In November I attended the opening weekend in Ischgl, where not only did I enjoy 80km of piste in autumn, but an opening concert and some truly crazy apres ski. They certainly know how to party in this Austrian gem but is the world’s best apres ski in Ischgl?
Over the last decade I have been on five stag dos in ski resorts, I lived in Whistler for a season and have been on many group ski holidays with people that like to party. So I have actively sought and experienced a lot of apres (or après if you want it with its cap on). From karaoke fun in Finland to Carl Cox in Canada, booby bars in Bulgaria to (Lille)hammering shots in Norway and Folie Douce in France to Italy’s Ibiza in the mountains, but I had never experienced apres in Austria – its (unofficial) birthplace.
Ischgl’s concerts and early season skiing
Ischgl is open for skiing from November until May, making it one of the longest seasons for a European resort without glacier skiing. To make the most of this every season starts and ends with a Top Of The Mountain concert, meaning Ischgl was full to the rafters at the end of November while other resorts aren’t even thinking of opening. Previous Top Of The Mountain concerts have included Elton John, Robbie Williams, Kylie, Rihanna, Sting and Nickelback. This year it was the turn of James Blunt.
With 20,000 lift passes sold for the opening day Ischgl was buzzing, and from the first pint (while the rest of the group collected skis) I was hooked. With no fresh snow since the start of the month it was a commendable effort to have 80km of their 238km of piste open. And it wasn’t just open it was in top condition with enough spare snow to build some features in the snow park.
If you want to read about the skiing (or boarding in my case), James Blunt gig, accommodation and restaurants from my trip then read my review of Ischgl opening weekend. If you want to find out ‘Is the world’s best apres ski in Ischgl?’ then read on.
Apres the Austrian way
Austrian apres starts early – around 3pm – and with a bang. Pounding music in the ‘Umpah’ style treating revellers to a weird mix of Europop, techno, British kids party songs and traditional Austrian numbers to create an eclectic fist pumping atmosphere. It shouldn’t work, but it does. Somehow the crowd are with it straight away stamping ski boots, swilling beer and dancing along to the mad beat.
You may think that this is in one bar in a prime position on the mountain. It’s not, it is every bar in town (well at least all the ones I went to). Straight off the slopes we visited Kuhstall, Trofana Alm, Freeride and Niki’s Stadl and all were packed to the rafters, pounding with Umpah music and the sound of many ski boots hammering to the beat. They are all a little different, Niki’s has more of a live music element, Kuhstall is the most like a British bar and Freeride has ‘dancers’ on tables.
You may think the apres starts early so it finishes early. Well that is up to you, your will power, stamina and the depth of your wallet. Almost everywhere is open until the early hours of the morning and if you want to party until 6am you won’t struggle to find a willing establishment. In our group people stayed out until after 5am every night – although I only had the stamina to do it once.
On the whole Austria is known as being a cheaper alternative to France. However Ischgl is the exception. Drinking and partying the night away here is as expensive as the big French resorts, although (and I am not sure if this is a good thing) Jaegermeister is particularly cheap!
Is the world’s best apres ski in Ischgl?
I have been told that the famous Folie Douche is modelled on Austrian apres, I don’t know if this is true but there are certainly similarities. However to compare the two is unfair, Folie Douche is a bit hit or miss and weather dependent, it only lasts a couple of hours and ends while it is still light. The apres in Ischgl goes on all night and from what I understand is pounding every night all season long.
So, is the world’s best apres ski in Ischgl? I personally haven’t experienced apres that is as lively straight off the slopes every day and that goes on all night. Many resorts have busy and quiet nights of the week and some popular bars and clubs but Ischgl just seems to be crazy every night with everywhere rammed. The Austrian apres has a very different feel to it, and it’s one that I like a lot.
As I mentioned I have been on a lot of stag dos in ski resorts and I think it is probably a good job we never visited Ischgl. As the best man on two of the trips it was my responsibility to bring the groom home in one piece, and I have a feeling Ischgl would have made that a very hard task.
Is the world’s best apres ski in Ischgl? Well ‘apres ski’ means ‘after ski’, and I have never been anywhere as good as Ischgl right from the slopes – it’s crazy and relentless. If you are serious about your slope time then the apres ski in Ischgl is possibly too good (unless you have strong willpower). But if you like to ski and you like to party then you will love Ischgl.