Innsbruck has twice hosted the Winter Olympics and is internationally recognised as a premier ski destination, but did you know that it’s also one of the best places in the world for trail running? Our friends at the Innsbruck Alpine Trailrun Festival outline 10 reasons why the Austrian city is a must-visit for all trail runners.
1. The 360° mountain panorama
Innsbruck (altitude: 574m) is the only city in the world to be 360-degree entirely surrounded by mountains. Incredible viewpoints are everywhere. Both the 65k and 85k events at the Innsbruck Alpine Trailrun Festival follow a circular mountain course around the city, thus offering participants the perfect panorama. Top tips for spectators or those wanting to start a trail run from a higher altitude: Take the 20-minute cable car journey from the city centre up to the famous Nordkette (2,300m+ above sea level). From here you get an iconic view of the area around Innsbruck as well as the city itself. Mountains you can see include Patscherkofel (2,246m), Nockspitze (2,400m), Serles (2,700m) and Rosskogel (2,646m).
2. The incredible wildlife
The western state of Tyrol is well known for its mountains, with Innsbruck – the ‘Capital of the Alps’ – at its heart. This wild area is still home to many of the same animals that inhabited it thousands of years ago. Adventurous trail runners can hike up into the more remote parts of the mountains to marvel at them in the wild. Look out for gams (chamois), golden eagles, marmots, vultures, bears, wolves and, of course, ibex (kings of the mountains).
3. A trail network that can be seen from the skies
Want to have an incredible experience before arriving in Innsbruck? Then you should definitely take the plane. The flight into Innsbruck’s city airport is a stunning adventure in itself, with planes flying super-close to the mountains – so close that you can inspect the trails before you go and run on them! Due to extreme wind conditions, pilots need special training before they are allowed to fly into Innsbruck. Have you ever stepped off a plane and immediately whipped out your phone to take photos of mountains from the runway? In Innsbruck you will – we promise!
4. IATF – The biggest trail event in Austria
Innsbruck is home to the inov-8 supported Innsbruck Alpine Trailrun Festival (IATF), which is one of the largest and most popular trail events in The Alps. Within just three years, the festival has steadily evolved and is now firmly established on the worldwide trail running calendar. From 800 runners in 2016, the event has grown to an expected 3,000 participants from over 53 nations for 2019 (which will be held May 2nd-4th).
There are several distances to choose from, stretching from 7k to 15k, 25k, 42k 65k and 85k. This makes the event perfect for trail runners of all abilities, from beginners wanting a first taste of this incredible sport to experienced ultramarathon runners seeking to test their form after the long winter. It is definitely one for the bucket-list. Amongst the ultra-distance runners who will join us on the start line this year is inov-8 ambassador Hallvard Schjolberg, who finished 4th at UTMB last year.
5. The amazing local foods that fuel trail runners
Tyrol (the state in which Innsbruck resides) is an amazing place to eat and drink, with (and this may sound a bit biased) some of the best food in the world. The greatest aspect about a Tyrolean kitchen is that it contains both hearty and sweet specialities. Whenever you are in Innsbruck/Tyrol make sure to try Speckknödel (bacon dumpling), Kaspressknödel (cheese dumpling), Tiroler Gröschtl (fried potatoes with bacon and eggs), Kasspotzn (cheese noodles with regional cheese), Kiachl (fried dough pastry), and, of course, Kaisermarrn (shredded pancake).
Good food makes for happy runners, which will in turn improve your performance on the trails. Tyrolean food also provides lots of energy, thus some of the specialities are served at the IATF aid stations and at the evening events (Friday and Saturday) of the festival. On Friday, the Tyrolean “Schupfnudeln” (type of dumpling or thick noodle) will suit for carb-loading, while on Saturday the famous “Knödelparty” is the perfect reward following your run.
6. It’s a city that loves sport
Innsbruck is an Olympic City, hosting the 1964 and 1984 Winter Olympics as well as Paralympic Games. The legacy of the Games mainly includes sport facilities in and around Innsbruck which are still in frequent use all year round – bobsled, the ice stadium, the Alpine ski at Patscherkofel & Axamer Lizum and nordic disciplines at Seefeld.
The famous Bergisel ski-jump hill is not only a legacy of the Olympics and a sports venue, it’s also one of Innsbruck’s main landmarks. As well as snow and ice based activities, visitors can enjoy hiking, biking, climbing, mountaineering and, of course, trail running.
7. Nature is all around
The mountains are the highlight of every stay in Tyrol, their slopes providing first-class access to an Alpine wonderland. But it’s about more than just mountain peaks… there’s narrow valleys, hidden meadows, original Alpine nature and all the wildlife detailed in number two.
8. A unique combination of Alpine & urban flair
Innsbruck has the appearance that it has been squeezed into the narrow Inn valley. This brings lots of advantages, such as having stunning mountain trails just minutes away from the city. At the Innsbruck Alpine Trailrun Festival this unique combination of Alpine and urban flair can be enjoyed by runners on all routes, as you cross the Inn Valley two times and pass iconic tourist attractions such as the Golden Roof, the Bergisel ski-jump and the medieval old town.
9. It’s a great place to ‘get high’
Gathering your vertical meters isn’t a problem in Innsbruck! Starting from the city it is possible to run 2,000m uphill without having to run a single meter of downhill. And if you are interested in running at higher altitudes, Innsbruck offers amazing trails between 1,500m and 2,000m above sea level. The Zirbensteig at the top of Patscherkofel is a beautiful panorama trail, with all 13k of it being above 2,000m. There’s also Nordkette, where there are lots of trails above 1,500m, each giving runners the perfect opportunity to run high. Just take the cable car to Seegrube and hit the trails!
For those seeking an ultra running experience with lots of vertical, check out the 80k Stubaier Höhenweg. This is one of the most beautiful long-distance routes in Tyrol and includes around 7,000m of elevation gain. The route starts just 20 minutes (by car) outside of Innsbruck. It is usually tackled as a multiple-day hike, but in October 2018 a few locals (Benni Bublak, Johannes Stimpfle and Adrian Niski) set a new fastest known time of 16hrs 50mins. Respect guys!
10. The beer!
Austrians love beer and in 2018 they drank more beer per person than Germans! Only the Czechs drank more. We know lots of trail runners enjoy beer, and in the Innsbruck area there are lots of fully-stocked breweries and bars. You can even stop at an ‘Alm’ (mountain hut) during your run and refresh with a cold beer before you continue running. That’s cool, right?