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Backcountry Spotlight | 72 Hours In Tirol

While Tirol boasts some of the best piste and park resorts in the Alps, there's also plenty on offer for those into their backcountry skiing and snowboarding

Not read our Tirol Winter Resort Guide yet? It’s great. One of the best resort guides in the world. Fantastic. Seriously, if you’ve not yet checked it out, then do yourself a favour and get your clicker over the link – after you’ve read this article, of course.

After a quick flick through the resort guide, you’ll soon learn how stacked you are for skiing in the area. Those of you travelling with non-skiers, or who just fancy a chilled out time in the mountains, will love the range of activities on offer in the region. You’ve got youself some of the most bouncing parties on snow and in town, alongside some actual city vibes, with the bustling Innsbruck in the heart of Tirol.

Photo: Ski Touring high in Axamer Lizum. Credit: Jordan Tiernan

After having a flick through the Resort Guide myself, I thought it would be time to book myself onto a trip to Tirol to get over the post-ISPO hangover (four consecutive days spent indoors do bad things to you). Cue a whirlwind non-stop tour around some of the quieter human powered ski spots of Tirol.

Mieminger Kette

Photo: Mieminger Kette. Credit: Giles Dean

For all you looking for your first backcountry adventure away from any lifts or people, this would be far from the worst place to start. Mieminger Kette is able to boast heaps of square meterage of ski touring paradise, with an entire ridgeline stretching almost as far as the eye can see. Splitting this ridgeline seems to be an uncountable amount of couloirs cutting down to the valley floor.

Photo: Ski touring through the trees in Mieminger. Photo Holly Burns

If your German is up to scratch, then grab yourself a copy of ‘Freeski Tirol: Skibergsteigen in der Mieminger Kette’, where you’ll get a real idea of the terrain on offer here – there’s a couloir that’s seemingly been handcrafted for every ability level. We sadly didn’t get to sample these couloirs, due to a storm dumping around half a metre of fresh onto a weak layer below as soon as we arrived in the region.

Photo: Slaying the powder in Mieminger Kette. Credit: Jordan Tiernan

For that reason, we decided to keep things mellow and got a solid dosage of some of the finest powder out there in the trees below the Mieminger Ridge. Whilst it may not have been the real Mieminger experience, these trees gave us more than enough stoke to keep us frothing human powered lap after human powered lap – even on a pair of skinny skimo sticks and sub-one kilogram boots – and of course, there wasn’t a person in sight for the entire day. Bliss.

With the snow stability consolidating, we moved onto pastures new, with an appetite to get up into the high alpine and see what Tirol has to offer for the dedicated ski mountaineer; roll up one of the most ideally situated cities out there – Innsbruck.

Innsbruck

Photo: Innsbruck in evening light

First up was the pocket sized resort of Axamer Lizum, which is easily reached from a short (40 minute) free bus ride from the centre of Innsbruck. There’s not much in the way of lift infrastructure from here; just a couple of chairlifts and a funicular that looks like it’s been ripped straight out of a James Bond set. But this lack of lift capacity was just what we were after, as Axamer has a trick up its sleeve – it’s got some of the most easily accessible backcountry in the region, just grab your skins and pick one of the hundreds of skin tracks surrounding you.

Photo: Skin tracks lead to a wealth of backcountry terrain. Photo: Jordan Tiernan

We chose a quick bootpack to access the north facing Rinne couloirs to warm up on. Once at the base of these couloirs, we were soon attaching our skis to begin our tour up to the 2,350 metre summit of the Widdersberg. It was from this summit where we could really see the endless potential Axamer boasted for the committed backcountry skier, with couloirs surrounding you in every direction – and we hadn’t even taken a look over the backside.

Once down, a final trip up the James Bond funicular led us again to the top of Axamer Lizum, where a second short hike led us to a descent down the epic north-west face of the Hochennspitze before arriving at the Kemater Alm hut. From this hut, we were treated to a pretty novel experience, but one that we heard was popular between Austrians – 7 kilometre long toboggan tracks. We skated up to this track and used it for the full length to ski back into the Innsbruck Valley and grab the bus home. Why doesn’t every range have a built in toboggan track to get you out the valley?

Photo: Giles Dean sampling some of the Axamer Lizum backcountry. Photo: Jordan Tiernan

The beauty of Innsbruck is that you’ve not just got some (14) epic resorts essentially on your doorstep, but you’re also able to enjoy the vibrant cultural experiences of this historic city. We booked onto a “Ski Plus City” pass whilst at Innsbruck and were therefore able to wind the night down in the mind blowing Bergisel ski jump stadium (this pass gives you access to 22 city adventures, on top of the skiing), before hopping back on our flight to London the next day for a totally different kind of city experience.

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