Ischgl Ski Verdict
Ischgl lives up to its boast of being one of the top ski areas in Austria and the stunning scenery and the access to the Swiss enclave of Samnaun do make up for the high season crowds and overloaded lifts reminiscent of the worst of France. However, a day with good snow in the quieter periods of January and March will convince you that this is a paradise for intermediate and advanced skiers.
Silvretta Arena Ski Area
Cable Cars: 7
Draglifts and moving carpets: 13
Much of Ischgl’s ski area is hidden away behind the mountains to the south of the town, with the vast panorama only opening up at the end of a long gondola or cable car ride.
The method used to get into the ski area will depend on where accommodation is located in the town: residents in the eastern end will tend to use the Pardatschgratbahn (which rises the highest) or the Fimbabahn, and those nearer the centre will opt for the Silvrettabahn.
Whichever choice is made the skier will end up in the Idalp area – Ischgl’s main meeting point. It’s here that the extensive and fenced children’s ski school area is located and that most of the beginner classes take place.
In fact, on a busy day the Idalp can be a little bit intimidating for those of a nervous disposition, with crowds of skiers descending from all directions and lifts heading out to the points of the compass from the central area.
However a deep breath and a quick survey of the slopes will reveal order in the confusing picture.
The long chairlifts heading to the south – the Velillbahn, the Flimjochbahn and the Idjochbahn – access sweeping and comfortable long groomed red and blue runs. Access to the Alp Trida area (covered later) is also available from the top of the Idjochbahn and the Flimjochbahn, while the Velillbahn also offers the chance to return to the village on the lengthy and spectacular red route through the Velill valley (skiers choosing this way down should be comfortable on red runs).
A little lower than the Idalp one notices another collection of chairlifts. The longest – the Höllkarbahn – leads up the Höllenkar valley and, via the chairlifts up the side of the Palinkopf, offers access to the skiing down to Samnaun.
An alternate route to Samnaun and the access to the less frequented area up the Fimba valley is provided by the short and easily-overlooked Sassgalunbahn. From the top, access is available to the Höllspitzbahn and the Gampenbahn chairlifts with their red and black runs and some of the finest off-piste skiing in the Ischgl area.
The routes from the top of the Palinkopf down into the duty-free enclave of Samnaun are red runs but easily within the capabilities of the intermediate skier and provide a memorable “alpine experience” for those who are unused to the higher peaks.
Samnaun itself is an attractive collection of hamlets filled with shops and restaurants (note that there is a customs post on crossing back into Austria and that passports should be carried on this route).
The route back into the main ski area is via the striking double-decker cable car from Samnaun which rises to the Alp Trida saddle. From the top, there is a panorama of the somewhat confusing collection of intercrossing lifts and pistes in this intermediates' paradise. It should be noted that this area is still in Switzerland and that there is no direct return to Ischgl from here without using a lift.
The sunny bowl of the Alp Trida and the undemanding nature of the skiing attract many skiers from Ischgl who make this their main destination for the day. The easiest route back to Austria is via the Flimsattelbahn chairlift which rises to the Idjoch and the top of red or blue runs back down to the Idalp. Alternate routes are available by taking the Viderjochbahn 1 and 2 chairlifts or by ascending the Greitspitz.
The runs back down to Ischgl are all red and can be crowded and icy at certain times of the day and year.
The live webcam stream below is taken from the main Idalp area above Ischgl. There are a number of other webcams available by clicking the middle button above the webcam stream.