13 January 2016 – Bergisel Ski Jump and snow and ice skating fun at Patscherkofel……….
The plan for our last full day in Innsbruck, Austria, was a trip to the Bergisel ski jump, followed by an afternoon at Patscherkofel mountain with cable cars, snow and ice skating!
The extremely noisy church bells woke us up well before 7am (they start at 6am). It’s absolutely the only negative thing about the beautiful apartment we are staying in! We breakfasted and got organised and headed out just before 9.30am. It was minus 3 but not too cold – we had obviously acclimatised! There was, despite the forecast, no snow on ground overnight. We were still going to see snow during the day though, so weren’t too worried. It was a quick walk down the hill into old town and we caught our first Innsbruck tram to Bergisel ski jump.
Unfortunately the tram only took us part way up the hill and the closest stop was a 1.2km walk up a winding path with many steps to the jump stadium. The Bergisel Sprungschanze Stadion, has a capacity of 26,000, and is a ski jumping hill stadium that is visible from most parts of Innsbruck. The Stadium is a Ski Jumping World Cup venue, and annually hosts one of the competitions in the prestigious Four Hills Tournament.
The entry to Bergisel was included on our Innsbruck cards. We were all excited to see a ski jump up close (even though we got a bonus look at one a few days earlier in Garmisch-Partenkirchen). If you’ve watched ski jumping on TV and think those competitors are mad, see the jump up close and you realise how insane they must be. The jump was enormous, no matter which way you looked at it. Just the landing ramp looks enormous from the bottom.
Soren is fascinated with ski jumps and as soon as we arrived at the stadium he was bouncing up and down in the ergo yelling ‘ski jump, ski jump’. He kept saying he ‘wanted a go’. Ummm not sure about that! There was however, supposed to be a practice session with jumping on for the day and we were hoping to see some jumps. A whole lot of ski jump grooming was going on with people sideways on skis and with large shovel like things they were using as toboggans. We never previously knew how you groomed a ski jump, but now we know. We were surprised at how fluffy the snow was on landing slope. On TV it seems rather firm, but it was very soft and powdery. The jump grooming process did seem like a lot of work, and there was regular falling over and sliding down the slope!
We watched fascinated for a while, then went to gift shop as Anto hadn’t got his trip polo yet, so a few souvenirs were purchased. We then headed up to the top of the jump in a funicular like lift. It was a rather steep trip up, but I am now getting over my utter fear of such things.
We went right to the top, and got out at the viewing terrace to take some photos looking down, it was now lightly snowing. The cloud had come in around the mountain so the views over the city and back towards Patscherkofel weren’t all that clear. It was still pretty impressive.
We decided to go into the restaurant to check out the views, wait for the jumpers to start and have some hot drinks. Mikl and I started the morning off with a gluhwein, but the others all had hot chocolates. There were pretty good views straight down the jump and the kids loved it.
We then saw all the jumpers pack up and leave (the carpark was just under the restaurant). The wind had picked up so we had kind of expected the jumping would be cancelled. We thought we’d better head off too, since there wasn’t going to be anything else to see. Astrid bursts into tears as she really wanted to see them jump (didn’t we all). She had become a big ski jumping fan after watching it on TV several times during the trip.
On the way down the very steep lift, we stopped at the bottom of the jump to have a look under the jump ramp, and at the jump from the point most jumpers land. The original jump was built in 1920 out of wood! There have been several incarnations since then, but the current jump was completed in 2003.
Then from the bottom we walked up to top of landing hill and looked back up the jump and checked out the Olympic cauldrons.
We left Bergisel and walked to Olympiapark to catch the bus out to Patscherkofel. It was only around a 2km walk, and was thankfully mostly downhill. Soren predictably fell asleep in the ergo. Once we arrived at Olympiapark we noticed there was a long-track speed skating competition being held outside for the Children’s Games (which were being held in Innsbruck during our stay). We stopped and watched the skaters for a while through the fence. Then as we went past the indoor rink on way to bus, we could see through the windows that the figures skaters warming up for their competition. Astrid told us that she wasn’t convinced her skating is quite as good as either the speed skaters or the figure skaters!
The public transport system in Innsbruck proved to be as efficient as ever and the bus arrived on time, and whizzed us up the mountain at high-speed towards Patscherkofel and deposited us at Igls, next to the Patscherkofelbahn. The whole trip only took around 10 minutes. Patscherkofel is on the opposite side of Innsbruck to Nordkette, where we had been the day before. It has a reputation as the ‘local mountain’ as opposed to Nordkette which is heavily promoted to tourists.
With Soren still asleep we decide to go to the restaurant at the bottom of Patscherkofelbahn for lunch. The kids had croissants we bought that morning and some chips, their great holiday diet! The rest of us had the most enormous burgers. I had a vegie burger (which was salad and some cheese and various mayos). The boys had the mega special burger which had chicken and bacon and cheese. I certainly couldn’t eat all of mine. Soren did eventually wake up so helped me a little.
