Guest post by Rob Freeman, Ski Club of Great Britain
The Scorpions? Well, you might not be able to picture them straight away but rockers of a certain age know the hits – Wind of Change, Rock You Like a Hurricane. And they were the perfect band, a bit like a German Status Quo, to open this season at Ischgl in the only way that resort understands – rocking and partying.
Not for nothing has Ischgl, at the western end of the Tirol, adopted the motto ‘Relax. If you can …’ and you won’t. You can’t.
The stars flock here. Some, the likes of Elton John, Lionel Richie, Kylie Minogue, the Pussycat Dolls, Katy Perry, Mariah Carey, Rihanna, Sting, Rod Stewart and The Killers get paid handsomely for starring at the resort’s famous opening and closing gigs. Elton enjoyed it so much he came back for a second go .
The season opening gigs, as with The Scorpions this year, are at dusk in the village. The closing ones are up top, at Idalp at 2,320-metres. Lionel Richie, in the village, endeared himself to an adoring crowd of 20,000 when he excitedly told them: ‘I’ve never done a concert before with snow falling on my shoes.’ No one in his entourage had thought to tell him it was going to be a bit chilly. He’d already popped out to a local ski clothing store to buy a warm ski jacket, bless him.
But some celebrities pay to enjoy the fun that Ischgl has to offer – both on the mountains, with cross-border runs to Switzerland (where you can stock up with duty-free booze, perfume, chocolate and watches) in a massive area that includes 238 kilometres of pisted runs and masses of off-piste and in the village with an après-ski scene that just about outdoes anything else on offer in the Alps. Believe us, you can barely tell where one bar ends and another begins (don’t worry, there are some peaceful places you can slip away to for a quiet drink – so I’m told!).
Fans (don’t tell them we told you) who simply rock up for a holiday include Heston Blumenthal, Adrian Chiles, rugby stars, European Royalty and even Eddie the Eagle has swooped in. And Paris Hilton often turns up (very discreetly of course, in a stretched Hummer with darkened windows). Naomi Campbell flew in to have a mountain lunch with Bill Clinton. Even Katy Perry and Leona Lewis asked if they could stay on for a few days after their gigs to get in some skiing and boarding.
The winter season lasts as long as anywhere in the Alps without a skiable glacier – from late November until early May. And ok, whisper it softly, you actually can so relax if you really want to. The hotels – and there’s a massive range of fabulous ones to choose from – have some of the best spas in the Alps. The five-star Trofana Royal has one of Austria’s largest and most renowned spas. You can even have a Cleopatra bath, where you lie back and have warm asses’ milk poured over you. Really (yes, we’ve experienced it). Now, that is relaxing.
Volunteer Ski Club Leaders are available to ski with you and help you find the best runs and lunch spots in Ischgl. Visit skiclub.co.uk/leaders to find out more.