Known as the cradle of Alpine skiing, St. Anton is steeped in ski history while being one of the most up-to-date ski resorts in Austria. Packed some of the most challenging intermediate and advanced ski slopes in the Alps, St. Anton is one of those places everyone should ski at least once. And now that the resort is lift-linked to other Arlberg ski areas, such as Lech and Zurs, you've got 300km of varied and accessible terrain to play on - as well as more than 200km of freeride routes.
The resort is due to open on 1st December with a special festival from 1-3 December with live bands, and is an ideal destination for your winter ski holiday.
Where is St. Anton am Arlberg?
St. Anton is in Austria's Arlberg region - hence the full name - one of the country's most snow-sure ski areas. It has its own railway station, with direct services to Innsbruck and Zurich.
Until 2016, you had to catch a bus to get to the other famous Arlberg ski resort of Lech, a tiring 40-minute journey. But the new Flexenbahn gondola means you can now ski from St. Anton to Lech and vice versa - all on piste - and it has upped the piste possibilities to 305km of lift-linked skiing.
Why ski St. Anton am Arlberg?
There are many answers to that question, but while, in essence, most skiers come here for the challenge and the craic, here are our six reasons to ski St. Anton this winter.
The skiing in St. Anton am Arlberg is amazing
With more than 300km of marked slopes served by 85 state-of-the-art cable cars and lifts, St. Anton - and the wider Arlberg ski area - has some of the best terrain in the Alps, epitomised by the longest downhill run, a 9km descent, which takes you with a breathtaking altitude difference of 1,350m from the majestic Valluga via the picturesque Ulmerhütte down to St. Anton am Arlberg.
St. Anton itself has two separate local ski areas, plus three further areas nearby, all covered on its standard Ski Arlberg lift pass. And while this is not an ideal resort for beginners, the nursery slopes by Nasserein are gentle, and offer a decent area for first timers.
The major local area covers the slopes of the Gampen and Kapall mountains directly above the village, together with the famous peaks of the Galzig and the Valluga, and is linked with the slopes of the hamlets of St Christoph and Stuben. This wide ski area offers high-end blue and testing red runs, plus a couple of fair black pistes, and overall its intermediate pistes are at the upper end of their category - ideal for confident intermediates.
St. Anton's other local ski hill is the Rendl area on the opposite side of the valley from the main sectors, but directly accessible via a gondola based close to the village centre. This smaller area is often less busy and houses St. Anton's most intermediate-friendly slopes, as well as a compact but popular snowpark.
Spectacular freeride in St. Anton
St. Anton is also rightly famous for the extent and diversity of its freeride. The 200km of marked ski routes are avalanche controlled, so head for these when they open on a powder day. The main attractions for expert skiers are the ungroomed descents and off-piste terrain in the powder-filled high bowls and upper valleys beneath the Valluga mountain and off the summit of the Schindler Spitze above St. Anton.
There's also a first-class freeride area on Rendl, where fresh snow offers joyous powder-filled runs down to the valley and village.
The après-ski in St. Anton is legendary
Who hasn't heard of the Mooserwirt and the Krazy Kanguruh? But while the fame of St. Anton's most high profile après ski bars extends way beyond the confines of the resort, après ski and nightlife are St. Anton's other big attractions, and the resort's hugely popular big slope-side venues heave with activity from early afternoon until well after the lifts close, complete with DJs and live acts.
If dancing in your ski boots is not your thing, the bars down in the village also get very lively by teatime and continue to rock until the early hours, with lots of live music, sing-a-longs, and late-night dancing.
Indeed, St. Anton town is an attraction in itself. The centre of the main town is pedestrianised, has bags of traditional Alpine atmosphere, and is bustling with activity with a good number of shops, restaurants, cafés and bars.
Loads to try off the slopes in St. Anton
St. Anton's visitors - including non-skiers - are well-served when it comes to unwinding away from the ski slopes.
There are 40km of cross-country trails which have been awarded the state of Tirol’s seal of quality. Gampen has a 4km natural toboggan run. The fast and winding route takes about 15 minutes to descend into the valley. It’s classified as a moderately difficult toboggan run, but it is suitable for beginners and families. Other popular outdoor activities include snowshoe hikes, with 17 marked trails to choose from, ice skating and curling, paragliding and the ever-popular horse-drawn sleigh rides.
The resort also has two very impressive sports & leisure centres: the arl.park centre has a huge range of climbing and bouldering walls, including an ice climb, plus indoor tennis courts, a squash court, trampoline hall and tenpin bowling alley; whilst the stylish Arlberg WellCom aqua-leisure centre offers indoor and outdoor pools, steam room and saunas; it also runs the resort's outdoor ice skating and curling rink.
Given the integral part played by St. Anton as a pioneer of ski tourism, the resort's Ski Museum is also well worth a visit, housed in the elegant Villa Trier which featured in the 2011 film Chalet Girl. Several of the mountain restaurants are also accessible to pedestrians, via the gondolas and cable cars. Non-skiers even get their own non-skiers lift pass.
The scenery is just stunning
Snowy peaks are wonderful at the best of times, but St. Anton's snow-sure reputation ensures you're skiing in a real winter wonderland. For the most stunning views head up the Vallugabahn to the Valluga viewing platform at 2,811m. Just getting here is an epic trip, requiring three gondola and cable-car rides, but is so worth it. The last, the tiny Vallugabahn II, takes just two minutes to transport visitors 161 vertical metres up to the top station, next to an eye-catching radar system.
Once at the platform, you find yourself on the exact point where the regions of Vorarlberg and Tyrol meet. Wherever you look here, the views are simply breathtaking. The Lechtal and Allgäu Alps, the Verwall Mountains, the Ötztal Alps and even the Swiss canton of Graubünden can all be seen from here on a clear day.
It's the home of the White Thrill
Great events make great resorts and St. Anton is no exception. On 20 April 2024, a mass throng of skiers (more than 500 in 2023) will assemble on the Valluga Ridge when the lifts close to compete in the now legendary White Thrill alpine ski race which attracts winter sports enthusiasts from all over the world. Anyone can take part, although many know from experience that this cult race is not suitable for all.
The unprepared slopes demand high levels of skiing skill. Times between 11 and 18 minutes are a good average, but for most it plays only a minor role. The main thing is just to get over that finishing line. Spectators can also look forward to the flamboyantly attired participants, who roll in around half an hour later.
For more information about everything on offer in St. Anton am Arlberg, go to stantonamarlberg.com