fresh pillowy snow, with frosted trees
Where To Ski Ski Holiday

48 hours in Ischgl

Michael Cranmer was in Ischgl for the ’23/24 opening weekend, and it wasn’t too shabby…

Friday 24 November

13.50 Black Friday in the UK. Damp, dank and dreary. Am I downhearted? Not at all! I’ve just landed at Innsbruck, after a white-knuckle descent – the last flight in before the airport was closed to high winds – and heading for Ischgl, where it’s certainly none of the above. Tomorrow’s Opening Season Concert and it’s snow-snow-snowing.

car deep in snow


04.40 My alarm is set for 07.00 but the thump! thump! thump! thump! of avalanche blasting wakes me, sure signal that it’s White Saturday in Ischgl. Snow blankets, wind whips the fat flakes. Higher runs closed, gusting winds above resort, continued heavy snowfall, low visibility. Mmmm…

08.30 The 10-minute walk to Silvretta Sport is a chiller, even with extra layers. The super-efficient team fit me with all-mountain brand-new-out-the-box Völkls.

08.45 Guide Christoph Jehle whisks us past the queue onto the A1 Silvrettabahn lift for Idalp at 2,320m the huge bowl, location for restaurants and ski schools. Weather is a bit better.

two skiers look out over ski area, skis on shoulders

09.30 Christoph leads us to some sheltered runs on the very Austrian designated C1 thence C3 and E1 pistes. Sounds too much like the ‘M5, exit onto the A38 and then the B2355’. An old romantic, I prefer ‘Edelweiss’ or ‘Marmottes’.

10.20 Challenging visibility. Christoph decides to take the least-experienced one-to-one. The rest of us ski higher to reconvene later for lunch. We hop on the heavenly heated E4 Gampenbahn, to Palinkopf at 2,864m bordering Switzerland and the linked resort Samnaun; it’s the start of the fabulous 61km ‘Smuggler’s Run’ – one-time route of Ischglers avoiding Customs Officers seeking unpaid taxes on perfume, watches and jewellery sold at vastly reduced prices there. No smugglers today. Run’s closed.

11.40 It’s brutal here. A red hill-hugging traverse, -20C. 27mph wind blowing me backwards. Head hunched, eyes search for the safest line, try to avoid lethal ‘Death Cookies’. On to Black 20. The only way to describe this… survival. Seems never-ending. Eventually Reds 32 and 24 and some shelter. Phew! Signs of frost-nipped cheeks on one of the group.

12.29 Time to get warm in Paznauner Tayar, renowned party bar. Not today. Just a round of La Bombas, hot chocolate and rum.

las bombas are drunk by four cheering skiers

12.46 Via C1 Höllbodenbahn to Idalp, it’s lunch and a date with an American Rock Goddess at Ischgl’s Top of the Mountain Opening Concert.

14.30 Ischgl’s concerts bring massive crowds to dance, party and ski, and see big-name stars such as Elton, Kylie, Tina, Lionel and Robbie. Today 10,000 determine to do just that. Demi Lovato’s the one they’ve come for. Not surprising, being a grammy-nominated, award-winning musician and all. Social media audience 260 million; 45 billion streams worldwide. The only one I recognise beforehand, ‘Let It Go’ from Disney’s Frozen, appropriate given the weather. I’m still defrosting. Demi snowboards at Bear Mountain, California. No riding for her here today; ‘I’ve been in the spa,’ she declares.

A festival/concert stage shines bright at night, Demi Lovato on screen

17.00 I’m cossetted inside the toasty VIP area with a journo’s-eye-view of the concert; food and drink for the asking, as fans rush to the huge stage. Snow’s still dumping, with wind to match. Crew constantly mop the stage, which is pumped by great tubes of hot air.

18.00 It’s a full arena, the band in regulation rock-chick black. They plug in and hit ear-bending opening chords. Spotlights sear the sky; a tiny figure runs on, ankle-length black puffa-coat, beanie hat pulled low, and Demi’s off. The fans love it. Big burly Nickolas behind me knows every word, fortunate, because I don’t.

19.30 She sings her heart out, but after 90 minutes Demi and fans have had enough. Time for a drink and an early night.


07.30 It snowed all night, but the wind’s dropped. Breakfast time at my lovely, central family hotel, the Zalwonder. The nicest rooms and the nicest staff, and Tina, the nicest owner.

09.00 I’m riding the Silvrettabahn, B3 – B4 to Greitspitze, 2,872m. 60cm of tip-top snow awaits. It’s a dfferent world to yesterday. Down Red 13, nobody’s around, just wide corduroy loveliness. Big carved turns, shorts turns, any turns you want. Everybody is laughing. Second day of the season and it’s the stuff that dreams are made on.

snowboarder off piste, arms wide in glee

14.00 Happy, exhausted. Time for a refuel at Panorama Restaurant, Idalp, and a superb tuna steak, or steaks to be exact.

15.20 We opt for the lift to the village, safer post-lunch than the crowded piste when drink has been taken.

16.35 We’ve a date with the Silvretta Spa. A new, 75 million euros-worth spa… Eight pools, more saunas than you can shake a birch twig at, and, on the roof, a panorama sauna. All for €16 a day.

open air pool in mountains

18.50 Our final indulgence, a 13-course dinner at the five-star Superior Trofana Royal hosted by Martin Sieberer, Austria’s top chef. It’s taste extraordinaire; tiny mouthfuls minutely crafted, fun and fabulous. The highlight? A chocolate trolley straight out of the Wonka Factory.

a dessert trolley of chocolates and two chocolate makers

21.45 Bed. My 48 hours in Ischgl, who could ask for anything more?

Ischgl at night, under the moon

How To Do It


Return flights from London Gatwick to Innsbruck Airport with easyJet from £42.

Private six-person taxi transfers to Ischgl from Innsbruck airport costs from €213/£185 with Four Seasons Travel: Airport and Train Station Transfer.


A seven-night stay at Hotel Zalwonder costs from €1,244pp, based on two people sharing, including a gourmet breakfast, evening buffet and the use of the spa.

Entrance to the Silvretta Spa costs from €100, including entrance to the pool area and sauna.


An adult six-day pass for Ischgl/Samnaun costs €323.

For more info, visit 

About the author

Michael Cranmer

Michael Cranmer is a freelance ski writer who was previously prize-winning Picture Editor at the Sunday Times (10 years), The Associated Press, The Sunday Correspondent, The Western Morning News. Consultant to The Straits Times Singapore. He has worked extensively in Europe, Northern Ireland, Middle East (including Lebanon, Egypt, Cyprus), Far East, Africa, India, and North America. He is a lecturer in Photography and Picture Editing at Plymouth College of Art, and qualified as BASI 3 Ski Instructor in 1990.


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  • Ischgl gets better and better. First went in ‘96! Every year since. Good start to the season-all that snow!
    Hotel Zalwonder new to me! Usually stay Hotel Stefanie. Fabulous position for lifts and nightclub! Herbert the best ski guide in Ischgl!