Colin Tattum enjoys St Anton, an entertainment capital which plays host to the Alpine Skiing World Cup series.
It had been two decades since I last visited St Anton, the so-called cradle of Alpine skiing.
Situated in western Tirol, it is the destination of choice for Austrians and also British aficionados, primarily the intermediate to advanced skier.
And it’s easy to see why, such were the varied slopes and the sheer choice of routes on offer.
St Anton is one of five villages that makes up the Arlberg region – St Christoph, Stuben, Lech and Zurs are the others.
So there is plenty on offer and for those who like the challenge of off-piste adventure, it doesn’t disappoint.
For the history buffs, St Anton is where the legendary Hannes Schneider founded the first ski school and revolutionised downhill techniques.
And it is also regarded as the après ski party capital; you can ski hard and play hard for certain.
But St Anton has been polishing up its act of late.Our party stayed at the newly-opened Mountain Lodge chalet, built and run by Inghams, a very short bus ride from the village centre and a eight euros taxi fare back at night. A very impressive, modern facility snuck in amid other lodgings, it was an excellent, quiet base. The chalet girls were excellent hosts, charming, enthusiastic and engaging.
On our first day skiing, we were introduced to our guides and my group was attended to by the laid back Frank, who became an instructor as he realised pretty quickly that sheep-farming, his summer occupation, wasn’t viable when the snow came down. We got our ski legs back and our muscles working with leisurely runs around the Gampen area and over to Galzig. The red runs varied: in places they were taxing, in other sections not so. And the couple of black runs we ended up doing towards the end of the stay were not actually as hard as I would have imagined.
That said, St Anton is not really the kind of resort for a beginner.
On day two, we took a delightfully long run down to St Christoph, a very quiet and exclusive village famous for the Hospiz, a former monastery that is now a five star hotel.
We had lunch there – the food was delicious and portions plentiful – and no visitor should really leave before taking the cylindrical slide to the toilets, instead of clumping awkwardly down the stairs in ski boots.
And for another wonderful culinary lunch experience in between the skiing, the Verwallstube on Galzig is highly recommended, and not just for the spectacular views of the St Anton valley down below.
During our visit, St Anton hosted the Alpine Skiing World Cup women’s downhill and it was quite a eye-opener to see such racing at first hand.
Reaching speeds of approaching 80mph on what looked like sheet ice from the top of Kapall, I doubt the ladies would have been trying to remember such neat and effective pieces of advice that Frank put into my head about hand position: ‘drive the bus!’. A visit to St Anton is not a visit to St Anton unless you sample the après ski at two bars near the foot of the main run from the Galzig area.
The Krazy Kangaruh is a favourite haunt of the Brits and our group opted for the Mooserwirt, a newer venue, on the other side of the slope.
The Museum Restaurant is well worth a visit. In a fantastic, atmospheric setting, the food was exquisite and the service excellent. Just before dessert, a wander around the fascinating ski museum upstairs added to the occasion.
Twenty years on, St Anton has changed and it hasn’t. There is more scope in terms of bars and restaurants, your traditional fare as well as more upmarket, chic places dotted along and around the pedestrianised main street. And as for the skiing, well, it’s as good as ever.
Colin Tattum travelled courtesy of Inghams. Inghams (01483 79 11 14; www.inghams.co.uk) offers the resort of St Anton in the Austrian Tirol with 7 nights at the Inghams Mountain Lodge starting from £514 per person for 7 nights on half board, including return flights to Innsbruck and resort transfers. Six day lift pass starts from £170, ski and boot hire from £166 and 3 days ski school from £140. An Adult Ski saver from £379 (includes 6 day area pass, 6 day ski hire & 3 days tuition). Daily flights are available from London Gatwick with easyJet to Innsbruck with www.easyjet.com from £60 return. British Airways (www.ba.com) flies five times a week from London Gatwick and new for 2012-13 Monarch (www.monarch.com) will fly three times a week from Manchester Airport. Affordable resort transfers are available through www.transfer.tirol.at. For more information about Tirol www.visittirol.co.uk or St Anton visit www.stantonamarlberg.com.