6 reasons to conquer Nordkette
he Nordkette has everything skiers and mountaineers could want for an idyllic day in the mountains. Well known for its cable cars and modern stations, this Austrian range is the perfect example of how architecture, technique and nature can coexist in harmony; ideal for those who want to explore the mountain at their own pace or with the family.
The Norkette’s Seegrube station in Austria welcomes hikers, climbers and cyclists—yes, the funicular takes bikes, too—to practise their favourite sports at an altitude of 2000 metres. Of course, the real champions of this mountain range are the winter sports. Skyline Park has some of the steepest ski runs in Europe, with inclines up to 70%. Quite a challenge for skiers, but with more accessible areas for children and beginners: magic carpet, snow hill and such.
And their more than 100-year history. In the early 20th century, the first steps were taken to join Innsbruck with the mountain range that protects it. Today, the funicular climbs 2000 metres from the town centre in just 20 minutes. And for those looking to enjoy a romantic dinner, a party at the Cloud 9 igloo or a starlit ride, the system also runs at night. Nordkette pleases all tastes.
Some of Tyrol’s major engineering and architectural milestones were achieved from the need to connect the city with the mountain and have given it a whole new face. The most outstanding contributor was Zaha Hadid, who designed four of the Hungerburg funicular stations: Congress, Löwenhaus, Alpine Zoo and Hungerburg. The Anglo-Iraqi architect and Pritzker award winner drew inspiration from the region’s frozen landscape to shape the designs, which officially opened in 2007.
Arzler (1067), Höttinger Alm (1487), Bodenstein Alm (1661) and Pfeishütte (1922 metres) are some of the options available to hikers on the Nordkette range. They provide welcome refreshments, hot coffee and hearty Tyrolean meals after a strenuous hike. The Pfeishütte, for example, is a four-and-a-half-hour round trip. For those with less time—or desire—a gentler option is Arzler, at just 45 minutes from Hungerburg station.
Any lodge, funicular or niche on the mountain range will reward you with spectacular views of Innsbruck and the surrounding mountains. It’s hard to choose just one spot, but perhaps the summit of the Hafelekar is among the most emblematic, with a 360º panorama. At 2300 metres, it’s the highest peak of the Nordkette, but a mere 15-minute walk from Hafelekar station.
At the foot of the Nordkette, overlooking the tiled roofs of Innsbruck, is Europe’s highest zoo, Alpenzoo. Opened in 1962, it was built in the style of a Renaissance garden so it wouldn’t look out of place next to the Weiherburg Castle, just a few metres away.
The Hungerburg funicular stops right at the entrance to the zoo, which houses 2000 animals of 150 local and exotic species. All of them have large spaces that resemble their natural habitats. The bears are the most illustrious inhabitants of this zoo, which receives 300,000 visitors every year.