Not far from the ritzy resort of St. Anton, Ischgl is the largest of four ski areas in the Paznaun Valley in western Austria. The others are See, Kappl and Galtür.
For the past decade or so, Ischgl has seen an influx of British skiers eager to sample the quality pistes, spirited après ski and starry live music scene. The latter is an important part of the Ischgl experience. Every year the resort hosts an end-of-season “Top of the Mountain” music extravaganza. Over the years the event has attracted an impressive list of rock stars including Bob Dylan, Muse and the Beach Boys – this year’s headliner is Lenny Kravitz.
About the region
Ischgl’s classic Tyrolean charm is evident from its cosy, snow-topped wooden houses and pretty baroque church. However, it also has some impressive contemporary touches, including an airport-style travelator that transports skiers between the two ends of the town.
Kappl, in contrast, has a quieter vibe and relatively few hotels – 40 compared to Ischgl’s 183. The “Sunny Mountain” resort has a reputation as a family destination, but don’t let this put you off if you are an adult-only group as the skiing here is second to none.
In order to make the most of your week in the Paznaun Valley, you can purchase the “Resort Options Pass” that gives you four days in Ischgl and two in Kappl.
Ischgl/Samnaun (the Silvretta Arena) is a huge ski area that sits largely above 2,000m (the town is at 1,400m). The area has 239km of pistes and 45 lifts and because much of the area is north facing, the snow conditions are excellent. This vast alpine playground is ideal for intermediate and advanced skiers – beginners are better off finding their ski legs at Kappl.
Hop on the Fimbabahn ski lift from Ischgl in Austria to the ski area of Idalp and spend the morning exploring the picturesque landscape. It’s easy to get around as it’s all connected by a series of fancy and, more importantly, heated chairlifts.
Then take the famous Smuggler’s Circuit to Samnaun in Switzerland, so named because this was once where smugglers would exchange goods on the Austrian/Swiss border. These days, you can follow a pretty path through the trees to Samnaun and spend the afternoon skiing in a different country. The alpine views are not to be missed.
Kappl has a reputation as a family resort. The area has two ski schools and offers childcare for kids over three years old. What this means is that the kids have a fun day on the more gentle slopes under the supervision of trained instructors. There is an extensive area for children as well as the Sunny Mountain adventure park, leaving adults to enjoy the slopes. In the meantime adults are free to explore the excellent snow conditions across the huge choice of red and black ski runs unhindered by children.
There are 42km of pistes (including five black runs and 12 red runs) and 10 ski lifts, which is plenty to keep you entertained for a couple of days. There is also ample opportunity for free-riding in Kappl, and the area hosts several free-riding competitions throughout the winter season.
The wide, gentle slopes are ideal for inexperienced skiers who can keep a wide berth from the dare-devil speed freaks who tend to whizz past.
Why go there
Après ski: Enjoy a merry end to a day’s skiing and head to one of Ischgl’s après ski bars. Institutions such as Schatzi feature women dancing on tables dressed in skimpy dirndls, and are aimed at inebriated men – these are best avoided in my opinion. Instead, head to one of the classier drinking establishment such as the Winkler café pub, and enjoy a delicious Aperol Spritz.
Ski show at night: Every week (or every fortnight depending on the month) Skischool Ischgl hosts a ski show at Prennerhang with spectacular stunts and choreography. The accompanying soundtrack is brilliant, with tunes from Star Wars and Pirates of the Caribbean to really get the mood going.
Fine dining: Ischgl has seven toque-awarded restaurants (similar to Michelin stars) serving Tyrolean and international cuisine. Among them is the gourmet restaurant “Paznaunerstube” at the 5* Superior Trofana Royal, which serves an impressive tasting menu curated by Martin Sieberer, the regions most decorated Tyrolean chef.
The X Factor: Get your adrenaline pumping and experience the Ischgl Skyfly. The three-part zipline allows you to soar 50m above the snow-covered landscape at up to 85km/h. Starting at the intermediate station of the Silvrettabahn, you climb a steep set of steps in your ski boots and harness. Your skis are then strapped to your back and you are attached to a steel rope. There are two ropes so you can fly side by side with a friend.
The whole experience lasts about three minutes and you end up on the roof of the 3-S Pardatschgratbahn cable car station. The Skyfly costs €39 per person per ride.
We recommend staying in Ischgl rather than Kappl so you can take advantage of the après ski.
The four-star Superior Hotel Brigitte is located just a 5-minute walk from the Fimbabahn ski bubble which transports you to the Idalp. The hotel is both luxurious and cosy, with two separate restaurants and a bar serving an impressive range of G&Ts. Rooms are spacious with typical Tyrolean furnishings and big, comfy beds. My (rather enormous) balcony had a wonderful view of the mountains. Prices start at €166 per person per night half board.
Getting there: For independent travel fly EasyJet (Gatwick, Heathrow, Manchester, Bristol) or BA (Gatwick, Heathrow) to Innsbruck. It takes approximately 1.5 hours to reach Ischgl by car/taxi.
Ski pass: The Resort Options Pass starts at €240 that gives four days in Ischgl and two in Kappl. The Silvretta skipass covers the four resorts of Ischgl, Galtür, Kappl and See and starts at €256.50 for 6 days.
Tour operators: The main UK tour operators to Ischgl are Inghams, Crystal, Ski Solutions and Zenith Holidays. Inghams offers a seven-night ski holiday on a half board basis at the four-star superior Hotel Brigitte from £1,189 per person based on two sharing. The price includes return flights from London Gatwick to Innsbruck and airport transfers. The package is valid for travel departing on 23rd March 2019.
For more information on Ischgl visit https://www.ischgl.com/en.