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Ischgl, Tyrol – of stars and slopes

Written by 5 February 2013 One Comment

When the offer rolled in whether I wanted to go on a trip to my home country of Austria, I was already dreaming of sunshine, snow and mountains. Living in Berlin is great but I do sometimes miss the mountains. I was very excited this was happening – soon enough I was on my way to reach the ultimate dream destination in the Alps: Ischgl, Tyrol.

Ischgl is a place that most people probably have heard of before. With its over 238km of skiing slopes, 34 ski-lifts and gondolas, its direct ski-connection to Switzerland, all that just below 3.000m, Ischgl is one of Austria’s most famous ski resorts. It is situated about an hour drive south-west of Tyrol’s capital of Innsbruck.

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If you arrive at the airport, take the Alpentaxi for the rest of your trip. My drivers were very helpful, giving me lots of information on the area while I was sitting comfortably in my luxury class seat that actually came with on-board WiFi, leather seats and a seat heating system – total bliss!

Ischgl has a relatively small population of 1.500 people, nonetheless providing accomodation for over 13.000 guests, with many 4 or 5 star hotels. The local cuisine fully lives up to its reputation of excellence, and bars and clubs combine urban style with rustic atmosphere. In short: this is a place to relax completely and forget about everyday life for a few days.

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It is also a place for some serious star-watch, if you’re into that sort of thng. The Paznaun valley with its villages Kappl, Ischgl and Galtür hosts several concerts and competitions every season. In the past those stages have seen the likes of Pink and Kylie Minogue with this year’s main act at the season closing party being no other than Deep Purple. Various celebs also choose to visit Ischgl for private holidays. People like Dieter Bohlen and Borussia Dortmund’s soccer team’s trainer Jürgen Klopp are regulars and even David Hasselhoff has been seen around before.

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For my two-night-stay I moved into a room at the 4 star Hotel Madlein. It’s got a long-standing tradition and over the years has been transformed into a nice little design-hotel. The wooden panels in the rooms still give away the former rustic interior, only adding to the natural charme of this place.  Combine that with flat-screen TVs, chill-out areas and glass-covered fireplaces and you’ve got the Madlein. The hotel restaurant offers a lá carte service for lunch and 4 course menus in the evening. I could not recall any dish, I didn’t like, the chefs really know how to combine well-known dishes like ravioli with modern cuisine elements such as amarettini. Even the caprese tasted like nowhere else. The perfect dinner after a long day of skiing and some apres ski.

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But things don’t stop at amazing food. The Madlein hotel offers a variety of great comforts such as a lovely spa area, complete with a sauna, an indoor AND outdoor pool, relaxation areas, a fireplace as well as different treatments like massages or facials. At night the lobby turns into a cocktail bar, with a Djane spinning some fine electronic tunes. If you like to party you don’t have to stray far as the hotel’s own club Pacha is among the villages most popular nightlife choices.

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What to do in Ischgl?

Most people will come here to ski or snowboard; any day without skiing would be a waste of this beautiful resort. In the past some of the most famous winter destinations have been getting a distorted image by TV and other media as party centrals when in all actuality the primary reason to choose Ischgl still is the amazing number of slopes and lifts. With that said, Apres Ski and nightlife are just as important here as they would be in any other holiday destination.

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But before I raise my glass I am off to the pistes! I met my personal ski guide Martin from Snow Sports Academy. Having skipped ski holidays for almost 6 years, I was pretty happy to have an instructor with me. With his help it did not take me too long until I remembered how to handle the slopes and and get downhill safely. Martin took me up to see the most beautiful panoramas, and down to enter neighboring Switzerland. During breaks and on the lifts he told me about the ski resort, its specialties, the funpark and the people who booked ski tours with him before. And no matter how embarrassing I acted on the slope – not like that would have been me falling on my bottom repeatedly or holding on to Martin like a toddler when things got icy… – he would always put me back on my feet and made sure I’d make it downhill in one piece.
As Pink once put it: ‘I would have loved to have taken my Ischgl ski instructor home with me.’
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For lunch we got a table at the Lounge & Mountain VIP Club. Martin told me it was a special thing to become a member. For a certain fee members get a seasonal skiing pass and are always guaranteed a table at the club. The food and the view definitely pay them back. If you do come here try the tenderloin with nut crisp – it’s a dream! Again this is a good place for spotting celebrities. I’m pretty sure I saw George Clooney wink at my at one point during dessert.
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The Snow Sports Academy does offer alternatives to skiing/snowboarding if hat’s not your cup of tea. The instructors will take you snowshoeing or cross-country-skiing for a whole week if you have the legs for it. No matter how you prefer the snow under your feet, they will take good care for you.

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In Ischgl it is easy to feel like a star yourself. As Martin put it: ‘On the mountain enjoying the fantastic view everyone tastes the luxurious lifestyle of a star’. But the village can do so much more. One afternoon I hit the jackpot and got pampered at Salon Cocoon. Hair and make-up stylist Birgit took good care of me and surprised me with a whole new look. I don’t think I ever felt better! After getting hair and make-up done, I met up with Franz Vogt – a passionate photographer from the area. Usually he takes landscape- and adventure-pictures for the PR-department of the region, but he tells me, that he much prefers shooting portraits. We set out together, and shot my new style all over the village. It was my first shooting ever and it felt strange how people started staring at me, asking questions, wanting to take pictures of/with me etc. It was a great and fun experience to dabble in what it must feel like to be a star.
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You see, Ischgl is not only about drinking and partying. In fact, if you only want to get wasted Ischgl is not the right place for you – it is a) too pricy for heavy drinking, and b) way to beautiful to not enjoy it with a clear mind!

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Of course, a drink or two won’t do much dammage. Girls, try this: take a seat at the bar alone and count the seconds until someone offers you a drink. I recommend Gin& Tonic with cucumber, or champagne; why not?!

And if you still want to Apres Ski your evening away: don’t choose the bars closest to the gondolas, as they are always very crowded. More chilled out choices are Champagner Hütt’n or Plangger Deli.

Ischgl is a great place which offers all the extravagance anyone could ask of a winter destination. Why not come here for a trip with your girls? I will definitely be back!

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One Comment »

  • Karin Strobl said:

    At the moment Ischgl is preparing for ski opening 2014. Like in the years before this is going to be an event you should not miss. On the 29th of November the “Top of the Mountain Party” is going to take place featuring James Blunt. You might get a chance to meet him personally and get an autograph.

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