A skiing holiday with a partner who doesn’t entirely share your passion or aptitude for the sport can be a challenge. But after a morning on easy runs in the Schlick 2000 ski area outside Innsbruck, my husband, Anthony, and I happily headed in different directions: me to the Serlesbahnen cable car for some more demanding powder runs, him into town for lunch and culture.
We’d come to Innsbruck because this season the Tirolean capital has launched an updated Ski plus City pass, now covering 13 resorts all between 15 and 75 minutes from the city centre by tram, bus or train. It’s great for skiers looking for variety, as well as for those who want to combine a bit of slope action with a city break: the pass includes entry to 22 museums and attractions. It seems odd to me that the Ski plus City website doesn’t list the train and tram connections, but they can easily be found at the national rail site, oebb.at.
Innsbruck can be reached comfortably by train from London, leaving St Pancras around midday, changing at Brussels or Amsterdam, then catching a sleeper in Cologne. A student city with lively bars dotted among elegant 18th-century townhouses, and trams rattling down cobbled streets, Innsbruck makes a fun base. Our hotel, Stage 12, was a modern hideaway in the old quarter, with a welcome sauna and a good cocktail bar.
From Innsbruck station, Schlick 2000, above the village of Fulpmes, is just 35 minutes by tram, and Serlesbahnen, one of the new resorts offered on the pass, is a 10-minute hop onwards by bus. With no ski hire shops but a string of mountain restaurants, this resort is used more by winter walkers than skiers so, with the slopes to myself, I was able to carve wide sweeping turns on its steep red runs – and get back in time for a sauna before dinner.
The next morning, a bus took us to the Stubai glacier, and we bounced down its 42km of runs in fresh powder. But a storm was building, so Ant headed back to Innsbruck while I took the bus to Elferbahnen ski area near Neustift, another new addition. Its red runs were enticingly steep and the drag lifts even more challenging. For non-skiers, it has some of Austria’s longest sledging runs.
I was happy to return to town, though, where we dined in the panoramic Lichtblick restaurant, two minutes from the hotel. Over venison and sole, we looked out across the imperial palace and 15th-century city tower towards Zaha Hadid’s elegant ski jump.
Ant set out to visit these cultural highlights the next day; I had planned to explore another resort now on the pass, Bergeralm in Steinach, 20 minutes away. However, as rain began to fall, I worried that Bergeralm was too low, and boarded a bus instead for the hour’s journey to Kühtai, the highest resort in Austria. Being able to pick destinations in response to the weather is another advantage of the pass.
As the landscape got whiter and whiter, I realised that far from seeing too little snow, we were faced with far too much. In the blizzard, cars were stranded by the roadside and, from the top of the chairlift, I was skiing in a whiteout.
This is said to be good for perfecting your powder technique as, with no visual clues, you rely on the soles of your feet to tell you how to turn. Apparently. I was just digging myself out of a snowdrift when Ant rang to ask whether Kaiser Maximilian’s magnificent mausoleum and the 16th-century Ambras Castle were on the pass (they are). It felt like he was on a different planet.
Still, I had my own taste of Habsburg history when I made it to the piste-side Jagdschloss. Now a hotel and restaurant, this was the Kaiser’s hunting lodge in the 15th century and I walked down its vaulted hallway into one of its wood-panelled salons for a lunch of fresh lake trout, followed by the obligatory Kaiserschmarren pancakes.
My plan B had involved going on to Hochoetz, just 13 minutes from Kühtai and only slightly less extensive, with 36km of pistes. But 10cm of snow had fallen over lunchtime, and though the buses had chains on their wheels, I didn’t want to get snowed in, so I headed back towards the safety of Innsbruck.
In the lower resorts, Oberperfuss was the only one suffering a lack of snow, but Axamer Lizum was closed by falling trees, and high winds had shut the linked resort of Muttereralm. Glungezer, which has one of the longest slopes in Europe, at 15km, was in the wrong direction for me.
Of the two resorts just 15 minutes from the city, Nordkette was closed because of the avalanche risk on its steep slopes but the shuttle between it and Patscherkofel was still operating and I got there shortly before the lifts closed at 4pm.
I had hoped to squeeze in two runs, but for that I would have had to repeat Franz Klammer’s legendary descent in the 1976 Olympics. My consolation was another spa session at our hotel, where Ant and I swapped stories of our – very different – days’ adventures.
• The trip was provided by the tourist boards of Innsbruck, Stubai and Austria. The Ski plus City Pass costs from €111 for an adult for two days (€300 for seven days), children half price. Doubles at Stage12 cost from €104 room-only
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