Curvy Exhilaration: Riding the Alpine Coaster in Oberammergau, Germany

A man rides an alpine coaster on a green slope overlooking the village of Oberammergau, Germany.

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?

Kofel Oberammergau
The walk to the Kolbensattel Chair Lift Station is scenic. We started out at my parents’ home, journeying through the quaint village center, and through this open field leading to the station. On the right is the Kofel, Oberammergau’s most well-known mountain.
Kolbensattel Oberammergau Alpine Coaster Tickets
Prices vary based upon whether you ride the chair lift to get to the Alpine Coaster Station, or if you hoof it yourself. We were rather short on time, so we opted for the chair lift this time. The ride offered stunning views of the Ammergau Alps, and of Oberammergau.
Oberammergau Germany Hils

Kolbensattel Sesselbahn Chair Lift View of Oberammergau Laber Kofel
As we got higher up the Kolben, we spotted the local mountain peaks including the Aufacker, Laber, and Kofel (from left to right in this image). We also flew over people going down the mountain, riding the Alpine Coaster below.
Kolben Sesselbahn
A lush carpet of ferns below our dangling feet (left), and my parents ahead of us on the chair lift (right).
Dog Chair Lift Oberammergau
We passed a few others headed in the opposite direction as us, riding the chair lift. One couple had their French Bulldog perched on their lap. The furry friend looked content soaking up the nature around him. Perhaps he’d just enjoyed some flavorful German food up at the mountain hut too!
Alpine Coaster Oberammergau

Alpine Coaster Oberammergau Rodelbahn

Alpine Coaster Oberammergau

Kolbensattel Oberammergau Hiking
Some visitors ride the chair lift up, then continue hiking to other mountain peaks nearby.
Kolbensattelhütte Oberammergau
We didn’t feast at this restaurant in the Kolbensattelhütte, but the aroma of pan-friend foods and coffee was surely tempting!
Kofel Oberammergau
The flag of the German state of Bavaria (left) and Mount Kofel (right). We climbed this dramatic mountain two summers ago.
Kolbensattel Oberammergau Children's Games
Games brought out the kids in us. We couldn’t resist playing a round of Connect Four, while others engaged in a heated match of Memory.
Alpine Coaster Oberammergau
Shawn and me at the Kolbensattel, 1291 meters’ altitude (left) and my parents (right).
Oberammergau Mountains

Alpine Coaster Oberammergau 2
A paraglider gracefully coasts above the Laber Mountain (left) and our ‘speed camera photograph’ (right).

Video of this Experience:

Where in the World?

Planning Pointers:

  • 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, OberammergauThe 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.

Published by Tricia A. Mitchell

Tricia A. Mitchell is a freelance writer and photographer. Born in Europe but raised in the United States, she has lived in Valletta, Malta; Heidelberg, Germany; and Split, Croatia. An avid globetrotter who has visited more than 65 countries, she has a penchant for off-season travel. Tricia has learned that travel’s greatest gift is not sightseeing, rather it is the interactions with people. Some of her most memorable experiences have been sharing a bottle of champagne with distant French cousins in Lorraine, learning how to milk goats in a sleepy Bulgarian village, and ringing in the Vietnamese New Year with a Hanoi family. She welcomes any opportunity to practice French and German, and she loves delving into a place’s history and artisanal food scene. A former education administrator and training specialist, Tricia has a bachelor’s degree in elementary education and a master’s degree in international relations. She and her husband, Shawn, married in the ruins of a snowy German castle. They’ve been known to escape winter by basing themselves in coastal Croatia or Southeast Asia. Her writing has appeared in Fodor’s Travel, Frommer’s, and International Living.

48 thoughts on “Curvy Exhilaration: Riding the Alpine Coaster in Oberammergau, Germany

  1. Wow. Brilliant. Enjoyed your very detailed write up. The video was great but your explanation was more enjoyable. Reading it felt I was actually there in person. Lovely share :)

      1. No Tricia, tbh I had never heard of these before. I haven’t been to Germany either. But haven’t seen any ads about these by Travel companies. I’ll pass this on to a travel company that organises European tours, am sure they will find v interesting :)

      2. This is the first Alpine Coaster we’d ever ridden, but they seem to be quite popular in this part of Europe (Austria, Switzerland, Germany, etc.) My husband, Shawn, and I were just saying that it seems any destination with dramatic hills could potentially build them, and at least one source I read says they have minimal impact on the environment. I didn’t realize it before, but it sounds like many tracks are removed during the winter ski season, then put into place in the warmer months.

    1. Darlene, it was! I must confess that I had the slightest case of butterflies beforehand, until I realized that we could control the speed. But the adrenaline-filled moments, coupled with the scenery, made it wonderful. We got towards the bottom, and were lamenting that the experience passed so quickly. :)

    1. Thank you, Robin. Though I’ve never ridden one in the United States, it sounds like there are a fair amount of alpine coasters there too. Perhaps you can give one a whirl someday! :)

    1. Dorothy, like you I’m generally okay with chair lifts and cable cars, but I haven’t ridden a roller coaster in decades because even the thought of one makes me cringe! The Alpine Coaster on the other hand, couldn’t go more than 40 kmh (25mph), and because Shawn controlled the brakes, it wasn’t too scary. He did seem to take pleasure in making me scream ‘Bremsen’ (brakes) though. Perhaps if you go on one, you can drive yourself and be in full control of the speed. I wonder if you have such coasters up there?

