For decades Ischgl has been the premier Austrian destination for German visitors, but in recent years it has also acquired a strong following among Britons. This has largely come about not just because of the quality of its pistes, but also because of the music.
Ischgl’s famous start- and end-of-season Top of the Mountain concerts have attracted an A-list of international stars that have included Elton John, Bob Dylan, Tina Turner, Mariah Carey, the Beach Boys and Kylie Minogue.
For 2022/23 the resort has expanded its series of events into a “Spring Blanc” which includes four major concerts plus sun-downer parties and a dine-around week in April.
As for the slopes, they are extensive, snow-sure, sunny and mostly above the treeline, with some magnificent scenery. The 239km Silvretta Arena ski area extends across the Swiss border to the Engadin resort of Samnaun, and best suits mileage-hungry intermediates who enjoy covering lots of ground each day before returning to the resort for some of the most renowned apres ski in the Alps.
Stay on track with the essential facts from the resort below, and scroll down for our insider guide to a day on the pistes, expert ratings and advice. For further Ischgl inspiration, see our guides to the resort’s best accommodation, restaurants and après ski.
Inside the resort
Ischgl’s village remains traditional Tirolian in style, but with some contemporary touches – an airport-style travelator in a tunnel through a giant rock connects the two ends of Ischgl. The resort is an old farming village that has become a sophisticated tourist centre, with smart hotels and cavernous bars.
The main ways up to the slopes are via three heavyweight gondolas. One at each end of the resort go to the main mid-mountain hub of Idalp at 2,320m, while a third goes to Pardatschgrat at 2,624m.
Ischgl’s après ski caters largely for testosterone-fuelled males aged 30 to 50, older than the revellers who pack into the Mooserwirt on the slopes above the famed party resort of St Anton – since the coronavirus pandemic effort has been made to clean up the resort’s image.
Despite this, there’s still an enjoyably buzzing atmosphere that lasts all winter, and it is possible to escape the wildest of the partying – choose accommodation away from the main street.
Unlike many Austrian resorts, as well as hotels with high standards of cooking and prices to match, Ischgl also boasts a big variety of independent restaurants. For fine dining, the Paznaunerstube in the Hotel Trofana Royal with four Gault Millau toques is a good choice, while fine on-mountain dining can be found at the contemporary restaurants Alpenhaus VIP and Gampenalpe.
Ischgl is home to a 7km toboggan run that drops 950m, open two nights a week. For something different, there’s the Ischgl Skyfly – two parallel 2km zip-wires from Silvretta mid-station to the village. The exciting ride can be done with skis or board attached behind in a harness.
The resort’s Silvretta Therme opens for 2022/23. This thermal spa is on five floors with a large sauna area, fitness centre and ice rink.
On the slopes
Ischgl’s high altitude – its highest peak, Greitspitz, has a top lift station at around 2,870m – combined with some of the most sophisticated snowmaking anywhere in the Alps, pretty much guarantees at least adequate snow cover here in a season that runs from the last weekend in November to May 1.
With the exception of the lower runs immediately above the resort, nearly all pistes are above the treeline, so it’s best to head to those lower runs to avoid white-out conditions when the weather closes in.
With the Silvretta Arena’s 239km of extensive, snow-sure and sunny terrain on which to play, intermediates can have a ball here. Some of the blacks would be marked red in other resorts, and piste highlights include a glorious red of 1,000 vertical metres served by a giant cable-car, the Piz Val Grondabahn. There is an overall absence of truly steep slopes, but the off-piste and touring opportunities with a guide are excellent.
Two of the three main access gondolas whisk up to the centre of the ski area at Idalp, 2,320m, while the Pardatschgrat gondola from one end of town feeds into a network of lifts and runs that stretches across the Swiss frontier and down to the village of Samnaun at 1,840m.
The ski area’s 45 lifts are constantly being updated, and two chair lifts got serious upgrades in 2019. The two-seater Velileck on Pardatschgrat, in situ since 1978, is now a six seater with weather hoods and heated seats, while on the Samnaun side the upgraded eight-seater Visnitz from Alp Trida to Visnitzkopf has heated seats and hoods, and carries 900 more passengers per hour than the four-person chair it replaces. Seats are also decorated with images showing the history of Samnaun.
Beginners need to buy a full lift pass, and ride either the Silvretta, Fimba or Pardatschgrat cable cars from town up to the mountain base at Idalp. The ski school meets here and broad, gentle nursery slopes are served by a moving carpet, T-bar, and a chairlift. After first turns, learners can progress to some marginally more challenging blue runs on the east side of the bowl. The runs down to town are red and can become icy and crowded in the afternoon rush hour – first-weekers are strongly advised to catch the gondola down at the end of the day.
The Jeep Snowpark Ischgl is one of the best terrain parks in Europe. Its presence is a deliberate lure for all the 20-something snowboarders and twin-tip skiers who – music apart – might otherwise have considered Ischgl to be too middle-aged and expensive for their taste.
The park is one of the longest in the Alps, well maintained and constantly updated. It has a host of kickers, ramps and rails and is served by three chairs. Separate beginner, intermediate and king-sized lines are matched to varying technical skills. There is also a halfpipe and a boardercross course. Samnaun has the Obstacle Freestlye park, specifically designed for experts.
Who should go?
The atmosphere in the village and at the foot of the pistes is electric. This makes it a great choice for a New Year break, as does its snow record and sophisticated snow making. Its restaurant scene is often overlooked as is its terrain park, both are big draws. The slopes best suit mileage-hungry intermediates who enjoy covering lots of ground.
Know before you go
British Embassy Vienna: (00 43 1 713 1575; gov.uk), Jauresgasse 12, 1030 Vienna
Emergency services: Dial 112
Tourist office: See ischgl.com, the website of the Ischgl Tourist Association, for weather reports, lift status, webcams, traffic details and local event listings. Pick up maps, leaflets and other information from the office just off the main roundabout in the centre of town.
Telephone code: Dial 00 43
Time difference: +1 hour
Local laws & etiquette
• Formal greetings are the norm when meeting someone, and you’ll hear ‘Grüss Gott’ (greeting the almighty), or the more worldly ‘Guten Morgen/Tag/Abend’, just about everywhere you go, and it’s customary to return the salutation.
• Tips are not included, nor is it usual to leave them on the table. After the waiter has given you the bill add roughly 10 per cent and ask for it to be added to the total.
• A simple thank you is ‘Danke‘; ‘Bitte’ means both ‘please’ and ‘you’re welcome’.