The US band, The Killers, are to star in Ischgl’s season-closing concert at the end of April, following the likes of Elton John, Kylie Minogue and Rihanna. So go now for a late escape to the mountains
Until recently, not many Brits had cottoned on to the pretty and compact resort of Ischgl. About 90 minutes from Innsbruck, it’s at an altitude of 1,377 metres in the Paznaun Region of the Tirol and is in the Silvretta Mountains.
It's a huge 230km area and most of it high with the top point being the Palinkopf at 2,865m. This means there is usually snow from November right up until May. The three modern cable cars are found in the town centre and are just a few minutes walk from each other. The Silvrettabahn transports you directly to the top station, the Idalp, but it can get busy first thing in the morning, so try the Fimbabahn to either the middle station, Pardatschalp or the Idalp. If you’re a beginner, then start high up where the runs are easier.
The pistes do have names, but the Austrian dialect makes it hard even for German’s to pronounce, so they also have numbers. The lower numbers all run down to the village; anything over 60 are high up and on the Swiss side. At the end of the day, beginners can take one of the three high-speed gondolas back from the mid-stations as the slopes back to the village steepen slightly towards the bottom.
Runs, runs, runs
The runs themselves are big and sweeping with the 'Eleven' ski piste being one of the longest in Austria, at a drop of 1,472 metres. Starting at the Greitspitze, the first part is black, then consistently red. Fly past the Idalp and back down to the town centre. Swiftly get back up to the ‘bowl like’ Idalp ski area, and make the most of the heated seats on the new Lange Wand chair lift , warmed up and ready to do it all over again.
If you want to stock up on goodies another great run from the Palinkopf is the Duty Free Run. (80/81) You don’t even need your passport, just drop over the border into the Swiss duty-free pocket of Samnaun and enjoy the views on the way down. People often ski on the Swiss side in the morning as it’s sunnier, but can also busier.
As well as well-groomed pistes, there’s a good snowboard park with jibs and kickers for all levels and plenty of untouched powder. Most of this can’t be seen from the pistes, so few venture onto it; great for anyone who is new to deep powder skiing and wants to practice their skills. Hire a guide from the Snow Sports Academy at the Idalp, or the Ski Club of Great Britain hosts a Ski Club Leader in Ischgl (this season from Jan 16, 2011 to April 1, 2011.)
Ischgl is one of the liveliest resorts in the Alps, but it manages to be neither stuffy nor trashy, instead focusing on good fun and a relaxed atmosphere, unlike a lot of French resorts. There is no need to make too much of an effort to go out. It’s straight off the bright white, nose stinging fresh pistes and into the dimly lit and meltingly warm après ski bars. So unless you want to look like one of the scantily clad Dirndl dancing Girls in the Schatzi bar of Hotel Elisabeth by the Pardatschgratbahn lift, you can forget your Jimmy Choo’s. Stomping around in you ski boots is the epitome of cool at Niki’s Stadl. (www.nikis-stadl.com). Niki MC's whilst dressed in a Native American costume prompting the crowd to spin an imaginary lasso to the sound of oompah techno and keeps everyone revved up in bierfest mode.
Good-humoured partying continues in the streets around Silvrettabahn cable car, which are lined with merry Austrians and Germans downing moreish schnapps. And it’s fine to look like what you’re actually there for - the skiing, whilst sipping glühwein outside the Trofana Alm near the Silvrettabahn cable car. Packed to the rafters, this rustic looking cabin has two floors, filled to the brim with full on German sing-a-longs.
Then there’s the Kuhstahl (www.kuhstall.at) under the Sporthotel Silvretta where the crowds overflows onto the street outside. If you enjoy some schnapps head to Bar Allegra (www.yscla.at/bar-hotel-ischgl.en.htm) on the main strip through the village or Toni’s Apres ski bar, directly on the slope by the Pardatschgratbahn lift for a more sophistication feel.
