Innsbruck, capital city of the famous ski region of Tyrol, is the base for nine ski resorts in the area. Innsbruck has a permanent population of around 130,000, including a large university, so working and living in Innsbruck is a far cry from the usual seasonal worker experience of living in a small mountain resort town.
Innsbruck is a charming Austrian city set in a valley with incredible peaks rising above the town. For seasonal workers, Innsbruck provides the opportunity for a real cultural experience along with some great skiing at the nearby resorts.
Photo: Innsbruck town center - innsbrucktourismus/Christof Lackner
Innsbruck is four hours and thirty minutes from the Austrian capital, Vienna (477km), but Munich in Germany is the closest major city and airport, and is a two hour drive (162km).
The best way to get to Innsbruck is using Austria’s highly efficient train network arriving at Innsbruck's station Innsbruck Hauptbahnhof, located at Südtiroler Platz east of the city center.
Tickets can be bought at https://www.oebb.at/en/. The trip from Munich takes around 2 hours and costs around 35 Euros. The trip from Vienna takes around four hours but can cost a little less if bought in advance (25 Euros). There are also direct trains from Venice, Bolzano, Zurich, Graz and many other smaller towns.
www.vvt.at is an Austrian site offering trip planning to get to Innsbruck from anywhere in the country.
Innsbruck also has an airport which receives flights from Vienna and Frankfurt and there are sometimes seasonal winter flights from the UK.
Once in Innsbruck the nine ski areas of Innsbruck are connected by the public transport company of Innsbruck (IVB) by both trams and buses. www.ivb.at/en has further information.
Additionally there is a free ski bus service from Innsbruck city centre to all the ski areas directly if you have a guest pass. Your employer may provide you with this.
Photo: Innsbruck ski jump - innsbrucktourismus/Christof Lackner
Innsbruck was the host for the Winter Olympics twice, in 1964 and 1976 (and the Youth Winter Olympics in 2012), and is very well set up in terms of winter sports infrastructure. There is an incredible history here too, with records going back around 800 years ago. Innsbruck became the capital of Tyrol in 1429.
There is a beautiful old castle in addition to palaces, theatres, opera and museums.
For seasonal workers, this means there is plenty to do in addition to skiing and snowboarding and working at Innsbruck is as much about the Austrian cultural experience as it is a ski resort experience.
The University of Innsbruck is the largest in the region and the third largest in Austria. This gives Innsbruck a big university town vibe, and there is consequently plenty of activity at night, even among those who are not working at the ski resort. There are bars and clubs which go all night Innsbruck and you will never be short for night options.
There is a decent après-ski scene which is to be found in the city centre, rather than at the ski resorts. However, this does change the vibe of the après scene to more of a regular city bar scene, seeing as a lot of people don’t come straight from the slopes but rather first go home before heading out.
Staff at the resorts usually come from Austria, Germany, Eastern European countries as well as British working at tour companies.
Photo: St Anna's Column - innsbrucktourismus/Christof Lackner
The nine ski areas around Innsbruck are called Olympia Ski World Innsbruck and provide access to around 300km of trails, although each area is individually quite small.
The nine resorts are Nordkette-Seegrube, Patscherkofel, Axamer Lizum, Muttereralm, Rangger Köpfl, Glungezer, Schlick 2000, the Stubai Glacier and Kühtai. Between them, there are 90 lifts and cables.
Innsbruck doesn’t have a lot in the way of challenging terrain and shredders are likely to find the terrain comes up short over the season.
The nine ski areas are best for beginner and intermediate skiers with the majority of the terrain intermediate level. Mutteralm, Schlick2000 and Rangger Köpfl are best for beginners and families, while Axamer Lizum is a little bigger for some cruisers.
Stubai Glacier and Patscherkofel have a little more on offer for advanced riders with pistes up to 3,200m. Kühtai is the highest resort in Austria at 2,020m at its base. However, even Stubai Glacier doesn’t have much in the way of gnarly terrain and won’t sustain expert riders over a season.
