Innsbruck is gorgeous, a place of elegant streets and squares full of brightly painted buildings, and yet you can reach the Nordkette ski directly via the modern Hungerberg funicular which starts as a tube train then zips through a hilly suburb to connect with a cable car.
It’s one of 13 ski areas on the new Ski + City pass, a lift pass combined with 22 attractions (including the grandiose Imperial Palace, completed in 1500 under Emperor Maximilian I) and several big swimming pools along with public transport covering the area.
Innsbruck is at the heart of Austrian skiing and the Bergisel ski jump sits on a ridge with panoramic views over the city (the tower, designed by feted architect Zaha Hadid and with a lofty cafe, is on the Ski + City pass).
The nearest ski area is Nordkette, the top of which after two cable cars, is 2,256m. Farthest away, about a 45-minute bus ride from town is the Stubai glacier. There’s everything from recognized resorts to the tiny learning area of Kinderland Rinn and the three lifts of Elfer in the village of Neustift.
The others are Patscherkofel (on a bare, radio mast-topped peak above the city), Axamer Lizum (about 30km of slopes), adjoining Mutteralm (great for learners), neighboring Glungezer, tiny Sonnenberg, lovely mountaintop Oberferpuss, Hochoetz, charmingly alpine, just along from Kuhtai, the decently sized Schlick 2000, Bergeralm (30km away, on the road to Italy), the handful of easy slopes at Mieders, the children’s fun area at Grünberg and the Sonnenlift drag lift in Axams.
The skiing: The Ski + City pass is available for a minimum of two days, ideal for anything from a short break to a full holiday.
Nordkette is the place to ski on a brief visit, the journey itself a must-do attraction, the futuristic funicular calling at even more futuristic stations designed by Zaha Hadid, then cable cars to a winter wonderland above the trees with breathtaking 360-degree views of the city and Alps.
There are only six pistes but dramatic ones – plus Hafelekarrinne, Europe’s steepest ski route, a run through the off-piste. Across the city and Inn Valley, Patscherkofel has more special views and runs (one 7.5km long) that hosted races.
For a more traditional ski day, Kuhtai is a village (at more than 2,000m, Austria’s highest resort, with great snow cover) with slopes running either side of the main street. The pistes are easy-going but take the long sidestep up above the reservoir for a steep, exhilarating powder burn past the dam.