From around 7pm many places wind down the après ski as people head off to eat. But after dinner, the partying rev’s up again and there are lots of good bars offering great late-night partying and dancing. The Golden Eagle pub (www.golden-eagle.at/) is lively or head for some dancing in the huge Trofana Arena (www.trofana-arena.at/). Other nightclubs include The Coyote Ugly and the only alpine branch of Ibiza’s legendary club, Pacha, both at the Madlein Hotel (www.pacha.at).
Eating in Ischgl
There’s no shortage of excellent places to eat in Ischgl. Virtually all village restaurants are associated with hotels, so most people tend to stay half board, but they are available for non-residents too. For a real treat for Beth, they don't come much better than the Paznaunerstube in the Hotel Trofana Royal. The Michelin starred and Gault-Millaut multi award winning gourmet restaurant is presided over by celebrity chef Martin Sieberer. Four-course menus start at euro 55 right up to the fabulous ten course 'Paznaun' gala menu at euro 112 (wine extra). While there, visit their Royal Wine Cellar which stocks more than 500 wines from Austria and around the world. Other good hotels to try are the Hotel Jägerhof or the Hotel Goldener Adler which offer five-course meals and themed evenings. For lighter meals try the Schatzi, Allegra (burgers etc) or the Trofana Alm (grills) and for fondue or ribs try the Kitzloch. For Italian, try the Toscana and Salz & Pfeffer- all along the main strip.
The mountain restaurants offer a great range of dishes from hearty Austrian fare to gastro five-course dinners, but they do tend to get busy at peak times so get there early at around 12.15pm to beat the rush. Our ski guide, Patrick swiftly delivered us for lunch at the Paznauner Thaya (2000m) (www.ischgl.com/mountain-restaurant-paznauerthaya.en.htm) Almost bursting out of his ski suit, Patrick was clearly a fan of Austrian dumplings as we started with a bacon and chive dumpling in clear broth, followed by a meat rosti covered in runny egg and more sweet dumplings to finish. Certainly enough to fuel you through an afternoon of skiing.
Also on the Austrian side the Alpenhaus (Idalp - 2,300m) (+43 5444 606 844, www.ischgl.com/alpenhaus-mountain-hut-tirol.en.htm) is the home of Ischgl's exclusive VIP club – the first such club in the Alps. It’s very much a modern twist on an Alpine cabin and feels very ‘designer.’ with both table-service and self-service areas. We had a creamy ‘cheese soup’ to start, then delicate pork medallions, followed by an ‘egg nog’ cone for desert.
The glass-sided Pardorama (Pardatschsgrat - 2,624m) (+43 5444 606 820, www.greitspitz.com/index_Pardorama.htm) is impressive and offers some of the best views over the mountains. We had a clear broth with pancake slivers, and excellent schnitzel and for dessert, dumplings filled with three different flavours; berries, chocolate and apricot.
For an evening treat, ascend the Silvrettabahn for dinner at the Panorama (Idalp - 2,300m) (+43 5444 606 813, www.ischgl.com/idalp-mountain-restaurant-tyrol.en.htm) During the day it offers a good self-service on the ground level, and on the first floor is the cosy 'Gourmet-Stüberl', a cosy mountain cabin with waiter service which also has a large sunny balcony terrace area to dine on. The restaurant offers regional specialties and international dishes. Expect to pay around euro 30 for a soup starter, main and beer.
Swiss International Airlines from London Heathrow to Zurich but from December to April easyJet flies direct to Innsbruck from London Gatwick, Bristol and Liverpool and British Airways offers flights from London Gatwick to Innsbruck.
If you would prefer to drive, consider the Motorail service offered by Deutsche Bahn.
Where to Stay:
The Paznaun Tourist Offices operates an excellent service for matching visitors' requirements with accommodation offers via the website on www.ischgl.com or direct firstname.lastname@example.org
The best ski pass deal in Paznaun is the 4+2, allowing four days in one of the villages and two in the neighbouring resorts of Galtür and Kappl, with 2010-11 prices for adults from euro 190.