Home WorldEuropeAustria Ski review: How to hit the heights late-season in stylish Ischgl

Ski review: How to hit the heights late-season in stylish Ischgl

When most other places have packed up for the summer, this high-altitude Austrian gem, Ischgl, is packed with action.

by Nick Dalton

Ischgl is a classy resort filled with smart hotels and restaurants. More than 90 per cent of its 150 miles of slopes, known as the Silvretta area, are above 2,000m (6,500ft) and include cross-border skiing over to Switzerland and the little remote, duty-free village of Samnaun.

The resort

Snowy Ischgl and the Silvrettabahn

Ischgl is a large village a 90-minute drive from Innsbruck and its airport. Its long main street is lined with hotels and restaurants with the Silvrettabahn gondola centrally placed. A tunnel walkway through the mountain leads to another hub of restaurants, hotels and two more major lifts, the Finbabahn and the Pardatschgratbahn – no problem finding a swift way to the slopes, particularly so as spring starts to shine. And it’s one of the last ski area in Europe to close, always open until the end of April, sometimes beyond.

Season to be cheerful

Late April on the slopes of Ischgl – little sun but plenty of snow

We were there for the weekend of April 20 and sometimes had wide slopes all to ourselves. A ski area that can host 20,000 people-plus was welcoming only several thousand. When we arrived on the Thursday the only snow to be seen in the green and pleasant village (apart from distant peaks) was one run kept open by artificial snow-making; on Sunday it looked like it was in the heart of winter. Six inches of snow covered the terrace around the hotel hot pool and snowploughs scraped through the car parks. Snow this late is far from unusual here – and we’d found a foot of new powder up on the mountain on Saturday morning, and more fell all day.

The food

Our table at the Hotel Trofana Royal for the culinary tour

Food is important in Ischgl year-round but at no time more so than spring. Throughout April, Dine Around unites nine gourmet restaurants which, in conjunction with Laurent-Perrier, come up with special set menus while on the slopes events such as Star Cup of the Chefs and the Ski World Cup of Gastronomy pit chefs against each other skiing and cooking – with lots of tastings.

Ischgl has increasingly been a place for gourmet food since the 1990s when Martin Sieberer arrived and set to work in the Trofana Royal hotel. Now his two restaurants there, Paznaunerstube and Heimatbühne, have seven toques, the hat symbol of Austria’s Gault Milau restaurant rating system.

In 2025 the Michelin Guide returns to Austria, its stars replacing hats – which, given that 10 restaurants in Ischgl proudly wear at least one hat, there could be a Michelin feast here.

A big event just once each April is the annual culinary tour where Martin leads 16 guests around four restaurants for a full evening with two courses in each. It might be €275 (around £235) but ours started with Champagne and varied exquisite canapes courtesy of Andreas Spitzer, a man of three hats in the Hotel Fliana, and finished with chocolates, courtesy of four-hat Patrick Raass in the Schlossherrnstube at the Schlosshotel, and that’s on top of the eight courses. Martin welcomed us to his dishes in between and the wine pairings just kept on coming, as did the chefs to shake hands.

The skiing

Ischgl at the start of the day on April 19 – minus 14!

Big pistes, great for cruising and most of them above tree-line. The feel is somewhat French – wide-open mountainsides with lifts criss-crossing in all directions. The height means that there are rarely any poor snow conditions, even as the year wears on. There’s a long, easy cruise down to Samnaun although when we visited it was closed – but due to avalanche conditions rather than lack of snow. Top point is Greitspitze at 9,422ft with the main gathering point for lunch, Idalp, at 7,611ft. Here at the Restaurant Panorama, a schnitzel as big as, they say, an elephant’s ear, with a trunk load of fries was €23. At the end of the day the snow was thick for a ski all the way to the village.

Star of the spas

The futuristic Silvretta Therme spa

Silvretta Therme, a space-age, metal-clad multi-storey wellness (well, up to a point) paradise has just completed its second season. Great for spring days when you want a rest, there’s everything from an outdoor hot pool for wallowing and drinking at the in-pool bar to an indoor pool for swimmers and a rooftop open-air pool for swimming and mountain viewing. There are five saunas and two steam baths. Plus two restaurants – the entrance hall Trattoria for Italian food and the guests-only Grill Lounge – the latter has a surreal edge as everyone’s wearing a bathrobe – where food veers from the healthy (I had beautiful grilled white asparagus) to enormous burgers. The Therme is far from a health retreat (smokers gather on the Grill Lounge balcony) and fries and beer abound. And don’t relax thinking you can pop along when the weather’s naff – ‘dynamic pricing’ means early bookers do best and late bookers on busy days need a massage to calm them down.

Ischgl’s concerts

Ischgl is famed for its free on-slope concerts to start and close the season – this year US rockers Black Eyed Peas did the latter on April 30 as thousands watched. In the past Rod Stewart, Elton John and Robbie Williams have appeared. But there are other shows – this season there were four from the end of March, including outrageous German country-punks Boss Hoss and Austrian rock ‘n’ roller Andreas Gabalier.

Where to stay

Ischgl’s contemporary Hotel Zalwonder

Hotel Zalwonder, a contemporary place that opened last season, is set on the hillside across the village from the skiing. On the banks of the rocky, rushing Trisanna river it’s only a five-minute walk, crossing a little footbridge, to the Silvrettabahn gondola and has lovely views from the balconies across the resort and mountains – views that in my case changed dramatically and continually as spring reset as winter.

Hotel Zalwonder’s stylish room and view across Ischgl

Where to eat and drink

The Kuhstall is packed with nightlife right until the very end of the season

You might not fancy – or be able to stretch to – nightly delights at a gourmet restaurant. Stüva in hotel Yscla is run by Benny Parth, youngest chef to win five hats but a four-course meal starts at €138. There are plenty of less expensive and less fancy options. The cosy Dorf Café at Gasthof Alt Paznaun has the air of an ancient Alpine hut. It’s created from the timbers of century-old houses and mixes trad local dishes – gröstl, dumplings and such – with steaks and pizza. 

When it comes to partying, the resort might be less full but you wouldn’t know it. The Kuhstall, opposite the Silvrettabahn, was packed on our visit and it’s a big place with drinking and dancing through varied barn-like alcoves. And the Trofana Alm, an outpost of the Trofana Royal hotel is party central. And there’s a certain style about wild nights in Ischgl – you risk a €50 fine if you’re spotted in your ski boots after 8pm to dissuade those who might have been tempted to party on through from lift-closing time.

Fact file

A gorgeous late spring evening in Ischgl…

There are regular easyJet flights from Gatwick to Innsbruck. Airport Transfer Innsbruck offers reasonably priced rides. Inghams offers seven nights at slopeside Hotel Val Sinestra from £989, B&B, two sharing. Find out more here.


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