News from the snow
Ischgl is a large but traditional Tyrolean village below one of Austria's greatest and highest ski areas, crossing the border to be linked with Samnaun since 1978, making a unique Austro-Swiss ski area. Considering its status today as one of the best and largest ski areas in the Tyrol, Ischgl has been something of a late developer. It survived as a predominantly farming community despite hardship causing increasing migration until the late 1950s, with the first cable car opening in 1963. Indeed Ischgl's current success is a remarkable turn-around for a village which once had to send its children over the border to tend cattle in order to make ends meet, a practice so common that the children were even given a name, 'Schwabenkinder'. Although there are now more than 9000 tourist beds, making this one of Austria's biggest resorts, the local population remains below 1500. The 200km (125 mile) ski region is one of the largest in Austria (at least partially) and with a vertical approaching 1400m up to 2872m it is much higher and bigger than some of the country's other big name ski areas like Kitzbühel. Ninety per-cent of the ski area is above 2000m making this a particularly snowsure area with a long season, traditionally culminating in a big 'top of the mountain' concert at the end of April, which in the past has featured some big stars like Elton John, Tina Turner, Bob Dylan and Diana Ross. The concert and many other aspects of the area such as its status as a snowboarding mecca all contribute to make Ischgl one of the coolest resorts in the Alps. The resort's more recent developments have lead to Ischgl being one of the best designed ski areas in Austria and indeed the world. It has hi-tec lifts, including a funitel (ultra-stable high-capacity gondola running on two cables rather than the usual one) and a double decker cable car rapidly accessing the slopes, and slopeside lodging offered by many properties. Although customs regulations between Austria and Switzerland are described by the resort as 'lax', you should still carry your passport as customs official have the right to check it, and observe shopping 'import' restrictions when returning from the duty free shops of Samnaun to Austria and the European Community.
A large but traditional Tyrolean village below one of Austria's greatest and highest ski areas, crossing the border to be linked with Samnaun.
Intermediates will enjoy the Silvretta ski arena the most which opens up six valleys and the exciting feeling of skiing over the border to Switzerland, making use of some very hi-tec uplift technology in the process. The runs include long wide open cruisers of up to 7km (over 4 miles) in length. There are high alpine bowls and fun runs down through the trees.
Although there are 200km (125 miles) of linked skiing between Ischgl and Samnaun almost double that amount is available on the Silvretta Pass which also includes neighbouring but not lift-linked Austrian ski areas at Galtür, Kappl and See in the Paznaun. The total is 370km (232 miles) of trails served by 66 lifts and a free ski bus linking the various area.
Experts have ten trails graded black in the region, with a total length of 40km (25 miles), a fifth of the terrain. The resort's single ski school leads off piste and powder expeditions. There is also has extensive cross country skiing with 48km (30 miles) of prepared trails including loipes at all ability levels.
The ski kindergarten begins at age 3 and continues to age 5, whilst the Children's Ski School has its own adventure garden with fun terrain and cut-out fun figures for the kids to enjoy. Children can be safely left in the youth centre at lunch time if required where there's a cafeteria with kids menu and drinks are available.
Ischgl's leisure facilities, pedestrianised centre and wide selection of places to eat also bode well for a good family holiday. Children aged 6 and under get free admission to the swimming complex.
The Hotel Elizabeth's restaurant has beautiful decor, and some gourmet items on the à la carte menu. There are also half a dozen Italian restaurants and a couple of Alpine huts which can be reached by snowmobile. The Bodenalpe at 1813m has a particularly well-thought-of menu which needs to be ordered from over the 'phone prior to arrival. Apart from fondue, the specialities here are game dishes and pork knuckles.
Restaurants reached by lift up and toboggan run down or by sleigh ride are similar popular dining experiences. If you want a really surreal experience try eating Mexican at 3am in the La Bamba restaurant of the hotel Grillalm.
Slopeside open air socialising is possible at a number of venues, notably the Marends at the hotel Elizabeth, the Sonne where there's often live music and for country and western, it's the Buffalo in the Hotel Grillam. Other popular places throughout the evening include the Allegra American Bar in the hotel Tscla, the Guxa cocktail bar and Niki's Stadl in the Piz Buin hotel; there are many more. The three discothèques are the Club Après in the Hotel Central, Feuer and Eis (Fire and Ice) and Madlein Wunderbar.
Other evening activities include swimming, tobogganing, bowling to 1am (closed on Saturday nights) film and theatre shows.
The funpark consists of five jumps, four straight jumps, three high jumps, one quater-pipe, one fun box, one WM Halfpipe ("The Tube"), four rails, two waverides, one boardercross, one riesentorlauf and finally, a kindercross.