For years now Ischgl has been entertaining big name stars in an attempt to position the brand at the forefront of winter sports destinations. I am not sure of the origin / authenticity of the claim to be ‘the Ibiza’ of the Alps – but it has been a term of intent that has been bandied around for a number of years. Excess in the snow so to speak. Paying Paris Hilton many hundreds of thousands of euros to holiday in Ischgl a few years back and bring with her the world’s paparazzi raised eyebrows in the region as well as creating endless press columns. I am not even sure that she skied / snowboarded but that was never the point in any case. Elton John, Katie Perry, Kylie, Stereophonics and Rihanna are some of the names to have opened and closed seasons in recent years and The Killers are the next act to grace the Idalp stadium. So we have a mega brand in winter sports that everyone seems to want a piece of, even though much of the marketing has nothing to do slopes – you don’t hear Bode or Seth talking about the epic skiing or off-piste, the whole brand has been created by what happens off the snow, granted Elton’s piano was on a ski slope but I am pretty sure he wasn’t.
So behind the big names and the undoubted success of branding Ischgl as the place to be in the Alps – how is it on the slopes and in the resort? Key to Ischgl is the skiing / snowboarding area and whilst some bemoan the glitz and commercialisation of the resort then there is no escaping the fact that Ischgl is one of the elite ski / snowboard areas in the Alps. Beginners have a good area at Idalp, intermediates have a big network of well linked, long cruisers and good skiers and snowboarders have some genuinely steep slopes to tackle as well as acres of legendary off-piste. In short the ski area is up there with the very best. For me the Arlberg trumps Ischgl for steep skiing and off-piste but that could be said for nearly every area in the Alps and the fact is that Ischgl is a truly epic ski region with variety, challenging terrain and an almost unrivalled lift system that is high capacity, modern and extensive.
Off the snow – ‘Relax. If you can…’ is the message from the resort. Despite the sumptuous hotel facilities offering health-giving treatments and relaxation opportunities, my experience is that Ischgl provides few chances to relax and I have yet to leave the resort with anything other than a pressing need for a holiday. There is debate where offers the best après ski in the Alps but if you were to create a short list of 3 then Ischgl would have to be on it, very possibly with 2 other Austrian resort (St Anton and Solden). For brazen excess then Ischgl cannot be topped. The bars are heaving from 3 onwards and it is easily possible to be partying at day break with dancing girls on the bars and some exclusive clubs.
Ischgl for me falls short for families – although some of independent snow sports portals rate it as a family destination – lazy journalism re-cycling third hand reports rather than actually going there and writing authoritative reports – ridiculous. Families should head to the neighbouring resorts of Galtur, See or Kaprun but not Ischgl – tough and crowded lower slopes, tons of après ski, lift queues in the resort etc etc. Ischgl is also pricey, one of the more expensive resorts in Austria, although it doesn’t do the crazy statement prices of some of the elite French resorts. But those looking for top skiing / snowboarding, can survive on little or no sleep and don’t mind paying over the Austrian average then Ischgl is the real deal.
Ischgl – fact.