When I first visited Ischgl around 20 years ago it was virtually unheard of in the UK, people would ask me “Where?” but now it is etched into the mind-set of most British skiers. Ischgl is a ski capital, it is up there with Whistler, Vail, Aspen, Courchevel, Val d’Isere, Zermatt, Verbier, St Anton, Selva. These are the premier league of resorts and Ischgl more than holds its own.
I love Ischgl, it’s in my top 3 of ski resorts in Europe and if travelling with mates it’s my first choice destination. Ischgl’s renowned neighbour, St Anton, is lauded by many but for me Ischgl knocks it into a cocked hat. The night life is infinitely better with a wider choice of bars and clubs according to your tastes. The lift system is better with newer and quicker and more comfortable rides. The connectivity of the terrain is better with lifts and pistes linking up. Accommodation costs are lower and although most properties are 4 or 5 star there are still some more modest lodging options, especially on the outskirts or neighbouring villages of Paznaun, Kappl, Galtur, See etc. Food and drink prices are more competitive in Ischgl too, it is quite remarkable how the mountain huts have kept prices to a pleasant level of affordability. Ok, you probably think I am a St Antonophobe and I can promise you that isn’t the case. It just slightly exasperates me when British clients insist on going back to St Anton when they have never tried its more cosmopolitan neighbour. Let me be honest if you are an expert and love the moguls and off-piste you would gravitate to St Anton, and rightly so. But for us two-three week a season skiers Ischgl really does tick all of the boxes and some more.
The Silvretta Arena ski domain of Ischgl, Samnaun, Galtur, Kappl and other villages boasts 239km of piste with high altitude skiing from 1360m to 2872m. With the exception of glaciated resorts their season is one of the longest in the Alps, starting in early December with a closing ceremony each season over May bank holiday weekend. Of the 239km of piste 20% is classed easy, 59% intermediate, and 21% difficult. One of the safest areas for those wanting to try off piste is the area accessed by lift M1 on the Gruebelekopf mountain , here it is really easy to drop back onto the piste if things get too tricky. For those wanting the freeride experience Ischgl is great and there is a huge amount which can be viewed here: http://www.ischgl-freeride.com/en_index.html.
The nightlife in Ischgl is legendary and raucous, although there are quiet bars too. Typical Austrian apres ski occurs from around 3pm to 8pm and bars such as the Trofana Alm, Schatzi, and Nikis Stadl are absolutely rocking during these times. The later nightlife moves on to numerous other establishments including Nikos Hexenkuche, Fire and Ice, Trofana Arena, Kuhstall, Golden Eagle, and numerous others including the Pacha nightclub. The resort has also numerous lap dancing clubs, one being within the ultra-plush Trofana Arena nightclub and others include the Insider, Living Room and I think the Coyote Ugly is now the Pacha VIP suite. This isn’t all in your face though and there are quieter bars, many of which are hotel based – the majority being 4-5 star residences, as well as places like the Champagne bar, Kiwi bar and various cocktail lounges.
Getting there. Innsbruck is the closest serving airport but flights can ramp up in price; I have seen Easyjet return flights peak at a staggering £1500 pp over the last few seasons. Although a little further away Munich offers great value and Lufthansa allows free ski carriage. Zurich is another possibility but beware as transfers from Switzerland are always very expensive owing to the taxation – they encourage the more environmentally friendly rail travel. Driving is absolutely fine, I have done it a few times. The road into Ischgl isn’t bad but you must have chains with you. The most galling part about driving is you pass St Anton and realise you have another 40 minutes before hitting your destination.
The Silvretta area lift pass for 6 days will set you back £278.00 but this is window dressing as it includes the valley villages of Mathon, Kappl, See and Galtur. The truth is if you are staying in Ischgl for just a week you are very unlikely to visit these other villages so you are best to opt for the VIP pass (only available if staying in Ischgl) which covers Ischgl and Samnaun and costs just £237.00 – a bargain considering many French passes are heading towards £300 these days.
Equipment hire in Ischgl is not cheap but expect a much better standard than in the French resorts. I recommend Sport and Mode Zangerl in the centre of the village and booking here will save you around 40% than booking in resort. Generally speaking expect to pay from £90 for intermediate skis and £132 for intermediate skis and boots.
Ski school is typically Germanic, being 4 hours a day comprising 2 hours in the morning and 2 hours after lunch. Ski schools are of a good standard with English widely spoken and private tuition is readily available.
All in all, if you have yet to visit Ischgl, you must! See on the slopes there soon I hope.