St Anton has some very steep terrain, so it’s not the obvious choice for beginners. However there’s a good range of ski schools here, including Skischule Arlberg, founded by ski-pioneer Hannes Schneider in 1921. Today, it employs almost 350 instructors and is the largest ski school in Austria. Smaller are Skischule St Anton am Arlberg, Skischule Alpine Faszination, and Ski Akademie St Christoph. There are also over a dozen one-man ski schools, the names of which can be found on the resort website.
A new addition to the Arlberg scene is British-owned ski school New Generation – well known in French resorts such as Courchevel and Meribel for its fun-loving style and flexible approach to tuition. St Anton is its first Austrian outpost, and it currently offers two instructors. Book early if you want to ski with one of them for a peak week.
Second-week skiers need to be careful to avoid getting into tricky situations – the trails back to the resort are particularly difficult for near-beginners and early intermediates, especially at the end of the day when everyone else is coming down too. However, with a little planning they can be avoided.
A place of pilgrimage for off-pisters
St Anton is a place of pilgrimage for skiers who want to start skiing off-piste, or fine-tune their powder turns. Teaching them is one of Piste to Powder’s specialities – although these days it tends to focus on more experienced skiers. You need one week of off-piste skiing with a guide or instructor under your belt before you can join. Its five-day courses run throughout January and February.
The highly-rated British ski school Snoworks also runs popular backcountry courses here in January, and offers classes for off-piste beginners as well as experts – and everyone in between. Local guides provide vital insider knowledge of conditions and terrain, while Snoworks’ own coaches work on technique and tactics.
If you don’t want tuition, but still want to tackle St Anton’s famous backcountry terrain, then you should hire a guide. Many of the best runs are not obvious – and those that are will be skied into moguls in an instant. Others – such as the top of the north face of the Valluga – are extremely avalanche-prone. You need to play it safe.
There are several options in town, including locally-run Tiroler Skischule Alberg Guides. The owner, UIAGM-qualified Andy Thurner, has written a guide book to the Arlberg’s off-piste. If you fancy trying the powder over in Lech and Zurs, you’ll need to contact the Alpin Center there.
In spite of the hard-core image, there are good facilities for children
Parents whose children have been to St Anton and have tried the Arlberg children’s ski school are ecstatic about it. It’s certainly a lot better than its equivalents in either France or Switzerland. The Kiki Club, operated by the St Anton ski school, runs ski classes for older children.
For the little ones, Kinderwelt is the Arlberg school’s kindergarten, with even the tiniest of skiers accepted here – once they are out of nappies. Several British tour operators also run childcare operations in the resort, including Mark Warner, Esprit, and Scott Dunn. They’re all based in the suburb of Nasserein, which has by far the best nursery slope in the area. If your kids are making their very first turns on snow, it’s not a bad place for them to start. (Though we wouldn’t recommend St Anton for the next stage of their career, on intermediate pistes. Bring them back when they’ve developed a taste for black runs, moguls and powder.)