The quaint Austrian village of Ischgl offers some of the best snow-packed ski trails in the Alps. // © 2010 Claire Makepeace
The writer gets ready for her first run of the day // © 2010 Claire Makepeace
With some of the best pistes (snow-packed ski trails) in the Alps and a quaint Austrian village that rivals the nightlife of a big city, Ischgl really does have a unique appeal. This winter, I was lucky enough to travel to Ischgl, a small resort town nestled among the Alps mountain range in the Tyrol region of Austria. Fortunately, I ended 2010 on the slopes, and I couldn’t have asked for a better way to do so. Duty Calls
Known as the Duty Free Run, this 5K ski run crosses the border between Austria and Switzerland. Participants can ski into the Swiss village of Samnaun and shop for great bargains at the duty-free shops located there, which sell high-end makeup, perfume, Swiss chocolates, Swiss army knives and other goodies. Skiers often come with large backpacks, ready to scoop up the bargains as well as to enjoy the hot chocolate and beautiful mountain views. Afterward, they can take the Pendelbahn lift back into Austria.www.samnaun.ch
From the Top
Ischgl is famous for the quality of its pistes and lift systems, which feature an expansive amount of skiable terrain with flat, wide runs for beginners, winding runs of medium steepness and more challenging expert runs. There are more intermediate and expert runs than beginner runs, so Ischgl is generally recommended for more confident skiers.
In Ischgl, it is possible to ski all the way from the top of the mountain to the main station at Idalp, where there are a number of restaurants for skiers to take a break before continuing down to the township. The downside to the height of many of Ischgl’s runs is that, when the weather gets dicey, a large amount of fog hovers around the top of the mountain and makes it very hard to see the boundaries of the runs.Music on the Mountain
On the way to the lifts, skiers will pass through a tunnel that showcases pictures of all of the major artists who have come to perform at Ischgl. Each year, Ischgl hosts a Top of the Mountain concert quite literally on top of the mountain. In the past, featured artists have included Katy Perry, Alicia Keys and The Killers. With the stage and arena set up on a deserted mountain plateau, Top of the Mountain is sure to be an experience not to be forgotten. There are also featured concerts throughout the year.
Ischgl is renowned for its great nightlife, and the funky design of the Fire and Ice bar, located at Hotel Elisabeth right by the mountain slopes, is a great spot to experience it. The fire-themed interior of the bar is welcoming as revelers come straight from the slopes, finally taking off layers of ski gear and enjoying a cup of mulled wine or two. The nightclub Pacha and the Schatzi Bar are also popular post-ski spots. Just Say Spaaaaah
For those who would rather relax quietly after a long day on the slopes than party at the Fire and Ice bar, Ischgl’s numerous spa experiences are a perfect fit. There are many great hotels in Ischgl, most of which have their own spas. My favorite property was Hotel Post, a high-end property in the center of the village with an authentic Austrian feel. The spa at Hotel Post Ischgl has a large number of different steam rooms, saunas, a Jacuzzi, a swimming pool and many spa services on offer, as well complimentary snacks, great service and thoughtful decor.