Zipping down the foothills of the German Alps in an alpine coaster, I screamed out of fear and fun. And Shawn quickly learned a new German word: Bremsen (brakes)!
Seeking an Alpine adrenaline rush in Oberammergau, a tiny town situated in Upper Bavaria, we’d come to the right place — the Kolbensattel Alpine Coaster, a summer luge course of sorts.
Earlier that afternoon, a scenic walk from my parents’ home through the dollhouse-like village led us to the chair lift station at the foot of the Kolben Mountain. From there, we hopped onto a chair lift, riding high above Mother Nature’s carpet of ferns, evergreen trees, and slopes bearing grass and wildflowers.
As the lift propelled us higher up the mountain, we could see the terra-cotta rooftops of Oberammergau, as well as the distinctive mountains that cradle the village. There was not a cloud in the robin’s-egg-blue-sky, and the landscape was saturated with vibrant color. Even with sunglasses on, we squinted, responding to the intense sunlight.
Below our dangling feet, we glimpsed a preview of the day’s main event: the 2.6 km. (1.6 mile) alpine coaster course. Some riders whizzed by on the orange coasters with the determined look of a race car driver, while others let out yelps of excitement as they rushed through the track’s plethora of curves.
After we’d leaped off the chair lift, we strolled around the top of the mountain for a few moments, enjoying the gorgeous views. The aroma of home-cooked Bavarian curried sausage, pan-fried Schnitzel, and deep-fried french fries wafted from the nearby restaurant hut.
And then it was time to hop into the seat of our aerodynamic coaster, large enough for two adults. Shawn sat in the rear, with his hands on the brakes, while I readied myself to do some filming in the front seat.
Fortunately my trusty parents were in the coaster behind us, for we later learned that road-rage sometimes happens on these alpine coaster courses, which are popular in Europe’s Alpine regions. A sign at the beginning of the course warned drivers that the coaster in the rear is at fault should a fender-bender occur.
Despite my playful protests, whenever Shawn and I saw a Bremsen sign encouraging one to brake, Shawn sometimes loosened up on the brakes, causing us to rush through a tunnel, a hairpin turn, or a heavily-forested patch of the track in the blink of an eye. There’s actually a governor built into the coaster that prevents drivers from going too quickly, but still, Shawn had fun at the controls, ensuring we didn’t go at an escargot pace down the mountain.
Whipping past the course’s camera, which reminded us of the speed traps on European roadways, a second of our fun moments were frozen on film.
Then, our coaster slowed to a halt, with our hearts still racing from all those exhilarating curves.
While the speed and dramatic drops of roller coasters frighten me, I think I could easily become an alpine coaster aficionado. Have you tried any, and if so, how, and where was your ride?
Video of this Experience:
Where in the World?
- The Kolbensattel Alpine Coaster is located in Oberammergau, Germany, about 2 hours from Munich. You can either take the chair lift up to the Alpine Coaster Station (which is near the Kolbensattelhütte restaurant), or walk up there yourself. (The ticket price varies, depending upon whether you walk or ride the chair lift.) The address for the Chair Lift Station (known in German as the Kolbensesselbahn) is Kolbengasse 13, 82487, Oberammergau. The website link above details the prices and schedule. Note that the Alpine Coaster is not open year-round. The chair lifts are open during the winter months for skiing and snowboarding.
- Since you’ll be outdoors, and at a higher elevation, sunscreen and sunglasses are recommended. You can leave your backpack on a hook at the Chair Lift Station, but no lockers were available during our visit. Instead, the chair lift attendant was standing near the items, but still performing his job duties at the same time. We have generally found Germany to be pretty safe and secure, but theft can occur anywhere in the world, so I didn’t feel comfortable leaving any valuables behind. It was easy to carry a backpack or purse on the chair lift ride up the mountain. When we rode down the mountain in the Alpine Coaster, I was fortunately able to loop my small purse’s handle through the coaster’s safety belt and then squeeze the purse onto my lap. The next time I go up the mountain to ride the coaster, I’d opt to put items into a self-padlocked backpack at the bottom of the mountain, since space is limited inside the Alpine Coaster.
- Are you looking for a guesthouse or hotel in Oberammergau? Here is my round-up of hotels organized by theme.
- To get to Oberammergau independently, research the Bayern Ticket (website is in German, but you can use Google Translate). As of 2021, these tickets start at €25 for one passenger, and cost €8 for each additional passenger. You can use the Bayern Ticket for most trains, trams, and city buses, making it a good deal if you’ll be doing a lot of exploring in one day. You can purchase tickets online, via a ticket machine, or in person.
- For more ideas and tips, see my Germany guide. It highlights visits to Neuschwanstein Castle and Schloss Linderhof, a day hiking Oberammergua’s Mount Kofel, and more.
Photography & text © Tricia A. Mitchell. All Rights Reserved.