Matt, our intrepid blogger, took a trip to Ischgl for a spot of spring skiing. Read all about his trip and for more information about Ischgl read our resort guide.
Getting there and the resorts
With a flight time of around 85 minutes from Gatwick to Innsbruck and a transfer time of just over an hour, the Silvretta mountain range in Tirol, Austria is a breeze to get to. EasyJet run (mostly) two flights a day from Gatwick to Innsbruck but there are other airport options, though expect a longer transfer.
Once in the beautiful valley, you’ve a choice of four resorts: Ischgl, Galtür, Kappl and See, each accessible by the local bus service and each offering a different experience:
Ischgl is the main ski area, larger and busier than the others, with 44 lifts, over 240km of pistes and a very healthy apres-ski scene, to say the least. This is certainly the resort to stay in for the biggest variety in activities, both skiing and non-skiing.
Galtür is smaller and quieter, with 40km of pistes. The skiing area is split into six distinct sectors – kids, improvers, touring, etc. For the younglings there’s a sector called AdventureLand that, oddly, has traffic lights, road signs and, um, a witch’s house. Oh, and fake animals that tell you stories at the press of a button. Make of that what you will. Of the four resorts, Galtür is the most family and children oriented.
We didn’t get to ski in Kappl but elementary research reveals it has 40km of pistes, getting up to 2700m.
See, pronounced ‘say’, has just 33km of pistes and is firmly positioned, like Galtür, for families and children (it even has a little snow train to ferry people around). It’s the first of the four villages in the Paznaun valley with North facing slopes and so the snow is consistent.
Where we stayed
We stayed in the 4-star Hotel Brigitte, a recently renovated ski-in/ski-out hotel in Ischgl. Don’t be surprised if you see people in dressing gowns having a drink and a cigarette in the bar; you haven’t stumbled on a film set, there’s a very good wellness centre in the hotel and, bizarrely for us Brits, smoking is still allowed indoors. The food is good, the staff are welcoming and there’s soft-rock all around (not just in this hotel, it seems to permeate the whole resort).
Things to do in Ischgl
Ischgl offers a novel evening excursion that gets you to the top of the mountain after dark, and gets you down on a simple wooden toboggan. Your ticket includes the gondola up and hire of your vehicle and to get your energy levels up you can take a meal at the top at the Videralp restaurant (we went for meat and cheese fondue) or just head straight down. Essentially you pile down 7km of mountain, dropping 950m, thinking you’re in control, for 40 minutes or so. It’s great fun, but don’t forget to brake…
After many, many years of negotiations, new for the 2013/2014 season is the Piz Val Gronda gondola. It takes you up to 2,812m and has opened up a new area of skiing for the resort. There’s one red run down (keep you speed up, it flattens out) and also a large freeriding area to explore. Definitely worth the trip up.
If shopping’s your thing, you can easily ski to the Swiss town of Samnaun – the piste splits, with one side staying in Austria, the other one nipping into Switzerland where you can do some duty free shopping in one of the many shops.
Restaurants – where we ate in Ischgl
For a special occasion, try the tasting menu at Restaurant Stüva. The regularly changing menu is inventive, to say the least – think solid gin and tonics and magical napkins (trust me). A memorable experience where certain courses are introduced to the table as “greetings from the kitchen”… I lost count of the number of courses, but they were all superb. The hotel also has a wine cellar for private events where you can gaze lovingly at 5,000 bottles of wine.
Summing up our trip
The four resorts offer both a wide range of skiing options and apres-ski – though choose carefully as ideally you don’t want to be getting the local bus back and forth each day. It’s a very friendly resort with a nice feel, maybe this is because the residents are involved in the development of the resort; it’s down to committees and votes to determine how they change. A nice way to do it.
At the time of writing only 8% of visitors are from the UK… so let’s agree to get that up and what better time to do so than to see Robbie Williams closing the season on May 3rd?