St. Anton am Arlberg is truly a skiing paradise.
Located in Austria’s Arlberg region, one of Europe’s snowiest areas, St Anton’s reputation precedes it both on the piste and for its famous apres ski. This year the already extensive ski area got even bigger with four new lifts connecting St Anton to Lech and Zürs, making the Arlberg the largest linked ski area in Austria with more than 180 miles of piste.
For those used to visiting the impersonal purpose-built resorts which dominate the popular French resorts, St Anton is a breathe of fresh air with a charming atmosphere.
The town itself is a mix of old and new, the pedestrianised main street is lined with traditional-style buildings and it oozes Austrian charm and character. During our visit it was the town’s annual jazz festival where bars and streets were taken over by a variety of acts.
But at the end of the day it is about the skiing.
The Austrian Arlberg region dates back to 1270, although the first attempt to ski the region was made by the parish priest of Lech much later in the winter of 1895. Over the next few decades tourism in the region increased rapidly as the resort flourished prompting Hannes Schneider to establish the first Ski School in 1921; Ski School Arlberg.
St Anton’s ski school still has an enviable reputation, but it is a full day affair for children, very different from other parts of the Alps.
We travelled to St Anton during a particularly mild Easter holidays in April and never having skied Austria before I was a little nervous about snow conditions as much of Austria is fairly low.
I needn’t have worried. St Anton is a high altitude resort and although home runs did become slushy it was still possible to ski home at the end of the day if you picked your route carefully.
St Anton is ideal for the more experienced skier and snowboarder, but could be challenging for beginners.
We were staying at VIP Ski’s Hotel Montjola. A few minutes’ walk down to the main lift, piste and party strip, it is close enough to be in the action but far enough away for absolute quiet and one hell of a view.
But for ski weary legs at either end of the day the very helpful staff are more than happy to give you a lift to the lifts or even back from the lively apres at a reasonable hour.
The hotel was built in 1932 and has been owned and run by the Nohl family since 1939. VIP Ski’s refurbishment retained some of the Austrian charm, such as a the traditional ‘stuble’ which was full of games, a television and area where the children could hang out. The hotel has a stylish lounge and bar and a relaxation suite with sauna, steam room and outdoor hot tub.
All bedrooms have en suite bathrooms with cable flat screen TV, wi-fi and hairdryer. Many have a balcony or terrace with spectacular views.
Catering is chalet-style with a good choice of menus. Children have their own menu, but were able to mix and match off the adults.
We had one of the family rooms which was plenty big enough for the four of us. Families with infants and children are welcome in the hotel on all dates. They offer private nannies or the Montjola Kids service, a shared nanny service created specifically for families with ski school aged children.
Being the Easter holidays there were plenty of children of all ages. The staff were plentiful and helpful.
In contrast to France where ski guiding by tour operators has been banned, in Austria we were able to take full advantage of VIP’s ski guiders. This was particularly useful as we had never visited the resort before. It also means that you get to see the extent of the resort and the best snow conditions.
That brings me to St Anton’s legendary apres ski. The après-ski in St Anton is as lively as you would expect of a bustling Austrian resort. The bars rock from mid-afternoon until the early hours, and starts in a collection of bars on the piste just above the village.
The Krazy Kanguruh is probably the most famous, but the Mooserwirt is also a popular choice and I have to say our favourite. The only thing you have to watch out for is the short ski down from the bar to the resort, although it can be accessed by car too. For those wanting a less frenetic apres there are plenty of great bars to choose from in town.
There is plenty to do off the slopes. The leisure centre has indoor and outdoor pools, sauna and gym, there is a climbing centre, an ice rink, toboggan run, horse drawn sleigh rides and paragliding.
A seven-night stay at Hotel Montjola is priced from £729 including meals, return flights from Gatwick, coach transfers and VIP SKI’s chalet service.
For more information please visit vip-chalets.com or call 0208 875 1957
Lift passes: A 6-day adult lift pass for St Anton am Arlberg is priced at 262€/£233
For more information on the Tirol region visit visittirol.co.uk