In March of 2013, we had the pleasure of exploring one of Europe's most popular skiing destinations. Ischgl is the lively Austrian town at the base of the Silvretta Arena Ischgl-Samnaun ski resort. Known for its accessibility, wide terrain, and lively après ski, we were challenged to find something we didn't like.
The best way to book a European ski vacation is to do it a long time in advance, preferably about 6 months. The key to making it affordable is to find a deal that includes a ski pass AND hotel accommodations, all in 1, usually for a 7 day period. To take advantage of this 'secret' European deal, you have to take your trip in shifts. The shift exchange happens every Saturday, that's when you start or end your trip. For most Europeans that get a minimum of 5 weeks paid vacation, it's actually that simple. If you only go for a few days, you'll pay a premium.
Ski Size Guide
How you will experience the snow quality in Ischgl really depends on your expectations. Are you used to skiing in Vermont? Then you'll love it – firm, but not too icy. If you are used to Rocky Mountain powder, you better sharpen your edges and learn to love the view and mileage. That said, leave the fatties at home, unless you’re lucky enough to enjoy a big snow dump during your vacation (which would be a real treat if you love deep, untracked snow). In our experience, everyone who skis here regularly seems to prefer skinny skis due to the firm snow, so the powder in those big wide opens bowls remains untracked for a long time after a storm.
European lift lines are a whole new world, or culture shock for us who are used to basically no lift lines in Utah. A pole plant in front of your neighbor’s ski seems to be the appropriate 'excuse me' in this part of the world. Although this might seems rude at first, even the most 'inside the line person' will get used to it after a few hours. Try to keep in mind that people here are enthusiastic, eager to get through lift lines fast, and get on with it – they mean no harm.
The après ski at Ischgl is as it should be in Austria. Sweaty and shoulder bumping are at the top of the list of things you’ll experience, along with a combination of ski pants/tank tops, exceptional beer, good conversations with people from all over Europe, and plenty of bragging from your fellow skiers. If you’re lucky – there will be an after-hour shawarma dinner somewhere in the basement of a nearby bar.
It's hard to not love Ischgl…convenient lift access from several parts of town(Pardatschgratbahn, Silvrettabahn, Fimbabahn), miles of varied terrain, sublime food, and interesting people all make for a great vacation.
Final tips: bring cash – and lots of it...although $21 (USD) seems really reasonable for noodle soup when you're tired and hungry. Don't spend too much time at the après ski bar The Kuhstahl for too long, or your legs might be too tired to ski the infamous #6 to Switzerland and back the next day. Definitely get yourself some cheese fondue at Cafe Loba – a locals' favorite where you need a reservation at 5 p.m. on a Tuesday.
Make countless new friend? Check. Après ski 't up till sunrise? Check. Big mountains? Check. Amazing food and brews? Check. 6-mile long runs? Check. Breathtaking views? CHECK. GO.