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A snowHead
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Location: snowHeadLand
Resort: St Anton
Country: Austria
Domain: Arlberg
Author: Richmond
Dates: 17-24.02.07
Our group: The OL and me (both 49) and the kids (both 12).
Website: here
Basics: Based on St Anton, includes St Christoph, Stuben, Zurs and Lech (and somewhere called Sonnenkopf). StA, StC and Stuben are linked, Zurs and Lech are linked, but the two groups are not linked to each other. StA includes a second area, Rendl, not properly linked to the rest.
Lift system: Pretty good. An impressive new gondola, the Galzigbahn, in StA replaces the old cable car. Elegant building and unnecessarily fancy engineering, apparently chosen to show off Austrian design and engineering (good for them). Elsewhere, plenty of big fast chairs, a few smaller slower ones. The odd cable car. A few T bars and even a button or two. The old gondola up to Rendl is showing its age but does the job. The buses seemed to be frequent Lech-StA and StA centre-Rendl.
It was half term so there were a lot of people about. The only bad queue we endured was for the cable car up to the Schindler Spitze, although the runs from there are worth the wait, although quite a few lifts had 5 minute + waits. On the other hand, plenty were just ski up and jump on, especially on Rendl.
It is possible to go by ski from close to the bottom of the Galzigbahn to the bottom of the RendlBahn, by a combo of rope tows, magic carpet and skiing. Very nifty. Doesn't work in the other direction, though.
The terrain: The StA area terrain is reckoned to be tough. We found it more interesting than many other areas, but not especially hard. Little or no cruising, and almost all the pistes, whatever their colour, have some ‘interesting’ sections. Not my choice for a beginner or 2/3 weeker, but those who are up for a challenge might enjoy it. There are a lot of ‘itineraries’ (marked, avalanche secured but not usually pisted or patrolled); some appeared to be pisted, some not. One was particularly foul, because of lack of snow and poor quality of what there was.
We skied in Lech one day, Rendl two days, StA/Stuben 3 days. All very enjoyable, although Stuben seemed to be all ice or slush.
Weather: Hotter than hell. Sun, sun, sun. No real sign of snow (it managed a very feeble 5 mins on Friday).
The snow: Someone in StA knows how to look after snow. There was precious little of it, and it was melting like snow in the sun. Virtually everything was open virtually all the time, and in pretty good nick. I cannot imagine how this was achieved. New snow is desperately needed; the lower third of the mountain is brown/green, a few flowers out, all very pretty. The pistes were inevitably as bit icy first thing and soft in the afternoon, but in the circs, the conditions were fantastic.
Off-piste: Off piste was, I am told, ‘spring conditions’.
Instruction: With some trepidation, I booked all four of us into Piste to Powder, an off piste guiding outfit who assured me that they would instruct us in the mysteries of off piste skiing, for two days. Before we started, the OL very wisely bottled it; she really doesn’t like off piste (it was the foul itinerary mentioned above which convinced her). The kids and I turned up to find that we were in the hands of the boss, Graham Austick. We shook hands (I’m having reconstructive surgery on my hand soon) and he showed us how to switch the transceivers on and off, and how to assemble our shovels and probes. We went to Rendl, and did a few runs on piste so he could see what he was up against. He gave us (mainly me) pointers on what I needed to be doing to ski properly. I had said at the beginning that I might bow out on day 2. After a couple of runs with Graham I decided to bring this forward to lunchtime on day 1; I thought that I wasn’t fit enough or good enough not to hold the kids back. On one run, I decided to tell Graham that; unfortunately he pre-empted me by saying that if it was OK with me, he’d like to take the kids off in the afternoon and go for it with them, as he felt that they could really get a lot out of it. Galling, obviously, but spot on. We did a bit of off piste, which I found enjoyable but totally knackering and couldn’t do nearly as well as the kids. We did some transceiver work and had lunch. Graham was at pains to say that I would be very welcome to stay with them, but I magnanimously declined, and waved the kids a relieved goodbye. The OL and I met up and had a gentle, old peoples’ style, afternoon on Rendl.
The kids had a great afternoon and were totally knackered. At Graham’s suggestion, they did just the following morning, rather than all day, and again had a fantastic time and claim to have learned a lot, on piste as well as off piste.
