Ischgl used to be known for its awesome skiing, its classy 4- and 5-star palace hotels and its party-hard nightlife. But ski resorts have to move with the times, and to re-invent themselves to appeal to a wider audience. That’s why our editor, Teresa Fisher, visited this legendary resort – to see if it had become more family-friendly since her last visit.
I’ll be absolutely honest – the last time I was in Ischgl, I didn’t have kids and my bed didn’t beckon quite as early as it does now. Back then, Ischgl, I recall, was a place to ski hard and party hard. And so I was curious (possibly even sceptical) to see how the resort had changed in recent years. I have to confess I was pleasantly surprised. Here’s why…
For starters, we were staying in an ultra-family friendly hotel. You can read our full report of the Hotel Seiblishof HERE, but in a nutshell, it had its own mini train to transport kids to and from the piste; two neighbouring indoor pools – one for us, one for them; a bi-level crèche area joined by slide; a full 7-day programme of games, activities and entertainment for all ages from tinies (3 months) to teens… and they can arrange babysitting 24/7. What’s not to like?
Ischgl’s ski area is massive so it caters well to the demands of parents, and older kids keen to clock up the kilometres, as well as youngsters. The resort offers free VIP ski passes and free ski rental for all children up to 10 years if accompanied by an adult – now that’s a big saving. (The adult pass costs €229 for 6 days.)
There are a total of 240km of prepared pistes, including the aptly named “Eleven”, the longest run at 11km from the top of resort at the Greitspitze down to Ischgl; and three long-distance “smugglers’ routes” (suitable for all skiing levels from good elementray upwards) tracing the former smuggler trails on skis between the Paznaun and Switzerland.
It has invested heavily in its skiing infrastructure in recent years, and is now known for its superb and efficient ski lifts, including heated gondolas and high- speed 8 man chair lifts, which by in large cuts out lengthy lift queues, and avoids kids standing around getting chilly.
And there are plenty of piste-side restaurants to fill them up with the usual hearty ‘Children’s Menu’ staples…spaghetti, goulash soup, pizza and sausages, all served with mountains of chips.
We highly recommend the pizzas at the Schmuggler Alm, and the schnitzels at Pardorama, accompanied by a mountain of chips, a glass of fizzy Almdudler (Austrian herbal drink) and astonishing alpine vistas. (Even if you’re not a skier, you can access the restaurant via the Pardatschgratbahn A2 gondola.)
For learners and young ones, the ski school is located a few paces from the top of the cable car at Idalp, just beside Kinderland, a devoted nursery slope area, and there are instructors aplenty in resort. Now, it’s fair to say, I was a little bit in love with my ski instructor, Martin Kurz from the Snow Sports Academy Ischgl. Not only did he improve my ski technique markedly within just one day, but also before and after skiing he was in the barn next-door to Hotel Seiblishof milking his award winning cattle. We even went to watch him slaloming down the piste with a flaming torch in a display with other instructors – a weekly night-time ski show – which was quite a thrill, especially for the kids to see their instructors performing jumps and tricks in the dark.
Off the slopes, there’s a natural ice rink in town and floodlit toboggan evenings every Monday and Thursday. And who can resist the Ischgl Sky-Fly, a two-kilometre-long zipline – which takes you from the top of the mountain all the way to the bottom in three stages, reaching speeds in excess of 80kph. You can read how I got on sky-flying through the resort in an earlier feature Flying High in Ischgl HERE.
After dark too, Ischgl continues to delight with its thriving nightlife. Sure you can still dance on the tables if you must, but there’s also an ultra-sophisticated après-ski scene and pretty much everything else in-between.
Sort out a babysitter at the Hotel Seiblishof, then start your evening with a glass of fizz at the Champagnerhütte, a cosy Tyrolean-style lodge, or the trendy Schloss-Lounge adjoining the 5-star Schlosshotel, where apres-skiers rub shoulders with local sophisticates; then tuck into some regional sausage, cheese and cold cut starters with a generous glass of Austrian wine at tiny epicurean-store-cum-wine-bar Plangger Winery.
Or sip a glass of fine Ischgl Gin – they’re the only ski resort in the world to have their own gin – at Bar 67 in Hotel Post. Find out more about its secret alpine ingredients HERE, or just take it from us – it’s delicious.
The resort has gained a reputation as something of an Alpine foodie mecca in recent years, with its choice of fine eateries.
Our current favourite in resort is Restaurant Stüva in Gasthof Yscla, one of the top toque-awarded restaurants in the Tirol (booking essential), thanks to the inspirational cooking of 28-year-old, charmingly-modest, local whizz kid, Benjamin Parth (recently appointed Gault & Millau Chef of the Year 2019 no less). His modern menus won’t fail to impress, with their bold, intense flavours, matching fish and seafood with the finest of Tyrolean cuisine. Don’t miss the sturgeon with wheatgrass parsley and cress, or the guava glacé with mint and champagne.
If you’re looking for somewhere less sophisticated to feed the kids, there’s a top-notch pizzeria right beside the hotel. Also, it’s hard to beat Kitzloch – a wonderfully rustic inn famed for its meat and traditional cheese fondues – for a special treat.
So is Ischgl child-friendly? We were delighted to see how much the resort has changed in recent years.
Our verdict: Ischgl is a fun-loving, lively child-friendly resort. But it’s more than just that. It’s hard to find a better resort in the Tirol for the skiing and the ski school. But it also offers a multitude of opportunities for families of all ages, for non-skiers, for teenagers, and for mums and dads who want to have some grown-up, more sophisticated après-ski time on holiday too.
Ischgl has proven it is possible to have a family-friendly resort which also offers top-notch skiing; there’s no need to compromise one for the other, as with so many family-oriented resorts. With so much to do both on and off the piste, no wonder the resort’s logo is “Relax if you can”. A family holiday in here is bound to be a busy one, but it certainly gets our vote.
With Crystal, prices currently start from £669 (including flights, accommodation and transfers) at the start of the Easter school holidays, and there is still some very limited availability for February half-term week (from £639 B&B per person, with flights from Newcastle) – all prices subject to availability.
With Inghams, departing at the start of the Easter school holidays, packages currently start from £979 per person (including flights from London Gatwick or Manchester, B&B accommodation and transfers) – all prices subject to availability.