Our guest travel journalist, Mark Nicholls explores the glitzy Austrian ski resort of Ischgl.
Ischgl has carved out a special place in the Austrian ski scene in recent years.
Set in the stunning Paznaun Region of the Tirol close to the Swiss border, it is the Austrian party resort with one of the liveliest apres ski scenes in the Alps.
Renowned also for its opening and end-of-season concerts – where stars such as Elton John, Robbie Williams, Kylie Minogue, Lionel Richie, Rihanna and the Scissor Sisters have performed snowy outdoor arenas – Ischgl is also capable of showing its mellower side too with intimate restaurants, cosy horse-drawn sleigh rides and romantic winter walks.
Yet it is the magical ski area that is the great lure of Ischgl.
As you ascend the mountain on the Fimbabahn cable car, the snowy plateau of Idalp comes into view and with it the sheer scale of the ski area.
This is what makes Ischgl such a popular resort – with so much piste and so many great runs there’s no queuing for lifts, no crowding on the slopes, and everyone seems to get to where they want, when they want.
Much is down to prudent investment in new lifts; every year sees further development of the ski terrain and improved accessibility to friendly blues, interesting red runs and challenging black routes.
Over the last couple of decades Ischgl has become a flamboyant, fashionable, even glitzy resort with its bars, hotels and nightclubs.
Expect to be served in Niki’s Stadl, the Trofana Alm or Kuhstall by bar staff carrying frothing beers above their heads as skiers still in boots and mountain wear dance to a unique brand of “apres ski” music.
A notch down from Euro trash, these singalong anthems seem to delight the audience and even if it’s not your scene, it still needs to be experienced – at least once.
But Ischgl also has a mellow side with bars and restaurants for those who may want to relax a little with a degree of peace and quiet after a day on the slopes.
The quality of accommodation is first class, often with spa facilities too, and there’s scope for other activities such as cross country skiing, walks or the adrenalin rush of tobogganing down a 7km route and the 950m descent back into the village.
The village of Ischgl sits at an altitude of 1,377 metres above sea level with the resort having 45 ski lifts accessing 238kms of well-groomed runs up to 2800m or more above sea level.
The latest lift, a 28-seater tri-cable gondola system, rapidly moves skiers over a 1,251m height difference from the base station in the village up to the Pardatschgrat peak at 2,624m.
Dining is a magical experience in Ischgl, whether on the slopes or in the village, and it is always of the highest order.
On the mountain the huts are friendly and welcoming, offering superb cuisine, or you can enjoy the Alpenhaus Restaurant at Idalp, which is the home of Ischgl’s exclusive VIP club – the first such club in the Alps – for the ultimate mountain dining experience.
In the village, Hotel Yscla offers sumptuous food and exquisite dining at the hands of up-and-coming young chef Benjamin Parth.
Elsewhere, there is a wide choice of restaurants from rustic inns to five-star gourmet dining, as well as in excess of 40 bars, discos and nightclubs and for a little romance, you can take a horse-drawn sleigh ride out to the Wilderer Hut Mathon for Tyrolean specialities.
Easily accessible from the UK, Ischgl and the surrounding resorts enjoy a long season with its altitude and location, with the ski season opening at the end of November and running through to early May.
Yet there are also other resorts with individuality and character nearby in the Paznaun if you want a change of pace.
Kappl, actually the largest community in the region, is ideal for families with young children and beginners with 10 lifts and 42kms of slope; Galtuer at the head of the Paznaun valley is in a ski area called Silvapark, with six sectors for beginners, children, boarders, cross country and Alpine skiers with 40kms of piste and 10 skilifts; and See, the smallest of the four villages has a lovely, family-friendly ski area with nine lifts and 41kms of piste.
But you don’t have to go hard at the skiing all day long; relaxation and lazing around in the sunshine is also an option.
Indeed, the region has the slogan that invites you to do just that – “relax…if you can.!”
Accommodation: Mark Nicholls stayed at the 4* superior Hotel Brigitte in Ischgl, which UK tour operator Inghams offers from £1,099 per person including return flights from London Gatwick to Innsbruck and resort transfers of about an hour. For more information: visit www.inghams.co.uk or contact 01483 791 114.
Lift pass: Best value flexible skipass is the 4+2, allowing four days in one of the ski areas and two in any of the other three and is from €213 for adults and €142 for children.
Paznaun-Ischgl: Further details on Paznaun-Ischgl are available from the Paznaun-Ischgl Tourist Office on 0043 50990 100