St Anton resort guide
A favourite with our staff and directors, St Anton has it all: a lively, charming village, fabulous skiing with one of the best snow records in the Alps, and unrivalled après-ski, all served up with renowned Austrian hospitality.
St Anton has always been a great skiing resort, not to mention home to the best après-ski in the Alps. The ski area itself, known as Ski Arlberg, incorporates the neighbouring resorts of St Christoph, Zurs and Lech and is now linked with a modern, efficient lift system meaning that it now possible to ski to all these areas.
The quality of the accommodation is on the rise, with the addition of more luxury properties as St Anton adapts to appeal to a more upmarket clientele. The combination of fabulous and varied skiing, an enviable snow record, hearty Austrian and Tyrolean food and service combined with good value for money makes it our staff and directors’ favourite resort – more of them ski here than in any of our other resorts.
For anyone for whom skiing is not an obsession, you could happily spend most of your holiday at Well.com – St Anton’s superb Wellness centre before joining the skiers at the Mooserwirt or the Krazy Kanguruh for après ski.
Resort facts and figures
Resort altitude: 1340m
Highest point: 2811m
Vertical drop: 1507m
Ski areas: The Arlberg ski pass covers St Anton, St Christoph, Lech and Zurs
Pistes: 305km of which 33% beginner/intermediate, 31% advanced, 36% expert
Best for: Good and advanced skiers and those looking for some good off-piste. Beginner areas are found on the lower slopes. The Rendl side is a great area for intermediates and advanced skiers.
Skiing in St Anton
The village may be relatively low but don’t let this put you off. Many skiers think that altitude is everything and that ski life begins at 1800m but this is a misconception for a number of reasons:
- While the village is low, the skiing in the Arlberg is not – it has a good range of skiing from 1200 to nearly 3000m. Courchevel 1850 might sound higher than St Anton but its highest peak, La Saulire (2738m), is 73m lower than St Anton’s Valluga (2811m).
- Below 2000 metres, the terrain is grassy and pastoral – so a huge snow base isn’t needed to make the runs skiable. The higher resorts won’t tell you this, but above the tree line, well over a metre of snow is needed to cover the rocks. This is most important in the early season when there is less base – lower resorts are likely to have more runs open.
- Skiing in December, January and February can be bitterly cold, especially above 2000 metres. This is not much fun for adults and is even less fun for kids, so the ability to ski a little lower, especially below the tree line and out of the wind is important.
- Snowfall in St Anton is determined primarily by weather systems from the East – Siberia and beyond. It usually gets the snow before resorts in the Western Alps and local weather systems mean that St Anton is frequently inundated by the white stuff, while surrounding areas and resorts are green with envy!
- For novices, there are some good nursery areas but it is fair to say that for nervous skiers and those with only a few weeks’ experience, St Anton can be limiting. The central ski area around the Galzig and Gampen lifts is busy and the ski home can be challenging as the snow can be heavy on the lower slopes and they tend to get crowded at the end of the day. However, there is no shame in taking one of the bubble lifts back down – Galzig, Nasserein or Rendl – having enjoyed a reasonable choice of blue runs higher up and perhaps a good lunch. In reality, it is because there is such a wealth of red and black runs that the gentle blues can seem few and far between. Many Austrians learn to become great skiers at St Anton so there is no reason why you should not.
- The Rendl gondola has helped integrate a great ski area that used to be the seasonnaires’ best kept secret. Rendl has some nice blue runs for intermediates and a great place to sit in the sun at the Rendl Beach restaurant.
- Now that the resort is linked in Zurs by the Flexenbahn lifts, the ski area itself can now be deemed as one of the best in the world. Skiing over to the neighbouring resorts of Zurs and Lech is much easier and relatively straightforward skiing for good intermediates. Those in search of some great piste will be rewarded with some great backcountry routes that end in Zug – we recommend taking a guide to take you to some of the hidden pockets of powder. The smaller “satellite” areas of Zug, Sonnenkopf, Stuben and little visited Pettneu will reward you with deserted ski slopes, down to earth and good value “locals only” restaurants and lifts without queues.
- For good skiers, St Anton offers some of the best off piste terrain and conditions anywhere in the world. Without a guide, you will barely scratch the surface so we recommend Piste to Powder or Exclusive Mountain Guiding for off piste guiding. For the ultimate off piste experience, heliskiing is also available.
St Anton Village
St Anton is a charismatic village full of Alpine charm. There are no ugly apartment blocks here and the surrounding scenery is nothing short of spectacular. The village itself is full of atmosphere and is big enough to keep you occupied if skiing is not the be all and end all. It gets plenty of sun and at the bottom of the ski lifts, there are plenty of sun soaked terraces where you can enjoy a coffee or a gluhwein while observing the antics on the slopes.
There are lots of great restaurants and bars and, because the village centre is largely pedestrianised, it is a great place to go for a wander round the shops. If you are more used to skiing in France and Switzerland’s premier resorts, St Anton hits you like a breath of fresh air. The locals are friendly and seem genuinely pleased to see you and the restaurants and bars offer good value of a kind that was lost years ago elsewhere (mentioning no names!). Whether this will last remains to be seen so don’t miss out.
While plenty of resorts may claim to be the home of Alpine skiing, there is little doubt that St Anton is the home of après-ski. The home nation led the way with dancing in ski boots, copious helpings of Schnapps, pitchers of beer and a great line in Eighties music. If St Anton is the Mecca of après-ski, the Mooserwirt is the sacred shrine and you will not want to miss this. Bathed in sun on the side of the last run home, you will hear it before you see it. It is also accessible by car so you won’t miss out if you are a non-skier or if the short ski home looks a little daunting. Once you have experienced the Mooserwirt, you won’t want to go anywhere else. Mixing it up is important though, as St Anton has plenty more to offer.
There are a multitude of other villages in the Arlberg ski area, which can be visited on skis or by train or bus. Lech is the Arlberg’s glitzy answer to Courchevel or St Moritz and is a great place to go for lunch. Sonnenkopf, Stuben, Zurs and the wonderfully named Zug are small villages, which offer a really authentic Alpine experience away from the crowds.
St Anton insider tips
For anyone who breaks into a cold sweat at the idea of a 2 or more hour coach transfer, St Anton is ideal - only one hour’s drive from Innsbruck airport which is served by British Airways and easyJet. There is also a train station in the village with direct mainline services from Innsbruck, Zurich and Munich.
The run from Valluga to Alpe Rauz is fabulous – Red 14 into Blue 17 is a non stop carving thriller!
For non skiers (and weary skiers!), the St Anton Wellness centre, the Well.com, is fantastic and beats the facilities in most other resorts hands down. It boasts an indoor swimming pool, paddling pool, outdoor pool, indoor and outdoor tennis, an ice rink, a superbly equipped gym as well as saunas, steam and massage rooms and tanning facilities.
The British-owned New Generation Ski School is a welcome addition to the ski school offering in St Anton and offers private and group lessons for both adults and children.
Eating out and drinking in St Anton is great value compared to many other premier Alpine resorts and we think Austrian service and hospitality is the best in the Alps.
Do not miss out on St Anton’s legendary après-ski. Book one of our nannies for babysitting if needs be and finish a great day on the slopes with drinks at the Mooserwirt – arguably the best après-ski venue in the world!
The wine and champagne tasting at Hospiz Alm in their cellar is fantastic and the slide down to the loos in the basement avoids the precarious walk down the stairs in ski boots.
Be sure to try the local Goulash soup, which is served in probably every restaurant. It is the perfect rich, hearty remedy to warm you up and rejuvenate your legs after a cold morning’s skiing.