: six resorts, all within 20 minutes of the city, with a total of 56 lifts and 75 miles of runs ($67 for three days). The Super ski pass adds on a day or two at St. Anton am Arlberg and/or Kitzbuhel, for a grand total of 200 lifts and 310 miles of runs ($113 for four days). Both passes offer free ski-bus service when you show your complimentary Club Innsbruck CardÂ—pick one up from your hotel in Innsbruck or any of the 15 neighboring holiday villages.
The ski season usually runs from mid-December to early April, depending on snowfall, but Stubai Glacier, about 40 minutes from Innsbruck, offers skiing year-round (though the runs are best in April and May). Stubai is a snowboarder mecca, as is Axamer LizumÂ—purpose-built for the '64 OlympicsÂ—and the challenging Nordkette-Seegrube resort.
Innsbruck also offers numerous miles of groomed cross-country skiing trails, as well as untracked backcountry touring. Seefeld, just 20 minutes from Innsbruck, is a cross-country haven, and you can go nordic at all of the six alpine resortsÂ—even on the glacier.
Besides these world-class skiing opportunities, give the Olympic bobsled runs a go on Axamer Lizum and Patscherkofel. The capital of Tirol hosted the Winter Olympics not once, but twiceÂ—in 1964 and 1976. Need another way to get your heart pounding? Scale Stubai Glacier's 65-foot ice tower, rated VI for ice-climbing difficulty.
For a bit less adrenaline, catch a bus to the top of a natural toboggan run (Innsbruck has at least 12 in the area). Sledders can descend nearly 3,500 feet over seven miles via the gentle Birgitzer Alm. Warm up afterwards from the inside out with schnapps and wine at a mountain hut.
Details mentioned in this article were accurate at the time of publication