We went to Igls, Austria with Inghams and it was quite simply one of the best holidays we have ever been on, even though it was our first ever ski holiday and none of us had really skied before.
This is our story of why we loved our ski trip to Austria and why Innsbruck is now one of our favourite destinations in the world that we have visited.
A ski holiday had never really appealed to us before, we would rather go on a holiday that guarantees some sun and warmth rather than freezing on top of a snowy mountain.
However having a taster ski session in Levi Lapland when visiting Santa with Inghams whet our appetite and got us thinking were we missing out by not experiencing a ski break.
So with a little trepidation, we decided to go on a family ski holiday for our February half term break. With so many ski resorts across Europe, it can be overwhelming deciding on one that ticked the right boxes for us.
We wanted somewhere that had a short transfer time from the airport and where we could get the right balance of skiing which was suitable for beginners and non-ski activities.
After checking out websites, books and brochures we decided on Igls in Austria, located just outside Innsbruck which we booked via Inghams. Igls was recommended to us as a great base for a family ski holiday and matched all of our requirements of what we would want to experience from a first time family ski break.
We started our trip flying out from Bristol with Austrian Airways for our short flight to Austria. Austrian Airways are one of the best airlines we have flown with. It’s the little touches that made the difference such as welcome gifts for the girls and onboard wi-fi – perfect to keep any child entertained during the flight.
Coming in to land in Innsbruck, the capital of the Alps must be one of the most impressive descents of any airport.
With gorgeous blue skies with unlimited visibility as we looked out of the plane windows we could see the soaring snow-covered mountains of the Alps that almost seemed close enough to touch – it was such an exciting way to start our winter adventure in Innsbruck.
After arriving at Innsbruck airport we were met by our Inghams rep who warmly welcomed us to Austria and took us to our private transfer.
It took less than 15 minutes to get to our beautiful Tyrolean village in the mountains above the city, even after a quick stop-off to take in the views of the city below and its famous landmark the Bergisel ski jump designed by world famous architect Zaha Hadid and a venue in two winter Olympic Games.
The Hotel – Sporthotel Igls
We arrived at our hotel the lovely 4* Sporthotel Igls set in the picturesque chocolate-box Tyrolean village of Igls (pronounced Eagles).
With a beautiful central church and traditional stores, Igls is a hidden gem retaining an old world charm. If you are looking for an apres ski party town, then it’s the wrong place but for families with younger children it was perfect.
The Sporthotel Igls is a traditional Austrian family friendly hotel with the most welcoming and charming staff.
Our family suite, was modern and stylish, offering the perfect amount of space for a family of four and plenty of storage space for all of the clothes needed as we don’t tend to travel light.
We had the most amazing views over snow-covered Alps from our balcony and windows. One of my favourite things during our stay at the Sporthotel Igls was opening the curtains each morning to see this spectacular view. I could never get tired of it and is one of the lasting impressions we have of our stay.
We stayed on a half board basis and food quality was excellent throughout our stay although there was a limited selection of dishes available especially for children.
However what was great about the Sporthotel Igls was that nothing was too much trouble for the staff. When we wanted a change from what was on menu, the chefs would happily create some of our favourite meals.
After a delicious breakfast at the hotel, our first day was spent doing what we had come to Austria for, heading up the mountains to ski.
The Resort – Patscherkofel
In the Innsbruck area there are nine ski resorts which make up the Olympia Skiworld covering more than 260km of ski slopes catering for a range of abilities.
Our closest ski resort was Patscherkofel, a venue for the men’s 1976 downhill event at the winter Olympics and has recently been totally transformed; turning it into a modern ski resort that was perfect for skiers of all abilities including complete beginners like us.
Featuring great nursery slopes complete with magic carpet (a small conveyor belt transporting the smallest children and beginners up the small slope) along with several blue runs out of the eight runs available.
Getting to Patscherkofel each day was a five minute journey away on the efficient complimentary ski bus service (J bus) which stopped across the street from our hotel every 10 minutes. The bus ran between the Patscherkofel and Nordkette mountain ranges and was also a quick and convenient way of getting into the city of Innsbruck.
As you would expect from a modern family-friendly ski resort, Patscherkofel offered ski rental on site, a ski room and ski lifts that aren’t far away – perfect for families with younger children.
We arranged to rent our ski equipment (skis, poles, boots and helmet) through Inghams before our trip and this was so straightforward when we arrived at the Intersport rental office at the slopes of Patscherkofel.
The staff at the ski rental store were really friendly and fitted us all with the ski equipment we required, which took less than 20 minutes.
It’s also worth hiring a ski locker in the changing rooms at Patscherkofel as it made it really easy to store all of our ski gear and we didn’t have to take it back with us each day to the hotel.
