Ischgl, Austria Ski Holiday Guide

In times that have gone by, Ischgl was a detached farming village grouped around a good-looking church on top of a hill overlooking the Paznaun valley. Now, it's a dense collection of mostly smart hotels and very rowdy bars, but still grouped around the same church. Ischgl has expanded both sides of the hill, having a cable-car in one direction and two gondolas in the other to make for rapid access to the slopes.

Ischgl made apres ski a worthwhile activity: the bars surrounding the base stations announce this proudly and the music hammers out in confirmation. Because this is a rich resort, money was spent on convenience, featuring underground moving walkways and escalators for bad weather cover between hot spots, and high fashion shops selling Prada, Versace and Gucci.

Two of the three town lifts take passengers to Idalp, the busy mid-station that is both the base for the ski school and the launch point for the wide cruiser-friendly higher slopes. It is generally recognized that Ischgl is the next best resort in Austria - after St Anton, of course - with a challenging variety of well-prepared pistes to match most levels, although novices have a hard progression from the user-friendly nursery slopes at Idalp. The downside is a jammed and awkward return to the village: timid skiers are recommended to download. The resort used to be notorious for long, cold T-bars, but these have now been replaced with high-speed chairs.

The network disperses over three mountains, Alp Trida, Greitspitz and Palinkopf, where some extensive and often deserted red runs begin and leads towards Fimbatal on the edge of the piste map. The isolation is particularly welcome since the central runs are really crowded, not least the ones that link up the Ischgl system with the long, red and usually icy piste down to Samnaun in an obscure corner of Switzerland. At lunchtime, the duty-free village wakes up to the sound of tills on all systems go as folks hoard their bargain booze in their backpacks prior to ordering their rosti. The coming back journey in the modern two-level Pendelbahn cable-car carries them up to Alp Trida Sattel for the white-knuckle, bottle-clinking slide back to the resort.

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