By nature, freeride skiing is an environmentally sustainable way of enjoying the great outdoors. But there is at least one part of your ski trip that imposes a large carbon footprint: getting to the slopes by car.
Some assume that going skiing by train and bus may be one way to reduce your carbon footprint, but surely, it’s the slower and much more inconvenient option than driving? Not at all, I say. What few skiers realise, is that Tirol is very easy to get around—and using trains and buses for ski day trips is one of the best ways to reduce your carbon footprint and to maximise time on the slopes. And why settle for one resort when you can take the train and enjoy the whole country? You can leave Bregenz, Germany’s Munich or Tirol’s capital Innsbruck in the morning on an unhurried journey to many corners of Tirol, and be there in time to get on the first gondola. So, avoid all the hassles of the early morning drive, driving in the snow and putting on chains, and hop on a train for that good morning cappuccino.
Hints & Tips on Skiing by Train and Bus
- Planning ahead is strongly recommended. Check the Websites or Apps of public transportation providers for routes and schedules: www.oebb.at/en; www.bahn.de, vvt.at
- View bus stops on Google Maps/Earth and save maps offline on your mobile device.
- Allow extra time when riding public transportation services, as they can be in peak demand during busy periods.
- For ski day trips, I recommend getting to the bus stop and/or railroad station with lightweight shoes. You can easily store them in your daypack while skiing.
- Many backcountry ski trips without a car are listed in the Brochure of the Alpinist Association, Innsbruck Department (German only).
- Book Recommendation: “PowderGuide Tirol – Die besten Freeridetouren” (German only)
Seefeld is one of Tirol’s areas where the notorious “northern orographic barrier” results in heavy snow that can fall for several days. Regularly, cold winds with a northerly component pick up moisture and wring out epic snowfall on Seefeld, much more than on the more southern parts of Tirol. If you’re itching to get skiing fresh powder and don’t want to deal with icy roads and weekend warrior traffic, hop on the scenic train that links Germany’s Garmisch-Partenkirchen with Innsbruck on a spectacular railroad line high above Inntal Valley. Skiers from Innsbruck or Munich can as well hop aboard a Meinfernbus.de bus in downtown and be whisked up to the mountains without the nightmare of sitting in crowded traffic. Exit the bus at the car park of Rosshütte Ski resort and you’ll be on the slopes in minutes.
Arlberg Area is sheer powder heaven when it dumps, which is often with its climate where moisture rams up against the Alps’ northern slopes. From the backcountry standpoint, there are few places that can match Arlberg Area in terrain variety, snow quality and quantity, favourable weather, and ease of access. Anton am Arlberg is readily accessible via Railjet train from Innsbruck or Bregenz. Even if you have a car, this travel mode is worth considering as it is convenient and wallet-friendly—saving yourself from paying Euro 7.00 a day just for parking. A less known fact: The train stops in the heart of the resort, just steps from Galzig and Rendl Gondolas, thus ensuring a long day on the slopes.
Skiers and freeriders have a huge amount of great backcountry terrain, with lots of steeps, gullies, cliffs and virgin powder to seek out in Zillertal Valley. The most obvious freeride terrain is accessed via the 150er-Tuxbahn Gondola in Mayrhofen. On powder days, you’ll find awesome freshies in Hochfügen and in spring, head to Zillertal Glacier. Ski lifts service a vast skiable terrain and short hikes will yield you some steep powder stashes as well as some great views. On the run around lofty Gilfert Peak or down from Wetterkreuzspitze Spire between Hochfügen and Kaltenbach it is possible to find fresh tracks a day or two after snowfall. For an early start, skiers are recommended to take the Zillertalbahn Train from Jenbach to Kaltenbach. The base of the gondola is only 200 meters from the railroad station.
Getting to Zillertal by train is easy; you only have to change trains in Jenbach. Lift tickets include round-trip travel on the Zillertalbahn Train and ski shuttle buses to and from the Jenbach train station.
The Mountains in Innsbruck’s Backyards
Coming to Innsbruck means getting the best of both worlds – the urban sophistication of a historic town and an Alpine playground that begins where the sidewalks end. Winter sports lovers are definitely in command in Tirol’s capital, probably unique on the planet…. Complimentary bus trips run from Innsbruck main railroad station and give access to all nine nearby mountains. Long couloirs and natural windlips are in abundance up on Nordkette, high above Innsbruck. The notorious runs of the Hafelekar Gully are the obvious places to head if you want your thrills steep. On powder days, these faces get schralped in seconds so you need to be on that first gondola if you want freshies. The standard of freeriding is high, and by lunchtime, everything inbound and much of what is out of bounds will be riddled. The mellow runs at the more relaxed and easy-going ski resorts of Schlick2000 and Axamer Lizum offer powder stashes that last for days after the rest of the hills has been done. You can drop into pine dwarf slopes directly from the top of the gondola in inclement weather conditions. The peaks of Kalkkögel have a unique, Dolomites-like typography with rolling gullies, sharp pinnacles, and exposed, jagged ridgelines. When conditions are fine, this is the place to freeride! Ski touring enthusiasts wanting to explore the amazing terrains of Sellrain, Gamskogel, Nockspitze or Pockkogel are recommended to leave their car in Axams and ride the free ski bus.
Stubai Glacier, the most popular glacier ski resort in the Alps, is a must, especially for some truly amazing spring skiing. The unique elevation advantage translates to an abundance of natural snowfall every season and consistently good snow conditions are a sure thing well into spring. Their signature ski tour gains the summit of iconic Zuckerhütl Peak. Easily accessed by ski lifts, this glacier trip across Pfaffenjoch Col is awesome. Those travelling by bus are recommended to ride the long Sulzenauferner run back down to the valley. Apart from amazing scenery, you don’t have to get back to the base car park to fetch your car after a long and tiring day on the slopes.
From Innsbruck main railroad station, round-trip travel to Stubai Glacier by post bus is at Euro 6.80 only.
© Photo Credits: Michael Gams (1), Marius Schwager