      1. Given I think it’s preferable to ride this in the middle of summer, I also think it would be a nice “cherry” on top of the Oberammergau sundae. :-)

      2. I’m pretty sure this coaster is closed in the winter months, but I think you have other options if you come when there’s Schnee galore here. When I was penning this piece, I saw that there are other coasters like it in this part of Europe (perhaps with a different design), which are open year-round. That could give you a true luge-like experience!

      3. I was flipping through a copy of Stern (my city library has a subscription!) and there was an article about a snowy Rodelbahn near Tegernsee. I have to go back to Tegernsee!

      4. Henry, I like how your comments regularly enlighten me as to more special spots to explore in Oberbayern. I just looked up Tegernsee; looks like a beautiful setting, and it seems there are tobogganing opportunities galore!

      5. Thank you, Tricia. You know I’m a fan of the country, in no small part to my time in Heidelberg and subsequent visits over the years :) Along with my improving Denglisch, I really hope that this love can be molded into something where I can do more to see, write, and promote the entire country. For example, I’ve now added DW to my cable here, and as I’m writing this, I’m watching a documentary about the Saar-Hunsrück Trail. I’m not really a huge fan of (long) hiking, but I’ll watch and absorb just about anything, especially if it’s something new I didn’t know about in the first place in the country. :) I’ve been very lucky to have hung around Tegernsee in both winter and summer. I credit those visits to my former life as a research astronomer! I hope you both can spend more time in Tegernsee; it’s a bit quieter but really lovely.

      6. Henry, in the past months we’ve also become fans of DW’s offerings, watching them on YouTube. I also hadn’t heard of the Saar-Hunsrück Trail; one could explore Germany (or most countries for that matter) for an entire lifetime! The quieter atmosphere of Tegernsee sounds appealing. What types of outdoor activities did you do there?

  2. I have done the alpine rollercoaster in Pottenstein, Germany! Lots of fun! They also have a lake, a cave, and a swimming area to enjoy as well as other tourist attractions

    1. Merissa, I remember driving by Pottenstein en route to the Czech Republic a few years ago; the rock formations looked really intriguing, and we vowed to go back someday. I just searched for Pottenstein’s coaster, and it looks like they have two types there. Did you ride in the luge-like one (Frankenrodel) or the Frankenbob? I wonder how the ride is different between the two?

      1. I rode both! The yellow one is the fastest and the red one is a little slower but still fun! You can buy 1, 3, or 6 rides and ride either or! There’s quite a bit to do around the town so grab a town map at one of the spots and explore. From what I remeber they have an arena for go karts and segways, a place for fossil digging, hiking in the area, a swimming area, a cave, a lake with paddle boats, and a few other things.

      2. What an Alpine coaster connoisseur you are, having ridden both of them. :) And, it sounds as thought a return to the Pottenstein area is in order for us, as I like the sound of Pottenstein’s caves, swimming spots, paddle boats and hiking. Thank you for those additional pointers, Merissa!

    1. Gerard, it was! From my parents’ home down in the valley, we can see a bit of the curvy track. Yesterday, as I watched a few tiny coasters go down the mountain, I got the distinct urge to try it again. :)

    1. Carol, the four of us did want the exercise from walking up, but unfortunately Shawn and my mom were both nursing sore feet from other long walks. I think we’ll hike up in the future, but have to admit that the speed of the lift, and especially the views, made it a glorious way to get to the top. Have you heard of any coasters like this in Australia?

      1. I prefer to walk down rather than up, it’s easier on my knees. I’ve never come across anything like this in Australia, which doesn’t mean there aren’t any. If I find one I will definitely be having a go.

      2. We’ve come to the same conclusion here during hikes that a long walk downhill can be hard on the knees. In Germany, it’s common to see people using trekking poles – not only when they’re conquering mountains, but even on flat ground. I’ve heard that can help take some strain off the knees. My mom recently got a pair.

      3. Yes, we’ve seen people using the poles in Austria and Germany. I find uphill walking hurts my knees more than downhill. (I sound like an old lady but I’m not!) Do the poles help knees?

      4. Carol, I’ve heard that the poles can help; it seems like they might lessen the impact to the knees and feet. When my mom uses hers, I’ll try to report back on what she thinks of them. :)

    1. Melinda, yes, it’s been fun spending time with them here! Since their town has been having a sunny, hot summer, it’s made outdoor activities possible too. We’re hoping to get in a longer hike one of these days, and are trying to decide which peak to conquer. :) Are you spending time in France this year, or exploring special spots closer to home?

      1. My parents live in Oberammergau, so we’re lucky to be able to visit often. I find it especially wonderful during the summer months as the hiking opportunities are plentiful! On a side note, we’re hoping to make it to your corner of the world someday soon. We’ve heard New Zealand’s flora and landscapes are absolutely stunning.

  3. Wow, wow…I love these. You’ve got such a great view, the mountains and of course all the Bavarian treats (read: beer)…it would have made this great ride well worth it. What fun this would be ~ I think made so much more being in such a beautiful area. Cheers!

    1. You’re absolutely right that the scenic surroundings make the ride all the more enjoyable, Randall. The only downside is that I found myself wanting to brake along the way, so that we could take in the views. Braking, however, is verboten while riding the alpine coaster! :)

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