These are unusual times, and the state of affairs can change quickly. Please check the latest travel guidance before making your journey. Note that our writer visited pre-pandemic.
Our reader’s favourite resort
St Anton is rated among the top five resorts in the Alps for very good reason: located in Austria’s Arlberg region in the western state of Tirol, it is the biggest connected ski area in Austria with fast lift links to neighbouring Lech.
It is also one of Europe’s snowiest areas and boasts 305km of slopes, 200km of off-piste itineraries and plenty of challenging off-piste terrain. In addition, it has a highly efficient lift system and an attractive town bursting with stylish hotels, chalets and restaurants.
Inside the resort . . .
Located within two hours’ drive of three international airports and with a railway station at its heart, St Anton is easy to reach and, once there, small enough to navigate on foot or by the free public buses. Furthermore, the resort packs some serious heritage – it’s the birthplace of the father of modern skiing, Hannes Schneider.
It is also the spiritual home of après, thanks to the infamous Mooserwirt and Krazy Kanguruh bars on the slopes above it, home to some of the wildest partying in the Alps. That said, there is more to its après offering, particular for those staying in the satellite village of St Christoph, where the Arlberg1800 complex incorporates a contemporary underground space for art exhibitions and live – often classical – concerts.
Despite expansion over the years, St Anton remains an extremely attractive, authentic Tirolean mountain village at heart. The pedestrianised Dorfstrasse cuts through the centre, with hotels, restaurants, shops and bars peppered along it, several of which are still housed in centuries-old timber and stone farmhouses. The town’s onion-domed church, dating back to the 17th century, still takes pride of place on Dorfstrasse, which is itself dwarfed by the mountains rising steeply above St Anton on both sides of the narrow valley.
Hotel accommodation is mainly found in the centre of the village, within easy walking distance of the main access lifts. Chalets tend to be spread a little further out, especially in Nasserein where there are some with a ski-in/ski-out location.
For those staying in a property without a spa, the Arlberg WellCom is a fantastic solution. Located at the base of Gampen mountain, a few minutes’ walk from the town centre, the contemporary glass and timber facility offers numerous indoor and outdoor pools, saunas, steam rooms, massage treatments and a fully equipped gym with fitness classes, yoga and pilates. Prices are reasonable and there’s a good café, making it a great spot to retreat to for a relaxing afternoon or evening.
St Anton is is a great spot for gourmands with deep pockets. Its mountain restaurants boast some fabulous terraces for soaking up the views on sunny days, particularly on Rendl. In resort, there’s a broad range of cuisine on offer, from Thai to Austrian tapas.
On the slopes . . .
Navigate St Anton’s ski area with our insider’s knowledge of the local slopes and beyond, on and off piste, ski schools and terrain parks.
St Anton fully deserves its cult status among the world’s advanced skiers and snowboarders thanks to its consistent snow record, the extensive and varied Arlberg ski area (305km of pistes and 200km of off-piste itineraries) and modern network of lifts, which St Anton shares with neighbouring Lech/Zürs and Warth/Schröcken.
St Anton is undoubtedly a resort that favours strong intermediates and experts – pistes classified as blues here would generally be reds in other resorts, and people treat the off-piste itineraries shown on the piste map like ordinary runs. The resort breaks down these marked but ungroomed off-piste runs into “normal” and “extreme” routes, the former being less challenging than the latter. However, even the “normal” routes should be approached with caution by all, including experts. “Extreme” routes are best tackled with a mountain guide. In fact, with so much terrain to explore, and so many people competing for fresh tracks on it, hiring a guide is the best way of maximising St Anton’s potential.
Most of St Anton’s terrain is found on the northern side of the valley, the same side as the town. Rising directly above St Anton and Nasserein, the Gampen and Kapall mountains offer fairly gentle beginner slopes at their base, getting more challenging higher up. The small yet entertaining Rendl sector is on the southern side.
