Nine o'clock in the morning in Ischgl in the Austrian Tyrol, and the slopes are strangely quiet. While most ski resorts would be bustling, Ischgl is still sleeping off its late night - because this is one lively party town. After a day on 148 miles of snow-sure piste, visitors can enjoy an après-ski scene that is fast becoming the talk of the Alps.
Ischgl isn't chic like Courchevel, or overwhelmingly British like Val d'Isère. Instead its appeal lies in its traditional Austrian style and friendly atmosphere. The cobbled streets are lined with family-run hotels in low-level chalets, small boutiques and functional food shops.
The 76 small restaurants and bars and seven nightclubs are the focus of the evening's entertainment. Skiers are mostly German-speaking and spill out into the car-free streets in boisterous good spirits.
The biggest crowds come for the Top of the Mountain concerts, which bookend the season and are held at 7,545 feet. Kylie, Elton John, Sting and Katie Perry have all performed here, to crowds of 20,000 revellers, while Bill Clinton, Paris Hilton and Naomi Campbell have been high-profile guests. This season kicks off on November 26, 2011 with Swedish band Roxette on the bill.
Ischgl is 80 minutes from Innsbruck airport and close enough to Switzerland to allow skiers to swoop down to the Swiss town of Samnaun for some tax-free shopping. Nearly all the slopes are above 5,905ft, which is dramatically high by Austrian standards. This altitude combines with modern infrastructure - fast, hooded chairlifts with heated seats - to provide good skiing throughout the five-month season.
Most accommodation is in good-quality hotels where occupancy rates are high. A shortage of chalets means few British holiday companies operate in Ischgl - one reason why the town is little known in the UK. Hampshire-based Ski Total built its own chalet hotel there last year in response to repeated requests from clients.
"Ischgl has a wide appeal as it is unspoilt but with an air of sophistication," says Melvin Westlake of Ski Total. "It is one of Austria's top resorts with an extensive piste network and beautiful tree-lined runs."
Best of both worlds
Buyers who want easy access to Ischgl's buzzy scene without living in the middle of it could be tempted by Schooren des Alpes, a modern development of 12 two- to eight-bedroom apartments being built by Zurich-based developers Peach Property Group.
The six-floor building with an expansive south-west-facing glass façade, heated balconies and underground parking, is quite a change from traditional Austrian architecture. Sleek, open-plan apartments look out on the beautiful quiet valley three miles from Ischgl.
Apartments at Schooren des Alpes start from £675,400 for a spacious 1,700sq ft. On completion next year, there will be a wellness centre with spa and pool, on-site rental and a concierge service.
The family-friendly town of Kappl one mile away provides ski hire, good shops and extensive child care facilities at reasonable prices - a calm antidote to Ischgl. From Kappl there is skiing up to 2,858 feet, with ambitious plans to link the lift system to St Anton in the future.
Six apartments at Schooren des Alpes are sold, with interest from City professionals and families, according to Robert Green of selling agents Cluttons Resorts. "With such good skiing it's perhaps surprising that property prices in Austria can be half of those in France or Switzerland," adds Green. "But Austria only opened its doors to the second-home market recently, so it has some catching up to do."
The Tyrol is Austria's most visited tourist destination but there are severe restrictions on buying holiday homes in most areas. Ischgl itself has no estate agents, little land left to develop, and permission for new-build property outside is hard to come by.
One mile west of Ischgl in Mathon, Alpine Marketing is selling six two-bedroom off-plan apartments in Hunters Lodge, priced from £1.51 million, including parking, for 1,506 square feet.
* Underground parking at Schooren des Alpes costs £17,300.
* Maintenance costs from £432 a month. Allow five to six per cent for buying costs, including stamp duty of 3.5 per cent.
* Property is exempt from capital gains tax if held for 10 years.
* All prices exclude VAT at 20 per cent as they must be available to rent for part of the year.
* Schooren des Alpes through Cluttons Resorts (020 7584 3050; cluttonsresorts.com)
* Alpine Marketing (020 8455 0505; alpinemarketing.com)