REVIEW | Skiing in the Paznaun Valley, Ischgl Austria

The Paznaun valley contains the Trissana river at its base and is surrounded by the Central Eastern Alps, specifically, the mountain ranges of Verwall in the north, Samnaun in the south-east and Silvretta in the south-west. The main villages in the Paznaun are See (1050m), Kappl (1226m), Ischgl  (1377m) and Galtur (1586m). Each of these villages has its own ski resort, with the resort of Ischgl being the most prominent one.

We stayed in a very imposing hotel cross apartment in Kappl called Hotel Dorfstadl, a typically Austrian accommodation over 7 floors which somehow cling to the side of the mountain, bridging the lower and upper roads in the small village of Kappl. Not quite on the piste, but only a short walk across the road leads to a narrow pisted path and onto the main run down to the Berghanen bubble lift, from where it whisks you up to 1850m and the Sunny Mountain plateau. With just over 42km of prepared pistes it is not the biggest resort in the Valley but caters well for most abilities but particularly for beginners and intermediates. The longest piste in the ski area is the so-called “Lattenabfahrt”. This red level ski piste is over 8 km long and a whole 1600 metres altitude drop into the valley, from the peak at 2700 to 1100m at the Berganen bubble lift. One of the best things about the resort is the lack of queuing which can often be experienced in the busy and much larger resort of Iscghl just up the valley.

Kappl ski area also boasts a 6km toboggan run, not to be missed out on if you dare, winding down from Sunny Mountain at the top of the bubble lift, through the trees on its own route away from the pistes. The toboggan run can take your breath away particularly on colder and floodlit nights although a brief stop for a large beer or schnapps at the Schafstall next to the run will warm you up and give you enough courage to go again.

If you are an intermediate skier then Kappl will not suffice for a whole week so you will want to venture out to the neighbouring resorts of See, Iscghl and Galtur. Regular free ski busses whisk you up and down the valley in no time at all, along the main road which follows the Trissana to Galtur. See which is the first resort you come to as you ascend the valley from Innsbruck, is a north facing resort with 40km of skiing and some accessible and moderate off piste ski tracks to challenge those who want a little bit more, but also offers enough for beginners and intermediates alike. Most of the the accommodation is to be found either side of the main road and is easy walking to the main Gondlebahn bubble lift which will take you up to the Medrigjoch where you will find easy skiing and slopes for beginners.

Galtur resort is at the head of the valley, perhaps notoriously known for the terrible avalanche of February 1999 which killed 31 people and demolished many hotels and buildings in 60 seconds. The resorts buildings are now protected by the most eye catching and significant avalanche protection walls that you will see anywhere in the world. The skiing is similar to Kappl and See with around 40km of skiing for all levels, a well organised beginners area and some lovely touring skiing overlooking the Kopsee reservoir.

The main resort in the region is Iscghl, with over 280km of skiing straddling the border of Austria and Switzerland this ski area is enough for any skier, with manicured pistes and acres of off piste to venture into. State-of-the-art chair lifts and even a cable car which has double-stack cabins and ones with heated seats, take everyone where they want to go and quickly. A number of snow parks and some lively on piste apres ski is found in all sectors of the resort, we followed the Smugglers run from Ischgl in Austria to the duty free Swiss town of Samnaun where there were plenty of restaurants to choose from to fuel the touring skier for the journey back. Back in the town of Ischgl the streets are full of 5 star hotels and load bars full of apres ski opportunities, the most notable being the Bear, named because of the appearance of a 10 foot bear over the entrance door. Inside the alcohol is fast flowing with planks of beer and schnapps (yes planks of wood) being ported through the throngs of dancing skiers in their boots and jackets by erudite waiters. The music is typically Tyrolean but certain to get you stomping on the dance floor along with the rest.

Our few days in the Paznaun valley had a lot of good memories and most of all the wide variety and accessibility of 4 separate but linked resorts left you wanting to return to see what was missed the first time round.

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