St Anton holds onto its hard-core skiing and party edge and, through the British chalet market and self-catering apartments, still offers access to the younger and less well-off experts that give the town its soul. There are alternatives for the intermediate skier who wants his or her creature comforts, but - if you have pretensions to call yourself a serious skier – St Anton should be on your “must-visit” list.
Arlberg Ski Area
Cable Cars: 15
Austria has more picturesque ski resorts. There are more guest-friendly winter towns. There are even more interesting rival ski areas. But St Anton still keeps its clear position as Austria’s number 1 ski resort.
St Anton is the closest to a French-style expert’s ski resort in Austria – with long challenging bump runs, a wealth of off-piste opportunities in fresh powder and plenty of good skiers on the slopes.
Two collections of lifts above the town access the main St Anton skiing – the Gampen and Kapall area and the Galzig.
The most convenient route to the Gampen for drivers is the Nasserein gondola. This lift or the Gampen chairlift deposit the skier on a wide open terrace above the town. From here crowded and narrow linking runs descend to the Galzig area and the Kapall 6-seater chairlift rises further up the hill.
Cruising red slopes lead back to the base station of the gondola and, near the bottom, there is a nursery slope served by a drag lift which is popular with ski school classes.
From the Gampen, the connecting routes to the Galzig are narrow pathways which are often icy and crowded with hesitant beginners and intermediate skiers. In high season the Zammermoos chairlift is often busy. The Feldherrnhügel drag lift is a slower alternative.
Both lifts, and the Galzig cable car from the resort, head to the Galzig viewpoint where the routes to St Christoph and Stuben start. Adventurous types may feel in the mood for the testing bump runs on the ski routes from the Valluga cable car or the Schindlergrat chairlift.
Blue 8 is a good warm up run down to the exclusive enclave of St Christoph. Those who have been thinking about trying the moguls higher up should try the red ski route 3 under the Galzig cable car. This run should give a good indication if the knees are in shape today.
Skiers heading to Stuben pass this way and can take the Schindlergrat chairlift and red 14 or the Arlenmähder chairlift along from St Christoph before heading down blue 17 and under the bridge. This route offers the surreal experience of skiing alongside the heavily used road route over the Arlberg pass.
The Flexenbahn 10-person gondola at Alpe Rauz provides the long-awaited lift link through to the Lech-Zürs-Warth ski area, linking up with the Trittkopf gondola from the Zürs side and some red runs down into Zürs.
On the other side of Alpe Rauz, the new Albona ll gondola provides an easy way up to the slopes above Stuben and replaces the old chairlift, which was notoriously slow and cold. (The lift attendants even offered quilted blankets on bad days!)
The valley on the other side of the ridge offers glorious sunny red runs, with the Albonagrat chairlift accessing some superb off-piste descents to the village below (now no longer marked on the piste map). Visitors unfamiliar with the area and with high mountain conditions should hire a qualified local guide as these routes can be avalanche-prone.
Those looking for some old-school chairlift experiences can still sample the Albona I lift which provides the link from the village of Stuben back towards Alpe Rauz.
The cold conditions on the other side normally keep the snow in good condition on the cruising runs down to Alpe Rauz and the way back to St Anton. The modern Valfagehr chairlift provides some spectacular views of the runs up to the left at the top of the Valluga cable car and the Schindlergrat chairlift.
Those wishing to avoid the higher ski routes take the often-crowded blue route down the Steissbach valley. Lifts return to the Galzig or the Gampen. Those looking to head back to the resort run the gauntlet past the distractions created by the apres ski scene at bars such as the renowned Krazy Kanguruh on the homeward piste.
The tour of St Anton has another stop to make on the often ignored Rendl area. A new cable car from the western end of St Anton has replaced the old and bizarre combination of a short walk, baby drags and a moving carpet that used to exist.
A new panorama restaurant waits at the top of the lift. A step outside will reveal an open ski area with inviting cruising runs and an outrageous amount of off-piste available. Again, strict attention should be paid to avalanche warnings. Most of the Rendl skiing is on red runs or red ski routes, although there is a blue run available on the Maas chairlift.
The Rendl is a favourite afternoon destination and the sunny après-ski is every bit as raucous as the better-known hot spots elsewhere on the slopes.
Of course, one of the big attractions of the St Anton ski area is the access (both via road and the new Flexenbahn gondola) to the extensive Lech-Zürs-Warth ski complex and the smaller but interesting Sonnenkopf area down near Klösterle, which are all covered on the Ski Arlberg ski pass and accessible via ski bus service.
The live webcam stream below is shows the bottom of the slopes in the town centre while other webcams in the areas, such as the Valluga, Galzig and Gampen are available by clicking the middle button above the live stream. (We chose the lower version because the top cams are often obscured in bad weather.)