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Travel Guide: Ischgl, Austria: Party in the powder

24th Jan 2012 2:18pm | By Editor

If you love après ski just as much as sliding on the slopes, then strap on your ski boots and practise your moves. Ischgl’s got it all. WORDS: CLARE VOOGHT

Imagine a hip-hop video that takes place in a log cabin. Except, instead of half-naked lovelies booty-shaking, picture people jumping around, dressed in ski gear and thermals, their moves hampered by heavy plastic ski boots. Then, switch the music to some Nineties-sounding Europop. Ischgl’s après ski, by this logic, is like an inverted hip-hop video from two decades ago, without the hip-hop.

Ski boots are being waved in the air, people’s legs are dangling over the edge of the floor above, swinging to the beat. Shots are flowing (I’ve lost count of how many rounds have been bought). The music is loud. And it’s only 5pm.

When I arrived a day ago, a girl from Munich – dressed in a ski jacket, with a beer in her hand – told me she wasn’t here to do any skiing, she was here for the parties. Now, I’m not surprised. Any veteran seasonaire will tell you that Austria’s après ski crowd is the most relentless, hard-partying of the lot. And I can believe it.

I’m here for the season’s opening weekend – every year at the end of November and again at the closing party in April, hundreds of people from Germany, Austria and Switzerland descend on the mountain village to celebrate the start and end of the season. Acts who've played alfresco at the foot of the mountains to entertain both skiiers and non-skiiers include The Killers, Katy Perry, Kylie Minogue, Sting and Rihanna. This year we're warming up with hot mulled wine to an epicly retro soundtrack of Eighties Swedish glam-pop-rockers, Roxette (remember Joyride and It Must Have Been Love?). They are wrapped up in coats and look as cold as we are, but everyone’s still going bonkers.

But a lot of people come here to ski, and that’s exactly what I do the next day. Over 240km of runs, 12 are blue, 
39 are red and are 10 black. As a beginner, I’m not sure what to expect. And as it's still November, in a particularly warm year (the temperature is hovering above zero), there’s not much of the white stuff. But thanks to its 1000 beasting canons, a season here lasts five months – longer than in most European ski resorts. Of course, you’ll find the best powder in the thick of the season, when it’s real, but the fake stuff is still a not-too-shabby alternative. And, on the plus side, it’s sunny and warm on the slopes once I get going.

Well, I say ‘get going’, but I tumble on to the snow within five minutes, skis flailing and stopping me from getting up. This pattern is repeated like a slapstick sketch for the next three days. When I get scared because I can’t control my speed, I just scream and throw myself sideways – because that’s a lot less frightening than falling off the edge of the piste, right? Children, who must be no more than six years old, zoom past, laughing.

By the third day, hardened to the embarrassment, I fall over a bit less frequently. I (more-or-less) master the snow plough – making the welcome V-shape that offers some sense of control. My instructor, Rudolph, keeps telling me to relax, and when I finally execute a turn properly on my own, he says: “See, we're still alive aren't we?” I am never going to make the Winter Olympics, but I’m improving. The fear isn’t as bad as it was, and given a week on the snow, 
I might actually be able to go down a piste without getting concussed (in my defence, it was pretty steep). To any other newbies, my advice would be: relax and persevere.

Back in the more familiar surroundings of the pub at the end of another sunny day on the slopes, we clomp around the dancefloor to some more Europop. This time, at Niki’s Stadl, which is named after its resident local celebrity whose most recent album is called Nikis Stadl ist Party. Inside, the wooden walls are adorned with old skis and deer antlers, 
and the bearded forty-something sings and DJs – his own 
songs included. We dance and shoot more shots as he hypes the crowd up. On a screen above his bizarre videos play – in one he resembles a pensive cowboy.

He’s weird, but everyone in here loves the guy. I have 
to admit that he is hilarious, and a hell of a crowd-pleaser.
I leave knowing that even if I didn’t exactly learn how to ski properly, I did go home with the knowledge that Austrians are even better at drinking than Aussies are.

A six-day adult ski pass at Ischgl costs €155 (about £128.50). For more info, see and

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