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Snow sports rule this time of year and if you’re getting the urge for some downhill runs, Innsbruck, Austria, is an ideal destination. The city offers several ski resorts and there are many more in the surrounding area.

Never been skiing? No problem — many of Innsbruck’s resorts have packages that include ski lessons and equipment rental. More experienced skiers can enjoy moonlight guided tours and nighttime skiing.

If skiing is not in your repertoire, try a rapid plunge down the mountain on a toboggan or a fast-paced turn on a bobsled. Innsbruck also is home to several rinks that offer ice skating and curling.

Visit the New Bergisel Ski Jump, which stands 154 feet tall and affords spectacular views of the town and stadium below. Have dinner in the complex’s restaurant while enjoying a panoramic view of the surrounding peaks.

Away from the slopes, take time out to explore some of the town’s sites. For example, the Triumphal Arch on the south end of Maria-Theresien-Strasse, the main street through the city, is lined with many 17th- and 18th-century houses and is also a main shopping district for souvenirs.

At the opposite end of the street is St. Anna’s Column, a popular location for photo opportunities. This monument, a statue of the Virgin Mary standing on a crescent moon atop a Corinthian column, is located in front of the town hall.

Adjacent to the town hall is the city tower, formerly a prison cell. Visitors can climb to the top for panoramic views of the city and surrounding mountains.

The Innsbruck tourist information Web site (www.innsbruck-tourism.at/) recommends seeing the city’s main tourist attraction, the Goldenes Dachl or Golden Roof. This three-story balcony is adorned with Gothic oriels (bay windows) topped with 2,657 gold-plated tiles. For the story behind the painted balcony, visit the museum Maximilianeum in the building adjoining the Golden Roof.

Another notable site is the Cathedral of St. James. Although the church was heavily damaged during World War II, its lavish baroque interior makes it worth a visit. Items of interest include a monument honoring Archduke Maximilian III.

Finally, visitors can step into a world of fantasy and awe at the Swarovski Kristallwelten or Crystal World. Visitors can tour seven connected chambers filled with crystal and fine cut stones. Visit the crystal dome for a chance to see what it is like to be inside a giant crystal or spend time finding the perfect crystal souvenir from the shop.

— Heather Klinglesmith, compiled from travel Web sites


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