The pioneering Galzig gondola is the world’s first lift to boast a ferris wheel system, allowing people to board at ground level – it whisks visitors west across the Moos valley to the Galzig mountain, where the ski area really starts to open up. The resort of St Christoph nestles in the valley south of Galzig, while the imposing Valluga and Schindler peaks rise up to the east.
The large Valluga I cable car takes people towards the top of Valluga, while brave off pisters can continue up on the little Valluga II cable car to the very top, a precipitous 2,811m. Keep pressing northwest along the top of Galzig, and the town of Stuben lies in the next valley south, from where you can access the relatively quiet slopes on Albonagrat. The resorts of Zürs and Lech lie further north.
Beginners will want to stay around gentle Nasserein to start with, while Rendl, which is relatively quiet, is ideal for intermediates looking to find their feet. The fast reds down from Albonagrat to St Christoph are great for perfecting carving, while a top to bottom from Valluga to St Anton will test the strongest of legs. Skiers and snowboarders can time themselves on the Kapall World Cup piste and mogul fans can punish their knees on the Mattun and Schindler Kar mogul fields.
Four powerful lifts link the St Anton side of the Arlberg massif to the Lech side. The main lift is the Flexenbahn 10-seater gondola linking Zürs with Alpe Rauz in Stuben – the mid point between the resorts – during a six-minute journey. The Trittkopfbahn I lift on the Zürs side leads to a mid-station from where Trittkopfbahn II continues to the top of the Trittkopf sector in Zürs. The alternative is to follow the Flexenbahn with the Albonabahn II, which continues onwards and upwards to the top of Stuben’s Albona sector.
The Stanton terrain park on Rendl is accessible from two lifts and is overlooked by the Rendl Beach Bar, ensuring plenty of adoring whoops for successful tricks (and plenty of winces for the unsuccessful ones). The sizeable park incorporates three sections, enabling freestylers of all levels to enjoy it. The Proline has large kickers, pipes and a number of challenging rails and boxes. The Medium Kickerline is located in the centre of the park, with jumps that range from 7m to 11m, and the Jibline comprises a wide range of rails and boxes suitable for more tentative freestylers. The park is shaped daily and, according to snow conditions, you’ll also find natural pipes, corners, spines and kickers dotted around it.
Who should go?
St Anton suits more advanced skiers and snowboarders better than beginners or tentative intermediates. Experts will be delighted by the challenging runs and extensive off piste. There are nursery slopes at the base of the main ski area, but you have to improve quickly to progress to the gentle blues further up the hill. That said, little ones generally thrive here – there’s a superb children’s ski school and youth centre in Nasserein, plenty of non-skiing activities and lots of family-friendly hotels, chalets and restaurants.
The resort is easily accessible by train, with a station at its centre, which see party animals arriving in droves from the likes of Innsbruck to make the most of the resort’s world-famous après.
Know before you go . . .
British Embassy Vienna: (00 43 1 713 1575; gov.uk), Jauresgasse 12, 1030 Vienna
Emergency services: Dial 112
Tourist office: See stantonamarlberg.com, the website of the St Anton Am Arlberg Tourist Board, for weather reports, lift status, webcams, traffic details and local event listings. Pick up maps, leaflets and other information from the office on the main street or at the train station.
Telephone code: Dial 00 43
Time difference: +1 hour
Local laws & etiquette
• Formal greetings are the norm when meeting someone, and you’ll hear ‘Grüss Gott’ (greeting the almighty), or the more worldly ‘Guten Morgen/Tag/Abend’, just about everywhere you go, and it’s customary to return the salutation. Locals love their titles, so if you are meeting someone who has a university degree, not only are you expected to know this fact, but you’re expected to use the title whilst shaking hands e.g ‘Grüß Gott Herr Doktor’ in cafés and restaurants the waiter will expect to hear a ‘Herr Ober’ (Mr. waiter) from guests seeking attention.
• Tips are not included, nor is it usual to leave them on the table. After the waiter has given you the bill add roughly 10 per cent and ask for it to be added to the total.
• A simple thank you is ‘Danke‘; ‘Bitte’ means both ‘please’ and ‘you’re welcome’.