22/4/11 – If I tell you about Ischgl…

Quality, not quantity: the route to Samnaun

…I will be very unpopular with two English regular visitors to this Austrian resort who do not want other Brits to over-run the place. But as it seems to be such a fantastic spot, and as I think it will take several generations for Brits to gravitate away from Val Misere anyway, I’m going to spill the beans.

Colourful as well as comfy: the Samnaun side

Mention Ischgl, and unless people are already fans, or have been there for one of its mountaintop concerts, they will either not have heard of it or will have been put off by its reputation for slight seediness (for instance, there is a girlie bar in the basement of Burger King… although in fact I’d be more put off by the presence of Burger King). It’s quite easy to avoid these bars by the way – they are identified by some sort of heart or red silhouette outside.

'Entertainment' bars are clearly marked

The things that have impressed me in 36 hours here include the brilliant conservation of snow, the tiny numbers of people going off-piste, the amazingly fast, comfy and efficient lifts and the attractive, cheerful town. These pictures show how the piste control has managed to keep the home runs open – two to Ischgl, one to Samnaun on the Swiss side – in the face of very little snow indeed.

Today we skiied off-piste all morning on the south-facing side, in Switzerland, with the brilliant Ski Club of GB leader Jim Costelloe, and barely saw a soul. We sat on speedy, cushioned chairs and we never queued. We had a picnic lunch by a lake and skiied all the way back to town at 3pm on remarkably nice snow – right down to 1,400m. I think these pictures speak for themselves so I won’t go on about it.

Our food wasn't as good as the setting

And… shhhh! … it’s only 45 minutes’ drive from St Anton, where we have just arrived, as I’m racing in the end-of-season Weisse Rausch downhill tomorrow. I’m sorry to say that with all the best intentions I did not succeed in keeping the pre-race day alcohol-free: we had a schnapps at 11am in Samnaun in order to qualify for a free shuttle bus back to the lift; at our picnic someone brought wine, and although we avoided the Mooserwirt (see previous post), it seemed a shame not to celebrate our fantastic day with a red wine spritzer in the sun in the early evening.

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