There are four ski schools at Patscherkofel offering courses for all ages and abilities and as we are not skiers (I last skied properly over 20 years ago) we pre-booked our 3 day private lessons through Inghams.
The instructors all spoke perfect English and as we headed out onto the nursery slopes we met our instructor Max from the Alpinskischule Patscherkofel. One of the benefits of learning together was that we were able to learn how to ski together as a family, creating lots of great memories.
Although not the biggest ski mountain, it was perfect for us thanks to its quiet slopes especially during the week and a great nursery area spanning 15,000m2 to practice the basics from what we learnt at Levi, Finland.
It’s surprising just how much you forget, so we started with moving around the snow with one ski on flat ground followed by using two skis – which was a great workout to start the day.
Max was the perfect instructor and developed a great rapport with us. Very patient and informative and we were soon on one of its three nursery slopes practicing the snow plough (like forming an A with your skis), turns and stops on the way back down the hill.
Over the 3 days, each time we skied down the slopes, increasing in difficulty we got better and confident with each run. It was amazing just how quickly both Chloe and Holly picked up the basics of how to ski properly and watching them come down the slope both brought tears of pride to our eyes and laughter as they confidently whizzed past us.
For the rest of our ski days we enjoyed practicing what we had learnt from Max on the various runs at Patscherkofel. By the end of the week we were on the blue and red runs, with the girls confidently slaloming between gates like they had skied for years.
Private lessons are more expensive but I felt that we all progressed quicker, it’s amazing how much you can improve in just a short space of time. What was great with having the one-to-one instruction was that the instructors offered us detailed feedback each time on our individual technique as we came down the slope.
Apres Ski and more
If you get a chance, enjoy a meal and some apres-ski at Das Kofel on the summit of Patscherkofel 1,674 metres above the city. Hungry and tired after our ski sessions we loved using our lift passes riding the gondola up to the summit of Pasckerkofel and dine on top of the mountain – the girls’ favourite drink was Austrian Ski Vasser.
One of our favourite things to do was just to wander in this magical winter wonderland. Going for walks, taking in the views, playing in the snow, making snowmen, things we don’t get to do very often in the UK.
Better still during all but one of our days the weather was perfect providing amazing views of the rugged Nordkette mountain and of Innsbruck below. The views were so spectacular you couldn’t help but smile.
It is such a beautiful location especially at its summit 1,674 metres above the city. Our instructor told us the mountain of Patscherkofel might look ugly but it has the best views of the impressive mountains.
Holly discovered that you could hire traditional wooden toboggans from the Intersport ski hire shop (5 euros).
I thought that the children would have been completely exhausted after a busy few hours learning to ski but they were suddenly full of energy after we suggested trying tobogganing. We all had great fun speeding down the run with the girls in particular screaming in delight.
My husband spotted a more extreme form of tobogganing at the Olympic bobsleigh track next to the slopes at Pasckerkofel. Here, a bobsleigh pilot and brakeman take you on a 110km ride down a 1,270 metre track with 14 turns.
He was all set for his Olympic bobsleigh debut and had tickets but had to cancel at the last minute because our travel insurance wouldn’t cover this extreme form of winter sports activity, so it’s well worth checking your policy.
If that wasn’t enough, you can try snow shoeing through the forest or cross country skiing, there is something for everyone here at Patscherkofel.
Back in our village of Igls there was a small ice skating rink where you could practice your skills or try curling but sledging down the slopes was one of the girls favourite activities.
A good post ski swim is one of the best ways to soothe your muscles and have more fun after getting out of your ski boots.
Our hotel had a lovely indoor pool which the girls would make a beeline for every day when we returned to the hotel, better still the pool offered great views of the Alps through its windows as you swam.
We chose Igls because its location offered the perfect balance of skiing and non-skiing activities. Innsbruck was just a 3 mile tram or bus ride away (the hotel provided free bus tickets into Innsbruck each day as part of the Innsbruck Welcome Card) so we could enjoy the best of both worlds.
On our non-ski days, we managed to take in lots of what the beautiful city of Innsbruck had to offer.
Tip – It’s well worth purchasing the Innsbruck Card which provides up to five days access to some of Innsbruck’s most popular attractions, free travel on public transport and one ascent and decent on each of the cable cars in the Innsbruck region.
We started our sightseeing wandering through the beautiful old town of Innsbruck with its winding streets and historic buildings taking in one of its famous landmarks the Golden Roof and Imperial Palace.
After a quick stop off for some shopping at the flagship Swarovski store (we couldn’t resist) we arrived at the futuristic railway station and caught the Hungerburgbahn funicular from Congress in the old town to the Hungerberg in just eight minutes.
