Patscherkofel provides the ultimate contrast to the jagged peaks of the Nordkette mountain range and is a top destination amongst locals for both active days out and relaxation. The Austrian skiing legend Franz Klammer once raced down the pistes on Patscherkofel to become an Olympic champion. Today, the mountain welcomes both active and leisurely sports enthusiasts to enjoy the quiet journey up to the peak in the Patscherkofelbahn lift before embracing the winning combination of a speedy descent and relaxation in nature.
The two mountains stand face to face like non-identical twins. On the Karwendel side of Innsbruck stands the craggy Hafelekar, the city's northern mountain with steep rocky slopes. On the other side of the city is the Patscherkofel with its rounded green summit and pointy radio mast. Although it is nearly 100 metres smaller than its counterpart (the Hafelekar, which reaches up to an altitude of 2,334 metres), the Patscherkofel still provides a gentle contrast to the rugged Nordkette mountains.
The Patscherkofel is a mountain with many different faces. If you want to slow down and enjoy a break, you'll love hiking through the fragrant pine forests or going for a ride on the Patscherkofelbahn lift. Visitors with a need for speed, on the other hand, will be in their element as they tackle the curves leading down into the valley, be it on a bike, bobsleigh, snowboard or skis. According to popular belief, nature and technology are always at odds. On this mighty mountain towering above the city of Innsbruck, however, they seem to have called a very amiable truce. We explored the mountain, focusing on six different stations.
The Patscherkofelbahn lift: higher, further and faster
Down into the valley: in Franz Klammer's tracks
With its rounded peak, the Patscherkofel gives the impression of being the Hafelekar’s tame little brother. Its slopes, however, are anything but tame. In 1976, Franz Klammer sped down the pistes of the Patscherkofel to achieve his legendary downhill victory. He completed the challenging descent over a distance of around three kilometres in a record time of just under 106 seconds and became a ski hero in Austria. Year after year, both advanced and more leisurely skiers follow the tracks of this winter sports pioneer as they glide down the mountain into the valley below. The Olympic course is one of the longest (and most picturesque) runs in Tyrol, covering 1,000 vertical metres and taking skiers down through the forest to the bottom station of the Patscherkofelbahn lift in Igls.
Interestingly, the Patscherkofel is also becoming an increasingly attractive destination for ski tourers who like to hike up the slopes as well as ski down them. It is also a great place to explore during the warmer months of the year on the many forest trails and paths that curve their way down into the valley. Mountain bikers, for example, will love the ride from the mountain lift station down to the village of Igls.
The bobsleigh run: artificial ice for a real adrenaline kick.
At first glance, Igls is just one of the many idyllic villages in the area around Innsbruck. If you look closer, however, you’ll soon discover that this village also has a wild side: anyone looking for a real test of nerves is sure to love the bobsleigh, luge and skeleton track in Igls. The village's legendary ice track was originally constructed for the 1964 Winter Olympics, in the heyday of artificial ice. It was then renovated for the Games in 1976 and completely refurbished in 2004. Today, it provides a truly thrilling experience over a distance of 1,200 metres. The run is not only popular amongst winter sports spectators but also offers visitors the opportunity to experience the rush of racing down the track for themselves. In winter, experienced pilots offer guests the chance to accompany them for a breathtaking ride down the artificial ice track in a race bobsleigh that reaches speeds of up to 115 km/h. And in summer? It's time to put away the runners and bring out the tyres to tackle the track's 14 curves.
In winter, particularly brave visitors can even take on the challenge in a wok, speeding down the ice track and into the valley at speeds of up to 90 km/h in a four-person woksled (yes, that's four woks modified for use as a racing vehicle) in the Wok Race. This exhilarating experience is perfect for anyone looking for a major adrenaline kick. Visitors who would rather enjoy the action from a safe distance can take to the stands and cheer along as a spectator at the luge and bobsleigh World Cup races.
The alpine garden: scents of edelweiss and gentian
Austria's highest botanical garden is located right next to the mountain lift station of the Patscherkofelbahn cable car at an altitude of nearly 2,000 metres above sea level. The garden, which covers 1.5 hectares and is maintained by Innsbruck University, is located right on the edge of the forest and is home to a stunning collection of natural treasures: edelweiss, gentian and auricula grow alongside dwarf shrub heaths and herbaceous bushes and are interspersed with exotic mountain flora from the Himalayas. In June, the Patscherkofel's alpine roses (careful, poisonous!) come into bloom, covering the mountain in a carpet of bright purple flowers. A walk on the mountain's circular hiking trail leads past a diverse spectrum of alpine plants from all over the world in just a few steps.
Hiking in the oldest pine forest in the Alps
Time literally seems to slow down: hiking is one of the most uplifting alpine activities around and this is particularly true when following a trail through one of the largest and oldest pine forests in Europe. When the collection of trees on the Patscherkofel was declared a nature reserve in 1942, it had already been growing there for many years. Many of the gnarled pines are 250 years old and the oldest is believed to be approximately 700 years old. This tree was probably already as tall as an average man when the Hundred Years' War broke out in 1337.
The "Zirbenweg" trail to the village of Tulfes starts at the mountain lift station of the Patscherkofelbahn cable car and leads directly into the kingdom of the "Queens of the Alps", a nickname commonly used to refer to the mountain's giant evergreens. The path runs through mountain pine copses, alpine fields and scree slopes dating back to the Ice Age and provides visitors with stunning panoramic views of Innsbruck time and time again along way. The distinctive and healing scent of pine accompanies hikers along the trail.
Did you know that ...
... the oldest pine tree in the pine forest on Patscherkofel is around 700 years old?
The panoramic tramline: taking the "Igler" to Igls
Innsbruck’s "Mittelgebirgsbahn" tramline (line 6) was built in 1900 and offers travellers the special opportunity to enjoy a leisurely journey with stunning views of the Nordkette mountains and Patscherkofel. Regardless of whether you fancy a day off after a high-speed bike tour or want to steer clear of the crowds heading up to the summit, the comfortable carriages of the "Number 6" or, as the locals like to call it, the "Forest Tram", are the perfect place to sit back, relax and enjoy the trip. Every day, the distinctive red tram passes through impressive scenery as it makes the journey from the final stop on tramline 1, "Bergisel", through the woods to the south of Innsbruck and into the district of Igls before heading back the way it came.
Don’t rush, rest! Mountain huts and restaurants on the Patscherkofel
As Democritus once said, "a life without festivities is like a long road without an inn". This Greek natural philosopher would certainly have loved Innsbruck's popular mountain destination. Why? Because the Patscherkofel is not only a top location for active pastimes amongst Innsbruck residents, but also the perfect place to stop off for a rest and to enjoy a well-deserved break right in the heart of the land of milk and flour-based delicacies. Three tips.