Ischgl, one of my regular stomping grounds, is coming to a screen near you very soon.
The Austrian resort is the star of a Hollywood film with its UK premiere this month. Well, there are other stars in the film, a comedy drama called Downhill – including Will Ferrell, Julia Louis-Dreyfus and Zach Woods. But the slopes and the scenery steal the limelight for sure.
I was in Ischgl when the filming was in progress last year – a good friend of mine, noted Ischgl-born film-maker Dominik Walser, was an important crew member and location guru for the shoot.
During filming, the affable Will Ferrell made himself very popular with locals and visitors alike, chatting and signing autographs.
The plot involves Ferrell and Louis-Dreyfus (who played Elaine Benes in nine seasons of the massively-popular Seinfeld series) playing a married couple, Billie and Pete Stanton (yes, strange the surname matches another huge nearby ski resort!) who head to the Austrian Alps with their two young sons for the ‘ski holiday of a lifetime’.
However, things take an unexpected twist when a supposedly controlled avalanche suddenly races towards the mountain restaurant terrace where the family are sitting. Instead of protecting his wife and children, father Pete grabs his phone and runs.
All survive uninjured but his spur-of-the-moment decision to take cover sets off an emotional spiral which casts a dreadful pall over the family and threatens not just the rest of the ski holiday but the family’s future. Especially as he returns to the table, as staff begin to clear the snow from the terrace, and calmly orders the soup of the day as if nothing has happened!
Ferrell and Louis-Dreyfus are keen skiers and performed much of the ski action themselves without always using doubles. Some scenes in the film, which had its US premiere at the prestigious Sundance Film Festival in January, were shot in the nearby resort of Fiss and also in Vienna .
Ischgl is delighted with the amount of highly-identifiable coverage Ischgl gets in the movie, which is a remake of the 2014 Swedish film Force Majeure.
‘Anyone who sees the film will know that it takes place in Ischgl,’ said tourist director Andreas Steibl. ‘Not like that time when the James Bond film was made in Sölden, where no one ever said that it was Sölden, and they even made Sölden into Bad Aussee in the film because it fitted better with the script.
‘In this film, Ischgl is in the script, they talk about Ischgl, you even see the village sign in the film. You see the village, the ski area – and in all the scenes in the mountains and in the village, it’s obvious that it’s here. It’s really great advertising. We can’t complain there’s not enough Ischgl in the film!’
Now, for Ischgl aficionados and film location buffs, some special insider info!
During filming one gondola on the Silvrettabahn (A1) was reserved for the film stars and crew. Once filming was complete, a plaque was installed on the gondola as a reminder of its role. Visitors to Ischgl keen to ride it should keep their eyes open for cabin number 64s.
The scenes on the chairlift – including the one where Billie and friend Rosie talk about Pete’s reaction to the avalanche – were shot on the Nachtweidebahn chairlift, which gives great views of the Idalp top station.
The top station of the Fimbabahn cable car was the backdrop for the scene where the Stanton family clip into their skis and study the piste map.
The Beast – the name given in the film to one of the resort’s most challenging runs – is, in fact, nothing of the kind. The scenes were shot on the easy blue piste 2B. The piste which Pete points to on his map is a different one, the red ski route 39, accessed from the Gampenbahn chairlift.
The Stanton family got their equipment from Sport Zangerl, a ski hire shop in the centre of Ischgl.
The scenes in which Billie and Pete complain to the piste manager about the avalanche being detonated were filmed in the medical office at the heliport. In the background can be seen the two eight-man chairlifts Flimjochbahn (B2) and Idjochbahn (B3).
Watch the film then go to Ischgl and ski it!
Useful info: More info on Ischgl at www.ischgl.com/en. Inghams run a range of package holidays to the resort, www.inghams.co.uk/ski-holidays.