Nestled in the Paznuantal Valley in Tyrol, Austria, the ski resort of Ischgl is probably slightly less well known than its neighbour St Anton. Although the two are 40 minutes apart by road, it is possible to ski tour from the top of Rendl in St Anton down to Ischgl. What Ischgl is well known for, though, is its apres ski scene. We skied there for 4 days recently – so how is the skiing, and does the apres ski live up to its reputation?
Ischgl boasts 330km of pistes. The mountains are predominantly north facing, which keeps the snow in good condition but means things can be icy early on. The resort is also mainly above the tree line. The runs seem to generally be graded as red, with a few blacks and blues thrown in for good measure. In the main the pistes are relatively narrow and sinuous rather than being vast motorways. They are linked by a truly excellent lift system, comprising of nearly all detachable lifts, with a number of enormous 8 man chairs. The resort is very well suited to on piste cruising, and with the lift system it is easy to clock up some serious mileage. There is also the “duty free” run, which drops across the border into the duty-free enclave of Samnaun in Switzerland. It’s a fun diversion, though the flat run out back to the cable car is a bit of a pain. There are also a good number of mountain restaurants scattered around, so you’re never too far from lunch!
The snow conditions didn’t allow us to sample the off piste terrain during our visit unfortunately, but reports suggest that there are good freeride opportunities to be had. Perhaps more importantly, the seems that hardly anyone visiting Ischgl much bothers with going off piste anyway, so on a powder day you might have the terrain all to yourself! It’s notable that the general standard of skiing in Ischgl is several notches lower than you’d find (for example) in St Anton, suggesting perhaps that people are visiting for reasons other than the skiing…
… which brings us to the apres ski! We’re huge fans of the Austrian approach to apres – getting stuck in to it straight off the slopes at around, still in ski boots, dancing (well, stamping…) on the tables to the sound of cheesy Germanic pop. Ischgl genuinely is the capital of Austrian apres ski, and there are a large number of venues – the Schatzi Bar at Hotel Elisabeth (dancing girls on the bar from 4pm…), the Trofana Alm and the Kuhstall all serve up classic “ski boot on” apres in the afternoon, while later on after dinner there is Pacha (of Ibiza fame) together with other clubs at Hotel Post and Trofana Royal for those who really don’t want to get up early the next morning.
Overall we really enjoyed Ischgl – the combination of great skiing and fantastic apres is hard to beat. Opinion in our group was divided over whether it beats St Anton overall – to settle it, we’ll be doing an article soon comparing them in a number areas – watch this space!