The Tyrol area of Austria is commonly known for two things – Swarovski Crystals and skiing. But that’s about to change. Olympian Steve Redgrave, travel presenter Laura Hamilton, Richie Neville from boy band 5ive and former page three model Melinda Messenger are among the celebrities descending on the Austrian Alps to compete in dangerous winter sports for Channel 4’s new show The Jump (8pm, January 26, on Channel 4).
Amy Childs of The Only Way is Essex and former GMTV presenter Anthea Turner will also be taking part in the series, which will see contestants slide along the skeleton run, rattle down an icy tube, attempt to stay on track in the bobsleigh, and slip around while speed skating. Winter Olympian Eddie ‘the Eagle’ Edwards will be a guest coach, and will help them face their most frightening challenge – a live ski jump. Each night, two contestants will have to take a blood-curdling leap in order to keep their place in the competition.
All the action takes place in the winter sports haven of Innsbruck – a little historic town in the Alps that has hosted five Winter Olympic Games tournaments. As well as spectacular powdery mountains and pine forests, Innsbruck is full of culture. Visitors will find ancient history, cobbled streets and pretty pastel-coloured townhouses. Here’s what to do when visiting the setting of The Jump…
Scale the Bergisel ski jump tower
On a trip to Bergisel, they don’t actually make you leap from 47 metres up; you can simply visit the museum and viewing platform to experience how daredevils feel at the top (which, incidentally, overlooks a graveyard. Creepy!). The view from the ledge is goosebump-inducing – on a clear day you can see the town being clasped by the spectacular mountain range in the distance. Bergisel.info
Ski and snowboard
There are 310 miles of ski trails around Innsbruck, and 25 village resorts facing all sides of the city. Snowboard parks with half pipes and kickers can be found at Axamer Lizum and the nearby Stubai Glacier, the biggest glacier in the Alps.
Igls Olympic bobsleigh run
Built especially for the 1964 Olympic Winter Games, this is where to follow in the footsteps of The Jump contestants and try bobsleighing. At this run those who dare will rattle along a 1200-metre pipe at speeds of 70 km/h. The 14 sharp bends on this thrilling track are open at all times of the year, try it on wheels during the summer and on runners over ice in the winter. tyrol.at
Swarovski Crystal World
The nearby town of Wattens is where Swarovski Crystals originate from. The area now has its very own crystal theme park, chock full of jewellery, chandeliers and sculptures. Impressively, they also house pieces designed by Alexander McQueen, Andy Warhol and Brian Eno, among other big design names. Spend an afternoon walking around these shiny hunks of glass, cut into weird and wonderful shapes, and learn more about how they are made. kristallwelten.swarovski.com
Otherwise known as the Goldenes Dachl, this shiny little veranda is considered to be Innsbruck’s most famous landmark. Why the hype? It’s very old. It was commissioned by King of the Romans Maximilian I, in 1500, and built to honour Maximilian’s second marriage to Bianca Maria Sforza (the Duke of Milan’s daughter). It’s made from 2,738 fire-gilded copper tiles and decorated with intricate murals. In the square beneath there are plenty of cafes at which to sit and admire the façade.
The Tirol Panorama
This 1,000 square metre, 360 degree, painting took only three weeks to complete, and depicts the famous Bergisel battle of 1809, in which the Tyroleans defeated their Bavarian and French invaders. It’s kept at the Innsbruck Cyclorama in a moisture-free room, and visitors can buy tickets to view it from a rotating platform. The detail is quite something. Tiroler-landesmuseum.at
Whether you ski or not, you can still go up into the mountains via a cable car, reaching 2,256 metres into the sky. See the mountains in all their glory from a glass pod and even stop at Europe’s highest zoo, the Alpine Zoo (alpenzoo.at), which houses more than 150 species, all native to the area. nordkette.com
TV and films shot here: The Jump
Local food: Strudel and Kaiserschmarrn are staple dishes in this part of the world. The latter are thick shredded pancakes often served with fruit, sprinkled with icing sugar and as a main course. Meanwhile, schlutzkrapfen is delicious, and is similar to ravioli. Those with a sweet tooth may enjoy weingelee, a wine jelly mixed with berries.
Stay: Grand Hotel Europa is right in the centre of town, and opposite the railway station. It has a five-star rating but a local alpine cabin feel, with rooms and restaurants decked with wood. grandhoteleuropa.at
Getting there: EasyJet and British Airways fly direct to Innsbruck from London every day.
Getting around: Local buses and trams are reliable and will get you around town. Taxis are expensive but convenient.