Seasonal workers at Innsbruck who are experts will likely want to check out the other Tyrolean resorts of St Anton, Kitzbühel and Ischgl (Lech is also near St Anton) for some tougher terrain at some point during the season. St Anton is 100km away and takes an hour on the train or if you drive. For Lech and Ischgl you will need to take the train followed by a bus.
Night skiing is possible at Kühtai and Rangger Köpfl on the easier slopes which is great to get in extra time on the slopes after working during the day.
Innsbruck has some incredible scenery at its resorts with marvellous views over Innsbruck. Mutteralm has particularly nice views over Wipptal Valley and Glunzeger has great views over the Inn Valley.
The winter season starts in the first week of December when the first snowfall arrives and lasts until mid-April. On the Stubai Glacier area skiing is possible from October until June.
Innsbruck receives around 3-5 metres of snow each season.
Snow is not the strongest point of Innsbruck with only around 3-5 metres each season. This is typical of the Austrian Alps and in fact Innsbruck has some of the better snow coverage in Austria at the higher resorts of Stubai Glacier and Kühtai.
All the resorts rely on snow-making each season to build up the base.
Photo: Kuhtai ski area - innsbrucktourismus/Tommy Bause
Parks are quite good at Innsbruck and each resort has its own snowpark. Stubai Glacier has the best of the terrain parks with jumps and features up to a pro level, while Glungezer also has a nice park with some fairly advanced features.
There are beginner features at each of the other parks for novices.
You will need a good level of German in order to find a job with the ski resorts or with a local hotel or business. Your interactions with customers will mostly be in German, despite there being a decent number of tourists to Innsbruck each season with whom you might speak English.
The local employment service is called AMS (www.ams.at/english) where you will find locally listed jobs for which you can apply.
Each resort also runs its own employment for mountain operations so you apply directly through their websites.
See Jobs Available at Ski Resorts for a description of ski resort jobs.
The hotels at the ski resorts start their hiring at short notice around November for their employment, but if planning is required (such as for non-EU citizens) it is best to start applying in summer.
Those hoping to go into ski school will likely already need an instructing certificate before the resort will accept your application.
For those without German, a good way to work at Innsbruck is with a tour company. These companies offer full-service packages to holiday-makers, from pick-up at the airport to chalets to ski guides.
The major UK tour companies operating in Innsbruck are Inghams and Crystal Ski. The major tour companies operating from the U.S. are Collette, Tauck, Contiki and Trafalgar.
These companies usually include everything in the salary package including accommodation, food and ski pass. However, the pay is not more than enough to cover going out and miscellaneous living expenses during the season.
EU citizens can work in Austria without needing a visa. See Work a Ski Season in Austria for details of the working holiday visas available in Austria.
Some larger hotels will help you get a working visa for Austria if you apply early enough in advance (i.e. during the summer).
Otherwise, tour companies may help you to arrange a working visa to Austria, but generally you will need an EU passport to work at one of these tour companies.
Photo: Ski area at Innsbruck - innsbrucktourismus/rekord
If you are working for a tour company, they will likely provide you with accommodation. The same goes for a hotel.
If you looking for your own seasonal rental, a good place to look is with the Austrian Student Association ÖH: see www.oehweb.at/service/wohnungsboerse
The biggest Tyrolean Newspaper is called Tiroler Tageszeitung which has classified rental listings for the season.
A 20 m² private room in a flat share in Innsbruck centre will cost around € 250-350 per month, less in the villages around.
If you arrive without a place, the Youth Hostel St.Nikolaus has budget hostel rooms from around 30 euros.
Nightlife and events during the season is where Innsbruck shines with activity on the streets every night of the season.
It is great to just walk along the lively Maria-Theresien-Straße at night to take in the atmosphere while the Old Town has heaps of bars and cafes. Under the viaduct arches, you will find clubs which kick on into the small hours.
Some of the most popular bars and pubs for seasonal workers and students at the university include:
Further information can be found at Innsbruck Info
There are also plenty of great events during the season. Some of the bigger ones to look forward to each season include: