When I first visited St Anton am Arlberg, about 30 years ago, I stayed in one of the Tirolean village’s most luxurious chalets. Bathrooms were shared – with a ratio of one for two, or even three, bedrooms. Showers had to be staggered, and kept brief, if everyone was to have hot(ish) water.
It was chilly if you woke early before the radiators had come on full. It was spotlessly clean, but its conversion from a farmhouse had been slightly ramshackle. The wine came with a top that was removed with a beer bottle opener.
We had a great time though – how could you not with the wonderful skiing at St Anton? But the chalet owner’s jaw would have dropped, as would ours, if he could see then the sort of chalet that would appear just down the road from his in 30 years time.
In the intervening years, luxury has taken on something of a new meaning. And my latest stay at the current most luxurious chalet in town provides not merely a comfortable, pleasant experience – but one of heady and hedonistic perfection, pampering of premium proportions (enough extravagant alliteration).
The property in question is Chalet Eden Rock, a confection of aged timbers that looks like it has stood in its majestic position overlooking the slopes for several hundred years. It has in fact existed for less than the blink of an eye in the context of this ancient community.
Just a year ago, where Eden Rock now stands, was just a field of weeds.
Designed by renowned Austrian architect Karl Fahner, it is a flagship chalet of the British firm Supertravel. It is undeniably a masterpiece of rustic grandeur – it looks like a medium-sized forest has been felled to build it, but in fact its timbers have been sourced from ancient barns. The interior is a cunning combination of spacious luxury, combined with the cosy atmosphere of a traditional Tirolean stube.
It actually comprises three chalets in one – Ariane, Kanzi and Zari. I stayed in Zari, which has three double bedrooms. All have spacious bathrooms with separate bathtub and shower.
Each chalet has an open-plan living/dining room with a log fire. Scattered liberally are flat screen TVs and Bose sound systems. Ariane has three bedrooms and Kanzi four – which gives tremendous flexibility for groups of differing sizes.
A large group can take the three chalets, with total accommodation for twenty. There’s also a bar and restaurant where you can eat instead of in your own chalet – my stay has included a combination of both options, with delicious cuisine each night.
On the lower floor is a fabulous surprise – a wellness area with a pool that features a whirlpool and counter-current – meaning, that should you for some reason wish to, you can swim in a constant stream. There’s also a sauna, steam room, fitness area and massage room.
From my balcony I have great views of the village cocooned in snow, with chairlifts and gondola lifts heading up to some of the world’s best skiing.
The chalet is just a few minutes’ walk from the gondola lift at the Nasserein end of St Anton. But the chalet manager, Harry, who heads a very attentive staff of eight, won’t hear of us walking. He’s waiting with Eden Rock’s luxury people-carrier to drive us there. Our skis are already loaded. We’re being spoilt.
St Anton links with Stuben, St Christoph, Zurs and Lech (which itself is now connected with Warth-Shrocken) to form one of the globe’s most exciting and extensive ski areas. The first ski school was founded in the Arlberg by the legendary Hannes Schneider – and St Anton is a resort that lives, sleeps and breathes skiing.
It also has a comprehensive range of challenging apres-ski! Of course the Krazy Kangaruh is iconic, and it’s difficult to justify not visiting it at least once during a stay. Ditto the Mooserwirt, where it’s said more beer per square metre is sold than at any other bar in Austria (and the way they can put away beer in Austria, that probably means the world). I’ve enhanced the profit margin to a considerable degree at both these establishments over the years.
But another apres-ski venue has demanded my patronage in recent seasons – Underground on the Piste, which is a great deal more mellow, with excellent live music including jazz. Joan, a St Anton institution who used to run the Underground in the centre of the village until it was closed down to be converted into apartments, oversees Underground on the Piste with ferocious efficiency. Look out for it on skier’s right a few yards from the bottom of the home run, tucked away near the Museum. To watch live sport straight after skiing, head to the Kandahar, run by Brit Jonathan Verney, in the village centre – and the Kandahar also becomes the village’s top nightspot later on, with live music from the excellent singer/songwriter Tony Wright.
Bluebird days of fabulous skiing have encompassed such favourite runs as the wide expanse of the Schindler bowl and a cruise down to St Christoph for lunch at the famous Hospiz Alm (ask the sommelier nicely and he’ll let you have a peek in the cellar at one of Europe’s most impressive collections of Bordeaux).
This is some combination – a magnificent mountain retreat at Eden Rock, and the prospect of more sublime skiing tomorrow. And more immediately, a dilemma – whether to try the sauna or steam-room first. So many difficult decisions.
I also hear, by the way, that if you move quickly you might find some late availability at Eden Rock this season. Otherwise, I highly recommend you contact Supertravel and stake a claim here for next season.