A record-breaking amount of snow? How amazing! This year the snowfall has been unusually heavy in our region. In January, it snowed 7 meters within a period of 7 days on the Nordkette, Innsbruck’s shield in the north. As I grew up next to the Tropic of Cancer and have very limited experience with snow, I didn’t even know how to visualize this spectacular amount! Naturally, I longed to see it with my own eyes. Although at one point the public was advised against entering this mountainous area (due to avalanche danger), the restriction was soon lifted. What I was waiting for was just a super sunny day!
When that sunny day came around, I was only free in the afternoon, so I decided to visit the Umbrüggler Alm on the Nordkette after lunch, knowing that I could walk this distance with ease. It actually snowed on the previous night, so fresh snow was guaranteed!
The Amateur’s “Equipment”
For a casual walk like this, investing in special equipment is not really necessary. Waterproof hiking boots and gloves are ideal for obvious reasons. Wearing a hat protects you from the fine snow falling from the branches or blown by the occasional wind. I did bring my trekking poles as I always feel more surefooted if I use them. However, this time I only used them briefly on my way down. I brought a bit of water but left out the sunglasses because the route would be through a wooded area. From my experience I knew that I shouldn’t dress up too warmly and clothes with ventilation zips are really versatile. That’s all! Time to catch the bus!
Starting Point: Hungerburg / Options: Hungerburgbahn and Bus J
My walk started near the upper station of the Hungerburg funicular (Hungerburgbahn) at 860m above sea level. I took the bus though because I approached Hungerburg from the south. If you have an Innsbruck Card or would like to combine the funicular experience with the hike, going there by Hungerburgbahn is also recommendable.
- Innsbruck Card includes one return ticket for the Hungerburgbahn.
- Bus J: Here is the 2019 timetable.
The bus stop “Hungerburg Terrassensiedlung” (right before “Nordkette”) is next to a parking lot where a shortcut in the north can be found. However, the shortcut was completely blocked by snow on the day I visited.
Trail Signage + Additional Information
I had been to the Umbrüggler Alm several times before, but this was my first time going there alone. To be honest, I wasn’t sure that I wouldn’t take a wrong turn somewhere, since I planned to take a different and less straightforward route.
Nevertheless, this area is the backyard of Innsbruck and the yellow trail signs at key junctions are reliable. There are also temporary but noteworthy signs attached to the permanent ones. They inform you about the routine closure of the Alms, diversions or warnings.
The thing is that these notes are in German only… Fear not, though, here are some common words:
- Ruhetag(e) is the rest day(s) of the Alms (usually weekly).
- Geöffnet means the Alm is open for business.
- Instructions and directions given to Fussgaengerinnen are meant for people on foot (to avoid clashing with skiers and snowboarders).
- Privatweg indicates a private path and you are not supposed to RIDE/DRIVE on it.
Online Maps Tested
Throughout my journey, I had steady signal reception and internet connection on my mobile phone. I didn’t really need my phone for navigation as the signposts were easy to spot even in snow. However, GPS was useful to check my progress, since I paused on the way very often.
The Forstweg (forest path) I took is actually shown neither on Google Map nor Bing Maps but is marked on OpenStreetMap.
The First Stretch: the Residence Area in Hungerburg
Firstly, I walked along Gramartstraße towards the west through the residence area in Hungerburg. In this more or less level section, there were many interesting buildings blanketed with snow.
Into the Woods
Then I turned right onto Umbrüggleralmweg and it wasn’t for long before a sign of “Forststraße” (forest street) appeared. From here basically the trail was divided into two sections. The first section, Forststraße, was steeper, not cleared and carpeted in loose and fresh snow.
Forststraße ends at a crossroad, meeting Katzenbründlweg on the left. It was named after the nearby spring Katzenbründlquelle, the source of the oldest spring water supply system serving the Old Town in the 15th century.
The rest of the trail was coated by a compact layer of snow and was winter serviced. This part is longer in distance but fairly easy to ascend. The snow walls on the side were impressive.
Snow is Alive
The Umbrüggler Alm
The final part of the route crosses and briefly overlaps with the ski routes. Watch out!
The entire ascent took me about an hour and I arrived at the Umbrüggler Alm around 2pm. It was a Thursday afternoon and there were only a few guests in the Alm, including skiers taking a break on their way down.
Unlike typically rustic Alms in the Alps, this modern building has wide windows bringing in the panorama view. There is a fireplace in the corner of the restaurant, adding more warmth to the wood-covered interior.
The famous Kasermandl is a legendary occupant of the Umbrüggler Alm. To meet him, you will have to have some luck (and a strong stomach)!
Kasermandl’s story and more folktales of Innsbruck can be found here.
At the far end inside the Umbrüggler Alm, there is an educational showroom, “Naturraum Karwendel“. It is dedicated to the Karwendel Nature Park and its centrepiece is a terrain model. Forty-seven percent of Innsbruck’s city area is within this nature reserve.
However, this time I was told that the showroom was not open as the restaurant was not in full operation.
In front of the Umbrüggler Alm, there is a children’s playground but it was buried in snow. The Alm itself is also a “Pokestop” – you’d know how to make use of it if you play Pokemon Go.
I stayed in the Alm for about an hour. To my surprise, after leaving the Umbrüggler Alm area, on my way down I didn’t encounter a single person. Maybe it was meant for me to savour a peaceful moment of “Waldeinsamkeit” (a word I recently picked up somewhere, which basically means ‘solitude in the forest with a contemplative mood’). I was, however, too overjoyed by the deep white powder I again sank my boots in.