As with any winter holiday I plan, it must feature skiing/snowboarding. With an extra baggage (being my wife), I had to consider one additional dimension, i.e ‘non-skiing’ activities. So the long search concluded with Ischgl in Austria, which apparently featured a unique experience… i.e One can actually ski over the international border to Switzerland town of Samnaun, and do duty free shopping! That was the primary driver behind selecting this resort.
The accommodation we chose (Hotel Montanara) was my wife’s work, which featured a renovated wellness centre. It was reasonably close to the ski lifts to allow us to walk to the ski lift, although we later realised that walking 400m with your ski boots on, is probably not as ideal as we liked it to be. Nevertheless, the hotel was very quiet, cosy and very very comfortable.
As I hinted earlier, snow really did not arrive in droves early this season. Normally this would have been a disappointment, but the blue skies we saw for the 3 out of the 4 days we skied here was probably one of the best skiing experience I’ve ever had. No harsh snow smashing your face, no cold bites on your ears, no wondering if you’ll make it to the bottom because you can hardly see… Nope.. none of that..
The ski runs were definitely not for the beginner though. That’s one thing I didn’t take into account in my selection. Most ‘red’ runs (equivalent to Intermediate run in Australia) would easily be black runs in resorts like Niseko in Japan, or Perisher Blue in Australia. Fortunately, my wife, with a bit of encouragement (or more accurately… a lot of yelling) was able to overcome her fear and explored most of the Ishgl ski resort.
The one defining feature of this resort, and presumably motivates a lot of women to ski.. Would have to be the famous ‘duty free run’, or Run 80. It’s a ski run that will take you over the border to Samnaun (part of Switzerland) where it is possible to do some duty free shopping! That must have been one of the factors that improved my wife’s skiing. The run was definitely NOT for the beginner, and is fairly steep, not to mention it was a fairly LONG run as well. They certainly don’t make it easy for you to go shopping!
Once the skiing was over though, it was all worth it. My wife and I both loved the village atmosphere, and spent a good few hours walking around watch/jewelry/souvenir/chocolates etc etc shops.
Where else in the world can you combine skiing and shopping!??
To me, it was probably not the best value, in terms of half a day of lift pass effectively unused for skiing. But the smile it put on my wife’s face was probably worth more than the lift pass in the end.
Shopping aside, Ischgl had a few more surprises that we didn’t expect. First of all, it’s a party town, with ‘apres ski’ being a major feature here. A few bars featured ladies dancing on table tops, and you won’t have any difficulty buying yourself alcohol, that’s for sure! At night, the streets around town are very well lit, which is perfect for a walk or taking pictures..
We tried quite a few restaurants here, and must say they were actually very reasonably priced. The portions were generally MUCH bigger than we thought, and for some reason they all seem to be able to make really delicious pizzas! And who wouldn’t want a massive lamb shank after a hard day of skiing?? I certainly didn’t!!
This is one resort that I can genuinely say, I would not mind coming back to at all. Even with the ‘lack of snow’.. The skiing was far better under the same condition in Australia. Besides, the other experiences and activities available more than made up for it. There’s plenty more near Ischgl that we haven’t really explored, which is more reason/excuse to come back here some time in the future..