In the hills above Innsbruck, there’s a mountain hut with everything from tobogganing to hiking on its doorstep – plus excellent value alpine food
There are a huge number of mountain huts and alms in the mountains surrounding my village, but Birgitzer Alm is one of the few I visit both in summer and in winter, drawn in by its unpretentious atmosphere and its proximity to some of my favourite hikes and ski tours.
In summer, I can walk there from my front door by following a path that winds up from my village of Götzens for 2.5 hours all the way to 1808m. It’s also easily reached from the summer lifts at Muttereralm or Axamer Lizum and is part of the Innsbrucker Almenweg, a full-day hike that circles around the many alpine huts below the Nockspitze, a pyramid-shaped mountain that dominates the skyline. It’s sat just where the treeline starts to end, where the pines thin out and alpine shrubs burst through the earth. It’s a beautiful part of the mountain, and although you don’t the have far-reaching views of higher mountain huts, you do get glimpses of the north side of the Nockspitze as well as the Inn Valley below.
Winter is my favourite time to visit Birgitzer Alm, though. It’s just a matter of deciding whether to put on my skins or grab my toboggan. The ski tour is really special, being one of the few routes around Innsbruck that is both safe from avalanches and separate from the hustle and bustle of ski resorts. It starts with narrow, forested track before opening up to a wide pasture clear of trees. It’s a popular route but after a snowfall there’s plenty of space to find your own line through the powder on the ski down. Alternatively, you can carry on touring past Birgitzer Alm and up to Birgitzköpflhaus, on the edge of the Axamer Lizum lift system.
The toboggan run starts from the same place, the Birgitzer Alm bus stop (accessed with the L1 or L2 ski busses). Like the ski tour, it takes about a 1.5 hours to reach the Alm but the route is much more mellow, following the toboggan track up (watch out for sledgers making their way back down). The route down is fun and fast, twisting its way down tight corners and steep slopes. And, when the snow is good enough, you can toboggan all the way down to the village of Birgitz, just a 15-minute bus ride from Innsbruck.
Birgitzer Alm itself is warm and cosy inside, with a huge, south-facing terrace for when the sun is shining. It can get very busy at weekends, so be prepared to share your table. The food is cheap, with big portions and a great choice of traditional Austrian fare. The dumpling soups will set you back less around €4, while main courses (schnitzel, spinach dumplings, currywurst and so on) are less than €10. There’s even a vegan option – a rare find in the mountains – in the form of polenta with vegetables. I’ve never had a bad meal here, although the service can take a while at peak times.
SCORES FOR BIRGITZER ALM