On the way up to the top of the Nordkette mountain we stop off at the Alpine Zoo, Europe’s highest zoo, to look at the wolves, bears, eagles and other animals who call the Alps their home. It’s a great little zoo and the girls loved it, and it’s well worth making the stop.
At the end of the Hungerberg, it was a cable-car ride to the Seegrube which offered amazing views over the city below and one of the city’s most popular ski slopes for the locals.
This is also a party stop for the many skiers (seeing people walking through Innsbruck is part of every day life in winter) which was great fun.
Chloe and Holly had lots of fun making snow castles and danced to the resident DJ who was blasting out dance music from his booth at 1,900 metres above the city whilst we took in the unique panoramic views from the deckchairs soaking up the sun in unusually warm temperatures.
Before we took our final cable car to the top vantage point Hafelekar we wandered through the amazing Cloud 9 igloo made completely from ice.
The view from the Hafelekar at 2300m high just takes your breath away, the views are amazing as are the ski routes from the top which are some of the steepest and most challenging in Europe.
Back in the city centre we couldn’t resist one of our favourite activities – shopping. The main shopping street Maria Theresien must be one of the most beautiful in the world, framed by the snow capped mountains. We found some great shopping at the Kaufhaus Tyrol and Rathaus Galerien shopping centres where the girls called into some of their favourite shops Lush, Lindt and Rituals before heading back to the hotel for the day.
The next day we travelled on the shuttle bus ( €9.50 per adult and kids under 15 are free) to the village of Watten, home of Swarovski Crystal Worlds. Home of Swarovski, this is truly a place of fantasy and one of the best attractions we have visited across the world – I can’t recommend it highly enough it is that good and magical which kids in particular will love.
From the iconic green giant, which stands guard to the amazing displays and treasures inside such as the magical crystal dome which was one of our favourites.
The gardens are just as impressive and beautiful and you know when you are somewhere unique when the clouds are made from Swarovski Crystal – the crystal cloud contains 800,000 crystals over a lake which creates the most amazing reflections and effects especially against the backdrop of the snowy mountains.
The girl’s highlight was the play tower which we found after a delicious lunch at Daniels restaurant (highly recommended) each table had a beautiful centrepiece made out of a Swarovski crystal and the views over the gardens and the crystal clouds were fabulous.
The play tower, like the rest of the attraction is impressive and unique. With climbing area, slides, rope climbs and trampolines across its five floors we had trouble coaxing Chloe and Holly out, they were enjoying so much.
Back in Innsbruck we visited Audioversum Science Centre which was really cool. It’s one of the most interesting and unique museums we have been to. There were lots of interactive exhibits (translated in English) and was a really fun way to learn about the ear, nose and body through hands on learning.
After a last morning on the ski slopes, we managed to fit in a visit to Ambras Castle Innsbruck, one of the most beautiful and iconic castles we have been to and one of the world’s oldest musuems. The grounds and exterior of the castle are impressive but inside the Spanish Hall was just exquisite.
Having watched the ski jumpers launch themselves into the air from the Bergisel Ski Jump on TV in our hotel during the FIS Nordic World Championships, that were on in the city during our visit, we had to take a closer look before heading back to Igls.
The building is iconic and the views from the top over the city and surrounding mountains are amazing. It must be a mixture of madness, skill and seeking an adrenaline rush that makes for a special breed of athlete who would want to do this – it’s so high from the top, it’s insane.
We’ve had a fabulous time in Innsbruck and I would definitely recommend this beautiful city for families as a winter destination combining it with skiing and the sights of Innsbruck. Our only disappointment is that our wonderful week in Innsbruck and Igls is over far too quickly as we created so many unbelievable memories as a family.
Why we would recommend a family ski holiday
Our holiday to Austria with Inghams was a resounding success, all four of us can ski now – some of us better than others, the girls in particular are now little ski experts, it’s amazing just how much they have developed and grown in confidence in just a short space of time.
Perhaps one of the best moments of our trip was when the four of us were skiing down one of blue runs together, with clear blue skies and glorious warm sunshine with views of the mountains in the distance.
We liked the fact that every aspect of our trip from flights, accommodation, ski passes, lessons etc could be arranged by Inghams.
I have no doubt that both Chloe and Holly will be nagging us to test their newly found ski skills at another ski resort in Europe – now, where is that Inghams brochure?.
Inghams offers a seven-night Christmas 2019 ski holiday on a half board basis at the four-star superior Sporthotel Igls in Igls, Austria, from £1,113 per person based on a family of four travelling.
Price includes return flights and airport transfers. Lift passes, equipment hire and tuition can all be pre-booked through Inghams. To book, visit www.inghams.co.uk/ski-holidays or call 01483 791 114.
Thanks to Inghams for your support in helping us put this holiday together