After a busy and productive first week working for Ski 2 Freedom, I was looking forward to boarding the train and embarking on my first Swiss adventure. After making plans for a civilised few days in Zurich; I was informed by the English friend I was due to be staying with that we would not be spending the days floating around the great, festive city but would be crossing the border to hit the slopes and party heartily with the Austrians.
I had not heard the mythical-sounding name, Ischgl, uttered much before, but in anticipation for the trip I took to the net to see what was in store. I was delighted to read of Ischgl’s sweeping slopes, picture- postcard beauty and Tyrolean charm. So, as I boarded the gorgeous MOB Golden Pass, I wondered- will it live up to its reputation? Also importantly would it be a ski resort suitable for fun loving skiers with a disability or special need?
My journey took me firstly to Zurich HB train Station where I soaked up the atmosphere of a city embracing the first weekend of the ‘Christmas build-up’. I met up with friends at this point and, tingling with excitement, we squeezed into an overly compact car along with clattering skis and boards, anxious for their first outing of the season.
The journey took us around three hours, owing largely to bad traffic on the outskirts of Zurich. It is possible to reach Ischgl by train- a three hour straight-though journey takes you to Landeck-Zams station where you can then take a taxi to the resort, or for the more adventurous, board the local bus.
The spontaneous trip offered not only a weekend of fun with friends but also the opportunity to explore Ischgl from a disability point of view and to see what it could offer our clients.
We were staying in the small district of Mathon, a 10 minute drive from the centre of Ischgl. Our B and B, the Schneider Residence, was very comfortable and spacious. A regular ski bus transferred skiers to the main lifts but due to our distinct lack of organisation, we often ended up taking taxis ( costing 12-15 euros).
The first thing that struck me about Ischgl was its incredibly raucous and lively character. This was somewhat expected owing to the fact that it was opening weekend. Every bar, of which there are many, bulged at the seams with Austrians and foreigners alike dancing (on both floor and table) to a mixture of European pop and US hits. The selection of restaurants was impressive, with everything from fine dining to pizzerias and traditional Austrian fare. I would highly recommend the fondue!
Whilst out on that first night I noted that the village itself is fairly flat and mostly tarmac making access for wheelchairs and those with a mobility problem quite easy. Also, most of the bars and restaurants have entrances at street level giving good wheelchair access.
As well as the bars and restaurants, Ischgl also offers frequent music concerts and celebrity DJs (some on top of a mountain!) This is definitely a party town, so if you’re looking for somewhere a little quieter and more sedate, it may not be for you!
The following morning, bleary-eyed and feeling a little ‘worse for wear’, we boarded the Silvretta gondola and arrived at the glistening white bowl that is the Idalp Ski base. The gondola can take up to 24 people and so is very accessible. I was impressed by the facilities at Idalp- a large buffet-style restaurant with ample seating both inside and out, excellent disabled toilet facilities and a lift connecting all floors. It’s a very pleasant place to sit and watch the skiers with a hot chocolate.
The skiing was fun! Despite it being only November, a wide selection of runs were open. There are a few nursery slopes with magic carpet and a nice selection of blues and red runs.
The Scnheesport Academie (The ski School Ischgl) had very kindly been in touch and agreed to a meeting to discuss the opportunities for disabled skiers. I found them all very charming and very eager to confirm they had qualified instructors in all disability areas. They clearly had a lot of experience, and I feel, would be a great team to work with.
I spent the rest of my time in Ischgl dashing around, paying visits to the tourist office and various hotels to enquire about their facilities. It was great to get a general flavour of the resort and I’d definitely like to return to get some more in depth information.
As most of the car slept peacefully on the drive back and the snow melted and slid off tired skis; I contemplated my time in Ischgl- had it lived up to its reputation?
I’d have to say yes. Ischgl prides itself on being the party town of Austria and in this league it did not disappoint! A perfect ski resort for those working in Zurich, but also what about a party ski weekend for City workers in London?!! Take the flight Swiss from London City Airport and within a few hours be partying in Ischgl!
But, apart from that side of things, what really impressed me about this beautiful, vibrant village nestled in the Tyrol valley, were the wonderful opportunities for skiers of all abilities and all needs. Long may they keep up the good work!
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