Could Ischgl be Austria’s most ‘fun-sure’ resort?
The Ski Club’s Online Content Editor Chris Taine wonders whether hedonistic Ischgl could lay claim to being Austria’s, or even Europe’s, most ‘fun-sure’ resort.
Emblazoned in an enthusiastically cursive script on the wall of the Höllboden lounge, the refrain to ‘Schifoan’, the 1976 Austro-pop ski anthem by Wolfgang Ambros, is a timely reminder that a bad day of skiing is still a whole lot better than a good day doing almost anything else.
However, I’m starting to think that Ischgl is the sort of place that simply won’t let you away with a having a bad day…
Following a wintry November, which served up plenty of early-season powder, it’s fair to say that December has been distinctly average. For those that choose to head to the Alps before Christmas, choosing a ‘snow-sure’ resort is wise – in the event that Old Man Winter decides to make an unfashionably late appearance. Although Ischgl does not boast a glacier ski area like nearby Pitztal, Kaunertal or Sölden, with 90% of the pistes situated above 2000m, and a snow-making system that can cover the groomed runs in just two weeks, the term ‘snow-sure’ is more than just a marketing catchphrase.
Although the altitude of the slopes helps Ischgl to ensure early and late season conditions, it’s also the quantity of slopes. Quality snow is important, but if you’re heading on holiday and early-season conditions prevail, it’s nice to have plenty to explore. Duty-free shopping jaunt to Swiss Samnaun? Intermediate cruising around Alp Trida? Thigh-burning steep black runs in the Höllkar? Lunch in the Fimbatal, surrounded by 3000m peaks? All of above? No problem.
From the highest point in the resort, which is dissected by the Austrian-Swiss border, an 11km piste winds its way from the 2872m Greitspitze all the way back to Ischgl. On the Swiss side, the runs funnel down to the geographically isolated and duty-free village of Samnaun, but après calls…
When you reach the bottom of the 11km descent, you’ll find yourself outside Hotel Elizabeth’s Schatzi Bar. Step inside and its immediately clear why Ischgl has a reputation as the party resort in Austria. There are dancing girls in not-so-traditional Dirndl’s atop the bar, with bar staff deftly serve drinks around their gyrating hips. The pre-Christmas crowd is rolling in for après, spilling out well beyond the bar. Schatzi Bar is pumping, but it’s not the only post-ski party joint in Ischgl.
Just down the road in Niki’s Stadl (where Niki himself sings a song called ‘In Niki’s Stadl’), the eponymous proprietor is belting out après hits, accompanied by music videos of Niki performing the same songs. One music video – the aforementioned ‘In Niki’s Stadl’ – is filmed in Dubai, for some reason. Alongside Niki, a DJ intermittently bellows something in a thick Austrian accent into the microphone, a sort of Tirolean Flavor Flav.
It’s easy to get the impression that Niki might be a bit of nutter. However I’m told he’s also one of the richest men in Ischgl. When you see the effect that Niki’s boundless energy has on even a modest sized crowd though, it’s easy to see why – it’s the sort of place where you find yourself forking over cash for a round of ‘Willi’s’ (pear schnapps, that is) without even thinking. I’m not the first to get caught up in the relentless kitch of Niki’s Stadl, and I certainly won’t be the last. It’s an Ischgl institution and rightfully so.
And so we come full circle, in a rather convoluted manner, to Wolfgang Ambros, whose ode to sliding around on skis continues to be a cheesy staple of places like Niki’s Stadl, nearly four decades after it was penned. “Weu Schifoan is’ des Leiwandste”, sings Ambros.
Yes, regardless of snow, regardless of weather, skiing is the best. And Ischgl is a place that makes sure that you don’t forget it!
Snow-sure? Yep. Fun-sure? Definitely.
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Ischgl is included in the Tirol Snow Card (except on Saturdays) which provides access to 4000km of pistes, 1100 lifts and 86 ski areas throughout the Austrian Tirol. Chris was a guest of the 4* Family Hotel Seiblishof www.seiblishof.com which offers 7 night half board packages (including 6 day liftpass) from €980.