Located in the heart of the Arlberg valley, St. Anton is a true gem in Austrian skiing’s crown. Arguably one of the most famous resorts in the Alps, and the birthplace of modern alpine skiing, St Anton is perfectly equipped to provide everything you need for a superb week on and off the snow, including delicious mugs of warm, cosy glühwein along with lashings of Jägermeister.
The resort nestles at a comparatively low 1304m (Val Thorens in France for example sits almost 1km higher) but despite this, the snow conditions are superb, and the skiable terrain both easily accessible and varied. St Anton definitely lends itself towards the more accomplished skier, with few pistes suitable for absolute beginners, but for those with more than a few weeks on snow in their legs, this resort provides an excellent playground.
There are two distinct skiable areas accessible from the centre of the resort, the bigger, better-known and therefore slightly busier Valluga valley and its quieter little brother on the opposite side of the town, the Rendl valley. The Valluga valley is where the majority of the lifts and pistes can be found, with the Valluga peak (2811m) providing an unrivalled panorama of the Austrian Alps and beyond for those who venture that far up (there aren’t any pistes running from the viewing platform). There is more than enough terrain in this valley to keep even the most accomplished skiers happy, but my preference by the end of the week was definitely the Rendl valley. Despite being much smaller, and seemingly offering only a few lifts and runs, this valley is definitely worth the visit. Being north-facing, it catches the sun for the majority of the day and also has some of the most incredible backcountry tracks in all of Austria for those who are inclined to stray from the corduroy.
Your Arlberg lift pass allows you to ski in a number of other areas, some accessible on planks, others you’ll need to take the bus. Stuben is a fantastic little ski area and boasts some of the best off piste terrain in the Arlberg region. The resorts of Zurs & Lech can be reached by a 30min bus journey (around €6 return). The buses run roughly every half an hour and is definitely worth the hassle as the ski area is slightly bigger than that of St Anton and the town of Lech itself is absolutely stunning.
Off Piste Guiding
There are a few different companies to rent a guide for a half-day, full day or even for the whole week. The two that our group used and would recommend are the Austrian based, Arlberg Guides (www.outdoor-adventures.at) and the British-run Piste to Powder (www.pistetopowder.com). Arlberg Ski Guides offer a more traditional style of guiding experience, with our new Austrian friend Hubi taking us on some of the touring trails that can be skied between St Anton and Ischgl. Born in St Anton and brought up on the surrounding slopes, his guidance, tuition and expertise were exactly what our group was after for a day. Competitively priced, he even took photos of us during the day and put together a CD for each of us to collect the following day.
Along with the standard guiding experience, Piste to Powder also pitch themselves to skiers who might be just starting out on their powder journey, offering a more ski school type feel for a variety of different levels of skier who want to become more accomplished at cruising the backcountry. Both companies provided a superb day, but with their more competitive price and use of local guides, I think Arlberg Ski Guides pips it for me.
Ski rental is one necessary expense on a skiing holiday and can be a pricey process and in St Anton it is no different. Ski hire was more expensive here than any of the French resorts I have been too but the service was second to none and the quality of gear was superb. I would recommend the Jennewein shop opposite the Rendl lift for ski rental if you are keen on your brands and like to use the latest and coolest equipment. This place might be slightly more expensive than others in town, but the equipment available will suit even the biggest brand-addict. Most ski rental shops in town offer a storage service, where you can keep all your gear including boots in the shop overnight ready to pick up in the morning. This is definitely worth taking advantage of because the majority of chalets are not ski in/ski out so keeping your gear near the main lifts saves a lot of time and energy at both ends of the day.
Now to the important stuff… après-ski! St Anton is famous for two main après-ski bars, the Mooserwirt and the Krazy Kangaruh. Both sit up above the centre of town, so if you find yourself consuming a few more glühweins than anticipated, a slightly blurry ski down the mountain is the order of the day. Just don’t hold me responsible for any injuries occurred on this run!
The Mooserwirt is one giant party both outside on their substantial decking area and inside the wooden decked cabin bar. The beer flows at an amazing rate and dancing on the tables is actively encouraged. Outside, waiters carry massive trays of drinks to the tables, saving you a trip to the bar – the amount of liquid they can carry in one go has to be seen to be believed! The music is exactly what you would expect from an Austrian après-ski bar, oom pah remixes of chart hits and incredibly catchy Euro Pop.
The Krazy Kangaruh on the other hand is probably the cooler younger brother of the Mooserwirt, both in style and clientele. Owned by Austrian alpine ski sensation Mario Matt, the KK is the hangout of choice for St Anton’s rich and famous and seasonnaires, with its cooler vibe and deeper bass. Both are an absolute must if visiting St Anton, and purely for the Euro Pop banter Mooserwirt pips it for me.
St Anton boasts a wealth of good restaurants and bars, offering a multitude of different cuisines. For the sports fans amongst you, Bar Cuba at the bottom of the main street has big screens that regularly show Sky Sports channels.
Bobo’s is an establishment favoured by the seasonnaires and youth of St Anton, but has a great vibe and a pretty big dance floor where you can throw some late night shapes. A Mexican restaurant during the day and early evening, sombreros are replaced by DJ decks and the latest tunes spin late into the night. This place ticks all the boxes for a decent night out in the resort.
Kandahar is a club venue that has a massive dance floor, good beer on tap and if you are that way inclined, offers a mean karaoke night. The clientele here seems to have shifted from the young seasonnaires and towards the slightly more affluent holiday-maker but this is certainly a place to get your cheese on (and I’m not talking about fondue!)
Scotty’s is the last place I would recommend to drink away the night and make you slightly wobbly on the skis the next morning. Open until 1am and with a variety of DJs on the decks throughout the week, you will definitely be able to find some tunes that you will enjoy.
St Anton has something to offer everyone, from good, challenging piste skiing to vast and varied backcountry terrain along with some tremendous amusement away from the slopes. If you’re not already booked up then make sure that 2014 is the year you sample the best of the Austrian Alps.
St Anton is full of cool ski gear, if you want to stand out from the crowd with the very best freestyle and freeride ski gear for all areas of the mountain, visit us at www.snowmoment.co.uk and grab ours today!
Guest blog post written by Pete from www.snowmoment.co.uk