Almost half of the total carbon footprint created by a holiday in the Alps is caused by getting to and from the destination. Windsurfing board on the roof, mountain bike on the back, boulder crash pad in the boot or rock climbing equipment on the back seat – do you really need all that gear? Not in Tirol. The region has more than 500 rental and hire shops where outdoor enthusiasts can borrow the equipment they need during their stay. Ski and snowboard rental has been around for decades, but more and more places are now adopting the same model in summer. Here are four examples of rental services in Tirol to give you new holiday perspectives with minimum impact on the environment.
Ötztal Valley: welcome to mountain bike heaven
The huge network of trails in and around Sölden is the perfect place to get away from the highs and lows of everyday life and enjoy the ups and downs of mountain biking. Pumptracks, natural trails, MTB routes and enduro adventures catering for all levels of ambition and ability await in the Bike Republic Sölden. Instead of transporting your bike half way across the continent, why not leave it at home and hire one instead? There are 13 sports shops offering a rental service for mountain bikes and safety gear for everything from the short eight-kilometre ride to the challenging 34-kilometre-long glacier trail. “Sölden is a great place for enduro riding,” explains Matthias Sommavilla from the Bike Rent Station Sölden/Ötztal, an association formed four years ago bringing together two ski and bike rental providers Sporthütte Fiegl and Sport Riml. Sommavilla has been a keen enduro and downhill rider himself for 13 years. He adds that enduro riding is particularly suited to riders with little experience of trail riding: “Enduro bikes are more similar to what you would be used to at home with your own bike.” However, there are also plenty of advanced and expert riders who now choose to leave their bikes at home and rent instead. Sommavilla estimates that around 10% of his clientele are hardcore bikers. Brands stocked at the Bike Rent Station Sölden/Ötztal include Mondraker from Spain, Norco and Rocky Mountain from Canada as well as Focus from Germany – high-end bikes are just as popular as entry-level models. Another benefit of renting on location is the fact that you can be sure of getting a state-of-the-art, well-serviced bike. None of the over 100 bikes on offer at the Bike Rent Station Sölden/Ötztal is more than two years old. Bearings, brakes, discs and tyres are checked after every rental. Once any repairs have been carried out, the bike is given a thorough clean ready for the next satisfied customer. Check out the bike hire centres in Sölden.
Pitztal Valley: crash pads for a soft landing
The number of boulderers in the Pitztal Valley – like in the Zillertal Valley – has been steadily growing in recent years, but many still get asked what they are doing wandering around the mountains with a mattress on their backs. The “mattress” is, in fact, a crash pad, a soft foam rectangle placed at the foot of the rock to break a climber’s fall if they lose their grip on a boulder. Bouldering, unlike traditional rock climbing, involves no rope and no climbing harness – the boulder problems, as they are known, are no more than 3.5 metres above the ground.
Crash pads have been available to hire for around four years from the tourist information in Wenns and the mountain guide centre in Mandarfen. A rental service for these bulky items makes perfect sense – after all, squeezing three of these foam blocks measuring around 120cm by 60cm into a car leaves just about zero space for anything or anyone else. Arriving by train with one of them under your arm will most likely prove less than popular with fellow travellers keen to stow their luggage in the limited space available. “In the summer months, July and August in particular, there is really strong demand for our crash pads,” says Elena Jenewein from the Pitztal Valley tourist information office. She adds that the sport as a whole has experienced a boom in recent years – little wonder considering the fact that “Mandlers Boden”, a boulder area in the heart of the Pitztal Valley, has 180 boulders for all abilities (rated 3 to 8a and 8a+).
More information on hiring crash pads as well as details on bouldering in the Pitztal Valley and the topography of the Mandlers Boden boulder area.
Innsbruck: alpine adventures with an urban twist
Visitors keen to conquer the mountain of Tirol also need not bring their own equipment with them. If you are a member of the Austrian Alpine Club, you can hire all sorts of gear from the regional HQ in Innsbruck. Mike Rutter from the Innsbruck branch of the Austrian Alpine Club explains that the type of equipment in demand varies with the seasons: “In winter, many people hire avalanche safety gear including a probe, shovel and avalanche beacon. In summer, on the other hand, one of the most in-demand items are climbing sets for via ferrata.”
“We have lots of people who come back again and again,” he says. “It makes sense for people who only need a set two or three times a year – it’s not worth it for them to buy the equipment. The same applies to avalanche safety gear in winter.” Another advantage of hiring is that you can be sure you are getting top-quality equipment in good condition. Via ferrata sets, for example, are replaced every three years. After that they are sold off by the Austrian Alpine Club at a discounted rate. Keeping all the rental equipment in top condition is quite a challenge. After each and every rental, the via ferrata sets, carabiners, crampons, avalanche beacon batteries, etc. are checked and tested to make sure everything is fine for the next customer.
So has Rutter observed a change in rental behaviour in recent years? “Absolutely,” he says. “People hire much more than they used to.” He has been with the Austrian Alpine Club for ten years and has seen a strong rise in interest when it comes to mountains and outdoor activities. “In the last few years people have been doing more and more in the mountains. They simply enjoy being physically active in the great outdoors.” This is reflected in the fact that many holidaymakers call ahead to reserve the gear they need before they arrive in Tirol. Another item popular among younger members are bouldering and climbing guides. Innsbruck’s large student population means that many borrow literature on the region’s best climbing areas before heading out into the mountains at the weekend.
Further equipment available to hire from the Austrian Alpine Club includes snowshoes, short skis known as “Firngleiter” used in spring, adapters for bindings on touring skis, helmets, climbing harnesses, ice axes, crampons, compasses and maps.
Lake Achensee: surfing, sailing, stand-up paddling
Sailing boat or two-man canoe? Stand-up paddle board or windsurfing set? Whatever your water sport of choice, there are plenty of hire centres around Lake Achensee. They range from the water sports school and water sports centre in Maurach to the boat hire centre in Pertisau. The local tourist information offices provide information on further rental options in the region.
For rouleurs and climbers – road bike adventures in Tirol
Tirol is famous among road bike enthusiasts for its hardcore climbs such as the Timmelsjoch and the Kitzbühel Horn, but there is also plenty of easier riding down in the valley. One of the best places for road bike riding is the Alpbachtal Valley, which has more than 22 signposted road bike routes ranging from easy cruising in the Lower Inn Valley to seriously challenging rides such as the 116km Giro Region 31 with 2,250 vertical metres of climbing (not one for beginners!). Easier options include the Small Lake Loop via Breitenbach and Schönau. Click on the following link to see the best road bike rides in and around the Alpbachtal Valley. We recommend travelling to Innsbruck by train. Within the city there are several places where you can rent a road bike. Crazy Bikes specialises in high-end mountain bikes and road bikes, from marathon models for cruisers to carbon-framed beasts for weight weenies. Brands available include Trek.
Another top location is the shop and rental centre Die Börse situated in Leopoldstraße in Innsbruck. The rental service is even open on Sundays. Bikes available include road bikes catering for all levels of fitness and ambition as well as downhill and enduro bikes (with and without electric motors) plus all the necessary safety equipment. Bikes can be hired per day or per week.