The cable car up to Patscherkofel was very quiet compared to the Nordkettenbahn, we were the only ones on, and the weather was actually quite good! The cable car is not quite as big as ones from previous days, but not a tiny gondola sized one, so I was relatively happy. There were lovely views of the town of Igls on the way up and we also went over the top of the bobsleigh complex and you can see up close how insane the track is.
The cable car stops half way up, before a swap to the car on the other side, and after that it goes and up very steeply to the top of the mountain.
The top station at Patscherkofel is at 1900m, and it was rather cold, at -7 inside the station. We can’t see all the way down to Innsbruck but it was better visibility than the previous day, it is still snowing and despite the cold we went out for an explore. Again the alpine snow is so light and fluffy that we sink in, often up to our waists on the ungroomed areas. The compacted areas of snow have that beautiful crunch and squeak when you walk on it, that you just don’t get on Australian snow. Despite the cloud cover, it was definitely a beautiful spot.
Soren and Astrid have heaps of fun playing in the snow. They are turning into real snow bunnies and wanted to frolick in snow all day long! My camera, on the other hand, was not a fan of the temperatures and again the zoom froze. We think the temperature was below -10 and with wind chill, lower. You certainly couldn’t have your gloves off for very long without getting frostbite, so camera time was limited! You can ski right down to the cable car so we spent time keeping out of the snowboarder and skiers way and watching the little kids out do all our skiing efforts! We did all start mentally planning our next ski holiday!
After awhile out in the cold we needed to warm up so headed inside the restaurant for some gluhwein for the adults and gummy bears for kids. We were certainly enjoying this alpine lifestyle! We promised the kids one more play in the snow.
Some of the time it’s rather foggy then it clears a little, and is actively snowing. It certainly wasn’t as bad as the previous day, weather wise, but since we weren’t skiing or hiking we were getting a little cold. Not that the kids cared at all, Soren was just about frozen solid, and still wanted more. It was definitely time to investigate the next snow-based holiday!
We had to drag kids away from snow but promised more snow at the bottom (and gummy bears). It was now around 3.30pm, so only an hour until sunset. We headed back down in the cable car with some skiiers who had finished up for the day. They did say it was a good place to ski. I had been eyeing off some of the Summer hiking trails too. As we went over the bobsleigh complex again we saw the Great Britain bobsleigh team heading in that direction!
We decide to play in the snow in Igls. There is a kid friendly area, which normally has a lot of activities for littlies but there is currently not huge amount of snow. There was still enough to keep us happy though, They didn’t have sleds for hire but other kids were sledding on their own sleds from home. We make do with some ‘bum sledding’ and the kids ride on the adults.
There is a snow encrusted playground, so we naturally had to have a play. Soren loves flying off the slippery dip at high-speed. Astrid was having just as much fun until she slipped over on some ice and is a bit upset so cheer her up with the prospect of some ice skating.
The ice skating rink at Igls which was cheaper than the Munich one that Astrid had her first skate on. It was also much quieter (and less wet). Given it was around -3 here, rather than 8 degrees, it was better weather for ice skating.
Astrid and Anto had a little skate for around half an hour. Astrid again had a skate animal, this time a penguin! She did much better than the previous time, although since she had her ski suit on today she was allowed to fall over and didn’t overly like falling. To her credit, she kept getting back up and trying again.
There were so many little kids flying around the ice, as well as local grown ups showing off. Soren spent his time shouting ‘go A, go A’ to encourage Astrid, and collecting snowballs (can you tell he really likes snow balls!
It was now 4.30pm and getting dark so it was back on the bus, which we only had to wait a couple of minutes for and a quick trip back down the hill and into town. The bus was full of skiiers finishing up for the day. We still can’t get used to people in full ski gear hopping on and off buses.
When we went to get off the bus and Anto, Mikl and Astrid get off and as I’m picking Soren up the doors shut and I don’t have a spare hand to hit the button and driver takes off…. so Alan, Soren and I are stuck on the bus. Soren was rather upset. We only went 1 stop down and I knew where we were, and by the time we got off the others had almost caught up. Astrid had apparently showed little concern for me!
We tried to find somewhere for dinner. A couple of places we wanted to go were not open for dinner at 5pm so we ended up going back to Golden Daschels restaurant that we had been to on the first night. I was very full so had a salad with egg. The kids again requested kinder schnitzel and chips (yes twice in one day). Mikl had the Tyrolean special which was potato and pork version of what I had the previous time with fried egg. Anto had mixed meats with potatoes and beans. Alan had roast sirloin with onion and spetzel. All the adults had a well deserved beer or wine.
It was then the walk back up the hill to the apartment and we got the tired kids off to bed, while we packed up for our trip to Switzerland the next day.
Statistics for 13 January 2016, in Innsbruck, Austria – the minimum temperature was minus 2 degrees, the maximum was 3 degrees and the mean was zero degrees. The temperature while we were up Patscherkofel was between -7 and -10. The total walking for the day was just over 10.5km, so still a decent effort all around!