Where to Ski in St. Anton, Austria

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The most challenging ski resort in Austria is a town situated at the base of the Arlberg pass. During the 20th century, it was dominated by express trains barreling down the track between Zurich and Vienna, creating an unnatural separation of the slopes and the main street that usually led to long waits at the level crossing. Hosting the 2001 World Championships finally released the funds to move the station to the south of the town and put the trains underground, producing an open space in the heart of the resort. This was landscaped around an artificial lake that is used for skating and curling in winter. At the same time, lifts were placed around the lower slopes, improving the likelihood for ski-in, ski-out throughout the resort. Nasserein, formerly a poor relation known for its light on the pocket living accommodations, is now directly linked up by people-mover to the Gampen mid-station. At the other end of the scale, the super-rich are drawn towards the Arlberg Hospiz in the glitzy village of St. Christoph, efficiently engaged into the bigger picture via a gentle blue run from the Galzig mid-station.

St. Anton's reputation is built on rugged skiing and an indomitable party spirit that maintains the streets alive to the sound of music until the last merrymaker heads home. This happens briefly before the hotels begin serving breakfast, making a buzz that lasts day-and-night. The evening action focuses on the long pedestrianised main street, home to every best bars and clubs. By Austrian standards, the feeling is exceptionally international, having Brits, Swedes and Germans drawn together by Antipodeans searching for a winter season, or in many cases a new life, in the Alps.

Although St. Anton does have slopes for snow users of all skills and ambitions, experts are the ones who will benefit most from its broad network of challenging runs. The primary event is the Valluga just above the town, accessed through three cable-cars, the first to the Galzig mid-station, the next one to the Valluga Grat - the starting point for the rugged descents down Schindler Kar and Mattun. Originally black pistes, these were reclassified as ski routes, a clever twist that shifts the responsibility from the resort (which no longer patrols or sets them) to the skier (who tackles them at their own risk).

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© 2012 Athena Goodlight

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