Day 4: Kappl & Ischgl
So after the last three days at Ischgl -- which overwhelms you in all sorts of ways -- I decided to try another of the smaller, family ski areas that are part of the Silvretta region ski pass: Kappl. It's just five minutes up the road from Ischgl and has a reputation for being "modest in size," "great for families," and "the sunniest ski area in the region," which means the same thing in all languages: south-facing. Hey, they even have it in English on the trail map: "Sunny Mountain!"
The base building is right alongside the main access road.
You take a 1983-vintage Doppelmayr gondola 2,500 vertical feet to the top of the treeline.
From there, you continue up to the summit, more than 3,000 feet higher, so that's the vertical you're working with. It's all above-the-treeline, which means the 27 miles of groomed trails (that's why it's classified as a "small" mountain) are a tiny portion of the skiable acreage and as you can see, pretty much everything is skiable, especially after Kappl got a six-inch shot of snow overnight.
I was one of maybe 100 people on the mountain, 85% of whom weren't there to ski untracked. For the next two hours, I did lap after lap of calf-deep pixie dust -- everything was fair game and it was all available with no brutal traverses, no sidestepping, no herring bones, no skiing through trees, no complicated planning, no nothing. Easy peazy. My tracks are the ones in the middle.
But now back to the south-facing part -- about 11:15, the sun had begun affecting the new snow. You can see in this pic -- the only in-action shot I could get -- that it was getting a bit more meaty, like early-spring, even though Kappl's summit is at a higher elevation than Ischgl.
So I did a few groomers that were like creamery butter, absolutely perfect, then went back to the top of the mountain because I had seen a sign up there with an Autobahn icon and wanted to know what the deal was. I followed a young couple and their kid:
Here's the father going around the top of the peak:
... and you come out the other side with this incredible view of a groomed path going right down the middle of a valley (Trail #9 on the far looker's right). You can just barely make out the trail and some people further down. Like pretty much everything here, this view is far more impressive than the pic lets on.
Here's a reverse shot looking uphill from the just below the top -- as always, you have the opportunity to grab some extra-credit untracked turns along the side.
Down you go at full speed:
Finally, you arrive at the bottom lift, 3,200 vertical feet later, thighs on fire.
At which point, I decided that it was time for a Weissbier at the conveniently located Restaurant Huiseralm:
After the beer, I downloaded to the base and headed over to Ischgl for the afternoon. I made it to the mid-station Idalp hub by 12:45.
On my first run, where I was just poaching low-hanging fruit along a main artery, I saw something unimaginable in the U.S -- 14, count 'em, 14 Pisten Bullies
were doing a synchronized groom on a principal trail. On the trail map, there's a "did you know?" blurb that says Ischgl uses 36 of them every night and they cost $650K each.
Also in the Idalp area is a complete helicopter landing area and admin building. This copter had just landed, I assume to pick up someone who had ridden down in the meat wagon.
For the next two hours, I did the same thing as at Kappl, lapped untracked snow, but at Ischgl, it was still in nice shape even mid-afternoon. I went back up to the Switzerland side and here is my very first self-made panoramic photo, showing half of Alp Trida, the other half is out of the frame to the left. The stitching software flattens the terrain; that's a 2,700-vert drop from where I'm standing.
Finally, here's an example of a restaurant on the Swiss side. Sorry, I'm a traditionalist and don't think that a ski area is a place for Mies Van der Rohe, but apparently they have no problem with it.