Ski, party, sleep, repeat. St Anton isn’t a town for the faint-hearted. But if you want endless freeride-thrills or like your schnapps while dancing on tables to DJ Ötzi, then read on
Full-on. That’s a phrase that comes up a lot when describing the ski resort of St Anton. This isn’t the kind of resort that you come to for a relaxing spa break with the odd foray onto the piste to take a piccie of the view (though it is good). If you come to St Anton, you come for the bold big-mountain lines, huge powder dumps and one of the biggest après-ski scenes in the Alps.
It’s located in the heart of Austria’s Arlberg region, an area that pulls in snow storms like some crazy powder-attracting magnet. And when those magical crystals fall on that made-for-ripping terrain, the freeride options are never-ending. From the open bowls under the Valluga peak, to the trees off Gampen, to the long and empty lines on Rendl, the whole valley is your snow-covered oyster. And if (somehow) you get bored, you can catch the bus to Zurs and Lech: they almost always get the same amount of snow as St Anton, but far fewer people are skiing powder (the resorts are covered by the Arlberg pass, too).
Then there’s the après. St Anton is home to arguably two of the most iconic bars in the world. The Krazy Kanguruh defined après-ski as we know it: table-dancing, fist-pumping tunes and abundant supplies of schnapps. It’s still a stalwart for seasonnaires, but its neighbour, the MooserWirt, has taken it to a whole new level, serving some 2,500 litres of beer on a slow day. In fact, it’s the busiest bar in the whole of Austria. Not bad considering it closes at 8pm.
When you throw in all that powder with some truly world-class terrain, you can see why thrill-hungry skiers, from just-out-of-school season workers to crazed Swedish alpinists, flock to this Tyrolean town. Some of them even make it their home, like our local, David Bradley.
THE BEST RUN FOR A WARM UP
There’s no time to warm up here! Lifts open at 8.45am, and the level of skier here is quite high, so fresh corduroy doesn’t last long. You can try to squeeze in one or two short runs before the crowds start wiggling their way down the pistes. Try the reds and blue off the Gampen chair. But, if it’s powder you’re after then there’s no time for that. You’ve got about half a day before all the easy-to-spot lines near the lifts are tracked, however, there is more than enough for everybody.
BEST PLACE FOR FRESH TRACKS
The longer you leave it after a dump the further away or more creative you need to get, but generally Stuben (15 minutes down the valley) is a good bet. It only has three main lifts, but boasts copious amounts of terrain and often nabs the biggest snowfall. If you’d rather stay local, Rendl usually offers freshies for a long time, as there is an amazing amount of accessible terrain from there. Pack your skins, avi gear and a decent map and you can find fresh tracks weeks after a dump.
FOR A DAY AWAY FROM THE LIFTS
St Anton and the whole Arlberg area is a freerider’s dream. Steep faces, big dumps and endless accessible terrain make backcountry and hiking the main attraction. Rendl and Stuben are some of the easier places to start if you’re looking for shorter hikes, but if you have your skins with you many of the peaks around here are ripe for the picking. Head down to the closest ski school and book a guide. If you’re exploring easy-access lines by yourself you’ll still find a lot of exciting stuff, but you are only really scratching the surface.
THE BIGGEST MISCONCEPTION ABOUT ST ANTON IS…
That it’s too expensive. Sure, the lift ticket is one of the most expensive in Tyrol, but just consider the size of the resort; it’s one of the biggest in Austria. There are more than enough places to pick up a cheap meal, and you can find some great accommodation for a steal a little bit further down the valley, in villages like Pettneu, Schnann and Flirsch.
WHAT’S ST ANTON’S BEST KEPT SECRET?
The town of Pettneu, seven minutes’ drive from St Anton, has a ski area that hasn’t been running for the last couple of years. Nowadays, just a handful of locals and in-the-know visitors strap on their skins and tour up, to ski down long, wide, avalanche-safe slopes with no one around. To enjoy the real experience, turn on your head lamp and make the hike at night. Don’t forget to stop by Almfrieden (+43 5448 8232), a quaint, little family-run mountain restaurant that makes the best pork knuckles around!
FOR MOUNTAIN BITES
All the après bars and restaurants cook up some great meals, so it depends how much you want to spend. The self-service restaurant up on Rendl has some great but reasonably-priced dishes. Try the Wok dish, it’s a real belly-warmer. In town, pick yourself up a warm roast pork sandwich from the local supermarket.
FOR A SLAP-UP MEAL
Verwallstube (+43 5446 2352 510) at the top of Galzig lift is hard to beat. It isn’t open every night, so you need to make a reservation and organise taking the gondola up, but it’s a great way to see St Anton at night. If you’re into fish, try the bouillabaisse, it’s a much-loved favourite.
FOR AN APRÈS-SKI TIPPLE
MooserWirt is certainly the most famous, almost like the Oktoberfest of skiing. If you want to get loose, the Krazy Kangaruh and Taps are favourites of many seasonal workers. If you’re on the east side of St Anton you can’t finish the day without stopping by the Fang house, just watch out for the owner Hasse: he is a dangerous man.
FOR LATE-NIGHT DANCING
The amount of late night bars and pubs is shrinking, but there is still enough to accommodate everyone. Piccadilly and the Underground are great places to go for live music and a pubby atmosphere; Scotty’s is a favourite for cheap drinks with the seasonnaires; Kandahar for those with stamina. FL
PISTES & PASSES
- Number of runs: 248
- Blue: 34%
- Red: 42%
- Black: 24%
- 94 ski lifts
Arlberg day lift pass €48