Page last updated at 11:49 GMT, Monday, 5 May 2008 12:49 UK

Elton rocks Austrian ski slopes

By James Cove
BBC News, Ischgl, Austria

Sir Elton John in Ischgl
Sir Elton John said his insurers would not let him go skiing
Sir Elton John was the star attraction at the Austrian ski resort of Ischgl as it closed for the season over at the weekend, the latest big name to be enlisted to draw crowds to the slopes.

It was an unusual setting for an Elton John concert.

The pop veteran's piano had to be taken up the mountain to an altitude of 2,320 metres by cable car - and only just fitted in with centimetres to spare.

He gave a two-hour free show in front of the white peaks, the latest big name to take to the slopes after a steady growth at rock concerts in ski resorts.

Since Sir Elton first played in Ischgl back in 1995, the resort has hosted Rod Stewart, Bob Dylan, Sting, Tina Turner, Bon Jovi, the Scissor Sisters and the Stereophonics.

The Swiss resort of Crans Montana hosts the three-day Caprice Festival, where Joss Stone, Robert Plant, Iggy Pop and Lou Reed have performed.

Sir Elton John in Ischgl
The show's setting was more spectacular than the average arena
And Verbier hosts a week-long classical music concert in the summer.

At this show, Sir Elton rattled through hits like Rocket Man, Daniel, Pinball Wizard, Bennie and The Jets, Crocodile Rock and Saturday Night's Alright for Fighting.

Despite being in a ski resort, Sir Elton admitted he had never skied or snowboarded.

"I would love to as it looks fun, but my insurance won't allow me to in case I beak an arm or something," he said before the show.

"I'd also love to have a go on a four-man bobsleigh - but again my insurers won't let me."

Concerts like this are primarily a marketing ploy for the ski resorts, and they appear to be successful.

"It was a bit of a gamble to begin with and a large investment for the resort but it has really paid off," says Lynsey Devon, a spokeswoman for tour operator Inghams.

Sir Elton John fans in Ischgl
Ischgl hopes its concert will attract more fans to the resort
"It has really put the resort on the map and brought an increasing number of skiers in."

Getting performers like Sir Elton does not come cheap, and although the concert in Ischgl was free for us skiers, it was not for the resort. It is thought Sir Elton commanded a fee of around 500,000 for his set.

They also had to meet a 60-page list of "personal requirements".

Sir Elton specified that he must have Persian rugs and large non-leather sofas to relax on before and after the show.

He wanted palm trees over two metres tall as well as a range of flowers, specifying there should not be a lily in sight.

But 13 years ago, Ischgl decided to put its entire advertising and marketing budget into staging two massive concerts a year, and the ploy appears to be paying off.

It is also part of a strategy for resorts to offer more than just skiing to attract a wider client base. In part, this is fuelled by worries about global warming and the prospects that there will not be as much snow in the future.


This season has been a bumper one, though, and as the resort closes for the season there is still plenty of snow on the slopes.

For the 25,000 skiers at the afternoon concert Sir Elton was a bonus to the skiing. As he rounded off his set with two encores, he held his arms outstretched.

"Thank you very much Ischgl. We've had a blast!" he said.

With that, the Rocket Man jumped into his helicopter to be whisked to nearby Innsbruck airport and then straight back to England.

And thousands of fans put their skis on and went to hit the slopes, making the last few runs before Ischgl closed for the winter.

The resort pronounced Sir Elton's concert a huge triumph and that another major international act would play next year.

Judging by its success, more resorts may follow suit and concerts on ski slopes could become more common.

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