Let’s not beat about the bush. You’re either going to come to St Anton for the hard-core terrain or the nightlife, or a combination of both. If you have come for the more advanced terrain, then you won’t be disappointed. Just make sure you hire a guide – for example, from Piste to Powder – to show you where it is.
St Anton doesn’t stay still. The Rendl slopes used to play Cinderella until a few years ago when the area’s base station moved to within 150m of the Galzig lift – complete with eight-person gondolas with heated seats. Cognoscenti will know that, besides uncrowded cruisers, the Rendl offers some mouthwatering off-piste.
Biggest news of all is that, after many years of talk, the Arlberg ski area has finally been fused together by the Flexenbahn lifts – and the result is a ski area that ranks with the best in the world. So now you can ski from the Rendl sector of St Anton, all the way over to Warth at the northern end of the lift system and on to Lech and Zurs.
An ever-changing panorama of stunning peaks unwinds in front of you, while under your skis you’ll find every conceivable kind of piste, from easy blues to knee-mashing moguls. Off piste, the terrain ranges from gentle powder fields to steep couloirs. To do it justice requires nerves of steel, and some very precise turns.
The new lifts haven’t changed the fundamental nature of St Anton. This is still primarily a resort for athletic skiers, so if you know any other resorts in Austria it’s worth realising how different the terrain is from places like Kitzbuhel, Schladming, and Saalbach. This is serious, high Alpine stuff – and very similar in character to what you’ll find in Verbier or Tignes.
Here’s a promotional video recently filmed in the resort. It gives a good sense of the place – with the exception of the apres-ski. It’s much more turbo-charged than this footage suggests…
We don’t recommend it for beginners
If you’re looking for quiet, unstressful nursery slopes, or miles and miles of intermediate cruising then – of course – there are slopes for you here too. But you’ll be happier elsewhere. In fact, the only reason beginners and intermediates should target St Anton is if they’re part of a mixed-ability group and the social dynamic demands it.
Lech, on the other side of the Valluga and with its ski area now linked into the village of Warth-Schröcken, would be a better option. Or one of the smaller/cuter/cheaper resorts elsewhere in Austria. But if you are going to St Anton, then there’s one simple rule: book a ski school that teaches you on the slopes at Nasserein, and stay there. For a neophyte, the pitch of most of St Anton’s terrain is confidence-shattering. If you do want to see some of the rest of the resort, go to the easy blues at Rendl at the end of the week.
Plenty of resorts will suit the intermediate better
There is some fine on-piste skiing here, although you’d do best to save St Anton for the moment when you’re ready to leave the groomed snow for powder. But if you are fixed on St A, then follow these simple rules: At the start of the week, avoid the slopes from Gampen down to the bottom of the Galzig/Gampen lifts unless absolutely necessary. They’re almost always crowded. The only time you want to ski them (slowly, watching out for the occasional nutter) is on the way down to the Mooserwirt, at the end of the day. Warm up first on the uncrowded slopes around, and en route, to the village of Stuben, or over in the separate Rendl sector. Always stick to the blues. A red in St Anton could well be a black in the last resort you visited.
Once you’ve got the measure of those, you can ski over to neighbouring Lech and Zurs where you’ll a greater proportion of confidence-boosting pistes. Only later on in the holiday, when you’re beginning to feel really salty, do you want to try out the runs down from Gampen and Kappall, immediately above the main resort. And when you’re really on form, set yourself against the reds off the Schindler Spitze. Over 1000m of vertical. Great, if you can handle it. If you can’t, it’s a mighty long and exhausting schlepp down.
Advanced skiers and snowboarders will love it
Oh boy – this is where it starts getting interesting. First of all, if you’ve come to experiment with off-piste skiing, then you’ll have a ball: especially if you sign up with the British ski school Piste to Powder. As its name suggests, it’s purpose-built for someone like you – and offers tuition and guiding for everyone from powder virgin to hairy-chested, steep-and-deepers.
And if all you want to do is ski fast and hard on bumps and piste, then you’ll find some scorchers here too: notably the reds off the Schindler Spitze, the World Cup Fang race course from Kappall into St Anton, and the run off the top of the Kappall chair down into the Mattun valley – it is almost always home to monstrous bumps.
Don’t write off neighbouring Lech and Zurs. Yes, they have an intermediate-friendly reputation, but they almost always get more snow than St Anton, not that it seems to matter in these current bountiful winters at this end of the Alps. But, over this side of the Flexen Pass, far fewer people are skiing powder. If conditions are right, a day with the off-piste guides from the Alpin Center could well be a highlight of the trip.
The north face of the Valluga is a must-ski mountain for experts
If you’re a mountain man or woman you need to ski this at least once in a lifetime. It’s one of the classic notches but – don’t tell anyone – it’s really not technically very difficult. On the scary scale it’s just a blast compared with Verbier’s bad bits off Mont Fort or Chamonix’s Couloir Rectiligne. First you have to take the final cable-car to the top of the 2811m Valluga. What gets the butterflies hatching is that you’re only allowed to board the cabin carrying skis if you are with a qualified guide. Sightseeers look at you with wonder. This changes to awe when you kick off from the viewing platform.
However, assuming you make the first turn – It’s pretty important to make the first left-hander unless you are a base jumper – the rest is technically easy. You need the guide largely because of the avalanche risk. If this run is on your wish list, there are plenty of guides available and we strongly recommend Piste to Powder. Or try the Arlberg Guides.
Despite St Anton’s young, go-for-it image, it’s actually neighbouring Lech which has the better terrain park – and it is a regular stop on the pro tour. St Anton’s own park on Rendl features only a single line of rails, table tops and kickers.