There’s a local saying in St Anton am Arlberg in Austria:
“If you want to ski with your wife, go to Lech.
If you want to ski with your girlfriend, go to Zürs.
But if you just want to ski, go to St Anton.”
Therefore, it was rather fitting that, having heard a number of glowing reviews, I had booked a week’s skiing in St Anton. And I fully intended to make the most of the 160 km of slopes and vast off-piste terrain available.
But actually I wasn’t alone. My boyfriend, Joe, a keen snowboarder (who insisted on bringing his five Lib Tech boards) was joining me.
Together, we had travelled more than 600 miles by car, from the small town of Faversham in the heart of Kent, through six countries – stopping at the obligatory Burger King in Germany – before arriving to unrelenting sleet, which slowly turned into snow.
We were staying at Gästehaus Kolp, in the higgledy-piggledy village of St Jakob, a short bus ride away from the centre of St Anton. Andrew Edeltraud, the owner, greeted us with a look of disbelief behind his black-rimmed glasses: “You drive from England in one day?” he said, before shaking his head and pouring three large shots of peach Schnapps. “Prost!” we said, grinning, the ski holiday had begun.
For those who are not familiar with the Arlberg area, it’s huge! Along with St Anton, the Arlberg lift pass (€252 / £195 pp) covers the nearby resort of Lech-Zürs, which has 180 km of slopes and can be reached by bus (approx. 40 minutes) or by car (approx. 30 minutes). And next winter, a new cable car will link Zürs to Stuben, meaning Arlberg will become the largest connected ski area in Austria, and skiing from St Anton to Lech will be possible.
Luckily, even without this link, Joe and I found the region easily navigable. And because St Anton offers a huge variety of skiing, we felt no pressing need to leave.
We became regulars on the Valluga cable car and the powder bowls below, plus the quieter blue runs from the top of Rendl (2,030 m), and those clustered around the Ulmer Hütte restaurant, towards St Christoph. Joe was impressed at how little he had to unclip his snowboard and walk, although we did learn to avoid runs 12, 4a and Route 1, unless I wanted my ski pole to become a draglift.
However, St Anton offers many more experiences, too. The new Gampen mountain restaurant offers panoramic views down the valley and serves a delicious creamy hot chocolate with a sneaky shot of Amaretto (amongst other beverages). The MooserWirt is ideal for a lively apres-ski session, from three-in-the afternoon the Euro-pop starts booming and vast crowds congregate, dancing with their beers held high, whereas the Underground (towards the Gatzig gondola) welcomes those who fancy a few laid-back drinks with the locals. And when the sun goes down, tobogganing, candlelit dinners and live music can be enjoyed.
But that local saying rang true, with just one slight amendment: “If you just want a ski holiday, go to St Anton”.