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Skiing in Ischgl (Austria)

Discovering the Austrian resort of Ischgl

Ishgl... Ish-what?
With such an unlikely combination of consonants for a name, it is not surprising that many have trouble getting it right.
Just say "Ish-gl" and everyone will be happy.
Ischgl is a small village in the Paznaun valley in the Silvretta mountain range, near the famous resort of Sankt Anton am Arlberg, and is world-renowned for its off-piste skiing area. Here, space is hardly a problem: the area seems boundless and there's more than enough for everyone.
Ischgl, here I come!
Ischgl is also famous for the 2 "Top of the Mountain" concerts" it has hosted every year since 1993. The concerts, held at an altitude of 2,300m, mark the opening and the close of the ski season, and attracts artistes such as Rod Stewart, Elton John, Rihanna, Tina Turner, Bob Dylan, Bon Jovi, Kilie Minogue ….
Ischgl the unpronouncable is THE place to be in Austria. Find out why below.
The Tyrolean Glastonbury
Skiing in Austria?
Hmmm... OK. But there are lots of well-known ski resorts elsewhere in Europe too, aren't there?
True, but there's something exotic about skiing in Austria. The Tyrol region has everything the skier could hope for: beautiful, permanently white mountains, Freeride runs to your heart's content, and an après-ski experience to make a bishop blush… In Tyrol, "Ski" is always spelt with a capital "S".

Price-wise, expect to pay more or less what you would in France, i.e., €42.50 a day..., but with Austrian quality and Tyrolian après-ski thrown in for good measure.
What more can you ask for?
The mechanical lifts afford a welcome respite for your legs. The 6- and 8-seater "bubble" chairlifts--all detachable--are ultra-modern, and heated, and span an elevation of between 600 and 800 metres. The skiing experience is fantastic, and all the more so as there's little risk of your "line" being "stolen" during your ascent: freeriding is not as popular in Ischgl as it is in Sankt Anton. In Ischgl, the opportunities for off-piste skiing are practically endless.
The slopes offer enormous variety and are well interconnected. And with off-piste opportunities at every turn, high elevations, good snowfall right through until the end of the season, what more could you ask for?
Grandiose landscapes
On the slopes
More than 200km of slopes, with a run linking Ischgl to the Swiss resort of Samnaun--the link is know as the "Duty Free Run" as VAT is not charged in Samnaun: 11 kilometres of slopes, starting in Palinkopf. A real delight! Duty-free breaks provide a perfect opportunity to recharge you batteries with chocolate or Red Bull to keep you going for the rest of the day, or to pick up a few original gifts right on the slopes.
The snowpark boasts more than 30 modules in 4 different areas, and a huge airbag so that you can safely practise your tricks. The black run in Greispitz is as long as you could hope for, and the one in Palinkopf is a joy.
In this part of the world, skiing is described in superlatives. And given the number of slopes one can do in a day, breaks are more than welcome, whether in a small restaurant at the bottom of the Fimbatal valley–dominated by the Fluchthorn (3398m)--or over a meal at the the Pardorama, a fully glazed restaurant sitting at an altitude of 2624m.
And if you are curious to discover what other nearby areas have to offer in terms of their skiing experience, simply take a shuttle from Ischgl to the large Silvretta Arena area in the Paznaun valley. The See, Kappl and Galtür resorts are not as extensive as the Ischgl resort, but, wherever you go in the valley, you will find that skiing is serious business.
Freeride
As Ischgl is better known for its nightlife and its high-altitude concerts than for its off-piste opportunities, skiers will be surprised to find that they can ski on absolutely virgin slopes up to 2 days after a snowfall... And there's everything you could hope for: narrow, demanding corridors, short, steep slopes, gently sloping combes where you can give it all you've got, and totally magical surroundings. From the summits of Palinkopf or Pardatschgrat, countless runs spread out before you for as far as the eye can see.
From Ischgl you can also venture further up the Paznaun valley to the Kappl resort, with its magnificent off-piste run, which is very long but somewhat difficult. After getting off the Visnitzbahn chairlift, continue uphill on foot for a further 100m to the Visnitzkopf crest (2744m), then descend the entire Visnitztal valley to the Kappl village resort (1258m). A heady, spellbinding experience.
Après-ski, Tyrolean style
Picture the scene: bars overflowing on to the pavement; an never-ending stream of beer; skiers fraternizing in a carnival of boots, bonnets and masks; people dancing on tables; skiers disguised as bunnies and snowboarders as hunters; sylish girls in fur hats and leggings;... This good-natured bacchanal goes on for the 2 or 3 hours people need to absorb just enough alcohol to start the evening... That's the Austrian après-ski for you. And there's nothing like it anywhere else in the world!
Austrian simply love skiing, and every evening, after the runs have been closed, they let the whole world know it in a crazy après-ski atmosphere that has its equal nowhere else the Alps. If you love skiing and partying, Ischgl is the place for you. You won't be disappointed!
Prost!
Ischgl: facts and figures
235km of slopes, including 45km of black runs and 127km of red runs
40 ski lifts
490 snow guns, covering 70% of the resort
Ischgl: 1376m; runs departing from the Idalp plateau at 2320m (the venue for the "Top of the mountains" concerts); Greitspitze summit at 2871m
11,000 beds, ranging from luxury-hotel accommodation to typical Tyrolean B&Bs.
Spoilt for choice
Getting to Ischgl
By road: Take the motorway network to Zurich, in Switzerland. Continue along the motorway for 170km towards Innsbruck. Leave the motorway at the "B171/B188 Pians-Paznaun-Ischgl" exit, and continue for 22km to the resort (800km from Paris; 650km from Lyon).
By rail: Go to Innsbruck station, then take a shuttle to Ischgl (approx. 1.5 hours; 102km). You can also hire a car at Innsbruck station.
By air: Fly in to Innsbruck. Take a shuttle to Ischgl or hire a car.
Otherwise...
Accommodation in Ischgl
The number of hotels in Ischgl is absolutely amazing. However, don't expect any large hotel complexes. Here in Ischgl, hotels are a family tradition, and rooms with breakfast (Austrian syle, which means you won't need to stop skiing for lunch!) start at around €30.00 a night.
In terms of accommodation, there's something for all budgets, from 5-star accommodation to guest-house lodging.
Tyrolean charm
Nightlife in Ischgl
Ischgl's motto, "Relax, if you can…" says it all! This is definitely not a family resort. Even Michael Jackson gave a concert here--at an altitude of 2300 m!--as have numerous other artists including Enrique Iglesias, Beyonce, Melanie C, Katy Perry, Pussycat Dolls, Rod Stewart, Nena, Sugababes, Pink, and Anastacia.
Apart from its famous concerts to open and close the season, Ischgl also boasts an impressive number of discotheques, restaurants and bars of all sorts.

http://www.ischgl.com/

Ischgl at night
See also:

Holiday rentals in Austria on MediaHols.com:
http://www.mediahols.com/EN/austria_holiday-rentals_idr1-42/rentals.php
The Ischgl resort guide on Winter-Sports.com:
http://www.winter-sports.com/EN/Resort_guide/resortguide.php?idv=2262
Photos: N. Cuche E. Beallet
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