Ischgl - the immune systems' kryptonite

The fastest man on earth, the most indebted EU nation or the highest point on earth - facts that are generally beyond debate.

Until someone outruns Usain, the Bank of Greece discovers a very deep drawer of unaccounted for cash or plate tectonics conspire to knock Everest off the top spot, we willingly or grudgingly accept these facts as just that. When objective becomes subjective then black and white become grey.

So it is with apres ski, the key driver of the post-sunset economy of the Alps, the great leveller after a day in uncompromising mountain surroundings and the scene for seriously compromised iPhone captured moments. Most non-family ski holiday resorts tout their apres ski and even resorts such as Courchevel or Zermatt who rely on refinement, still manage to market their late night offerings. And many are good, some great and a few outstanding - but just as there is only one tallest mountain, fastest man or most broke nation, then there is only that can truly be crowned apres ski king of the Alps (and by logical extension the world). Until a few winters ago the debate was fierce - Meribel, Val d'Isere and Chamonix were the French entries, Verbier and Zermatt from Switzerland and Sauze d'Oulx from Italy all pitted themselves against the very big hitters from Austria. The usual suspects in Austria included Kitzbuhel, Soll, Mayrhofen, Saalbach-Hinterglemm, St Anton and Solden. And beyond these names there were regional powerhouses such as Flachau and Obertauern that would eclipse almost any other non-Austrian apres ski resort but remained locally known and frequented.

Then there is Ischgl, for many the absolute pinnacle of apres ski, a resort that can test the resolve of the very best immune systems, a resort that draws in skiers and snowboarders post-ski patrol and spits them out late onto frigid streets, hours before the lifts begin to roll again toward one of the very best ski areas in the Alps. For years Ischgl has been emerging as the most-talked about resort in the Alps, underpinned by an incredible ski area but also pretty shrewd marketing. The skiing has undergone many phases of upgrade and extension, yet the peaks remain the same. The resort has extended and gentrified, whilst the marketing push to make the resort the Ibiza of the Alps has seen Paris Hilton 'product-placed' in recent years and the Killers and other mega bands playing their season opening and closing concerts. And all the while, without the mega venues of some resorts, Ischgl has developed an unsurpassed apres ski culture, served by numerous small scale huts, both slope-side and in the resort centre - it was always good, but now has no equals. The emanating sound is unmistakable whilst the near revolving doors testify to the popularity of the venues, what is remarkable is the range of small to medium sized bars across the resort that can offer exceptional apres ski atmosphere. Tell your ski guide you were out till dawn and they won't have a clue which of the many venues you were at, such are the resources on offer at this apres ski powerhouse.

What truly marks Ischgl out as the undisputed champion is its relentlessness - from the opening weekend in the season right through to the season closing concert, this place is absolute rocking - the main bars heave with beer swilling, ski boot stabilised revellers. And throughout the season there are those who are attracted by the world-class skiing and yet end up on a conveyor belt of skiing and apres ski that would test the superhuman out there. Who knows what the future holds, but for now there is only one king of apres ski and that is Ischgl - even the most seasoned campaigners look like road kill after a week in this physically relentless beast of excess.

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