Ischgl, Austria Travel Guide
Where to Ski in Ischgl, Austria
In times that have passed by, Ischgl was an isolated farming village clustered around a handsome church on a hill overlooking the Paznaun valley. Presently, it's a dense assemblage of mostly smart hotels and really rowdy bars, but still clustered around the same church. Ischgl has enlarged both sides of the hill, with a cable-car in one direction and two gondolas in the other to allow for rapid access to the slopes.
Ischgl has made apres ski an activity in its own right: the bars circling the base stations declare this proudly and the music pounds out in confirmation. Since this is a rich resort, money has been spent on convenience, boasting underground moving walkways and escalators to give bad weather cover between hot spots, and big time shops selling Prada, Versace and Gucci.
Two of the three town lifts send passengers to Idalp, the busy mid-station that is both the base for the ski school and the starting point for the extensive cruiser-friendly higher slopes. It is widely recognized that Ischgl is the second best resort in Austria - after St Anton, of course - with a challenging range of well-prepared pistes to fit most levels, although beginners have a tough progression from the user-friendly nursery slopes at Idalp. The downside is a crowded and clumsy return to the village: timid skiers are advised to download. The resort used to be infamous for long, cold T-bars, but these have now been mostly replaced by high-speed chairs. Two of the most unfriendly survivors were replaced for 2003-4, with two more done in 2004-5.
The network spreads out over three mountains, Alp Trida, Greitspitz and Palinkopf, the starting point for some extensive and often deserted red runs towards Fimbatal on the edge of the piste map. The isolation is especially welcome as the central runs are super crowded, not least the ones that connect the Ischgl system with the long, red and often icy piste down to Samnaun in a lost corner of Switzerland. During lunchtime, the duty-free village awakens to the sound of tills on all systems go as people hoard their bargain booze in their backpacks before ordering their rosti. The return journey in the modern two-level Pendelbahn cable-car takes them up to Alp Trida Sattel for the white-knuckle, bottle-clinking slither back to the resort.
In line with Ischgl's emphasis on fun, the hills echo with music blasting out from ice bars intended to tempt passing skiers to stop for a quick one before the next run. Bodenalp in the Fimbatal is a small and comfy restaurant, with fairly priced Tirolean dishes and rapid service. Several of the alternatives are self-service, though often with service choices: Schwarze Wand, at the top of the Holkerbahn, specializes in pizza and pasta, while Pardatschgrat, near Idalp, is ideal for its sunny terrace and Bavarian cooking.
Ischgl claims the largest funpark in Europe, and probably in the world - 400m long with a quarter-pipe, boardercross course and jumps, some of them imposingly large. As it is located off the Idjochbahn just above Idalp, it draws in a gratifying number of gawkers.
The Silvretta Sport Court Tennis Centre, having four indoor courts and a climbing wall, opened for the 2003-4 season. The Silvretta Centre features an indoor adventure pool, bowling and pool tables. Back outside there are toboggan evenings at Idalp (the Silvrettabahn cable-car runs up to 9pm) on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays, with Tirolean dinner and live music before a midnight descent.
The best restaurant in town is the Tofana Royal Paznaunstube, highly rated if a little stuffy. The Allegra in the Hotel Yscla is more at ease, with a globalised American burger and steak menu, while the Paznaun Grillalm offers affordable Tirolean specialites.
The drinking action begins in the Schatzi Pizzeria in the Elisabeth Hotel at the base of the Pardatschgratbahn. At Niki's Stadl,there is a two-level bar aggressively ornamented in forest troll mode. Sophisticates should head for Guxa in the Yscla Hotel, an oasis of deep sofas, expertly shaken cocktails, top cigars and downplayed background music.
The present post-midnight favorite is the Trofana Arena, a mass venue that enamours 1,200 people with a state-of-the-art laser light show. Arguably, Pacha in the Madlein hotel is cooler, not least because it is under the same roof as table-dancing bar Coyote Ugly, which offers go-go girls from 10pm-6am. The starkly modern Fire and Ice, at the Hotel Adler, is the youth choice.
Accommodations recommended are the Trofana Royal which stands out for its comfort and cuisine, but there's plenty of choice at all levels, including Austria's trademark family-run pensions. The minimalist Madlein is the top choice for those who don't fancy a walk home from the disco, while the Elisabeth is as slopeside as it gets. In the more low-priced zone, the Jaegerhof and the Yscla are good options as well.