I was very impressed by Graham Austick and his operation. He is good company, and a very good teacher, so far as I could tell, and obviously enjoyed introducing the kids to off piste. The emphasis on safety was good for the kids, as well as adding to the sense of adventure, and skiing with someone of that level of skill in (for them) difficult conditions has given them something to aspire to. They were taken outside their comfort zone, which is good for all of us, and thoroughly enjoyed it. From what I saw of the operation in general, I was impressed; it seemed well organised and professional.
I’m struggling to fing something negative to say about P to P. Graham is very enthusiastic; that’s the worst I can think of. I should emphasise that Graham was perfectly willing to take me off piste, but felt that the kids would get much more out of it if I didn’t clutter the place up being useless and unfit (not quite how he put it). He was clearly right, and I was happy to leave them to it.
The kids and the OL were delighted that I was chucked out for being U/S, and no doubt much amusement will be given to our chums when they hear about it. Do Saga do ski hols?
From our experience, I’d recommend P to P if you fancy learning how to ski off piste, and I’d expect them to be good for all levels.
The OL had an afternoon’s private lesson with an old gent from the Skischule Arlberg, which she found very useful. Annoyingly, she wasn’t chucked out for not being up to scratch.
The resort: StA won’t win any ‘prettiest village’ competitions, but there’s little which is hideous. Since we were last there (17 years ago?), the railway has been moved sideways a bit, which is in most ways an improvement, although having the train running thorugh the town centre was quite fun. The new station is still very near the centre - about 5 mins by foot.
There’s a new and very swish swimming pool complex, indoor outdoor pool with bubbles, currents to whiz you around, that sort of thing, and an outdoor swimming pool, a bit small to be ideal. It doesn’t make the most of the views, but they’re still pretty good.
There’s a good toboggan run at Nasserein (StA), over 4km, which is open two evenings a week, but it’s quite pricey as the lift (Nasserein bahn gondola) must be paid for. The shops looked pretty average to me, but what do I know?
We hired our skis and the kids' skis and boots (and ‘free’ helmets) from Intersports right by the Galzigbahn. Very efficient and pleasant, gave us what we wanted, gear all in good nick and well maintained. For €40 we could leave our skis and boots there overnight (all week); although our hotel had a ski and boot room, it was handy not to have to carry the skis and wear the boots while apresing.
Mountain food: Plenty of choice, but not so many little bars on the slopes as there might be. We ate at:
Berghaus, Stuben: In the hamlet, not up the mountain. Excellent grub - best goulash soup ever, other grub very good.
Some outside hotel restaurant in Oberlech: overpriced (surprise, surprise), dull.
Rendl: Typical industrial alpine catering, charmless but pretty fair quality grub. Watching the old boiling fowl tanning on Rendl beach is mildly entertaining. The only grub on Rendl (I think).
Albonagrat (top of Stuben): Small restaurant, great views, limited range of good quality grub.
Town food: Plenty of places, but good grub underrepresented. We ate at:
Floriana: Italian restaurant opposite our hotel (see below). Food OK, nothing special, reasonable value, good service. We ended up waiting about 45 mins for a table, not the resto’s fault, and they served us like lightning when we did sit down.
Hax’n Stub’l: Austrian grub, near Galzigbahn. Large portions of OK Austrian grub, cheery but poor service.
El Pomodoro: Pizzeria, main drag. Cheap, cheerful, not great pizzas but OK.
Hotel Schindler: Our hotel. Excellent up market Austrian grub, very popular, booked up several days in advance. Not cheap (about €200 for the four of us).
St Anton café: Smart place near the Galzigbahn. Food good in some parts, disappointing in others. Good lunch, less good dinner, and dire, dire service at dinner.
Ben Venuto: Above the swimming pool. Outstanding food in a pleasant place. We were given (rather apologetically) a table overlooking the kitchen, which added enormously to the enjoyment. The four chefs didn’t stop to draw breath during the 2.5 hours we were there, and the pace became faster and faster as the place filled up. One of the most memorable meals we‘ve ever had, cannot recommend it highly enough. Not cheap (about €250 for the four of us, only alcohol one bott of one of the cheaper, though excellent, wines), but worth every Groschen (or whatever they are).
You need to book for anywhere decent in StA, and I’m sure that the same is true in the other villages.
Apres: We visited the Krazy Kangaruh one afternoon. Very jolly, if a bit self conscious and institutional. Good music for old timers like us. We weren’t the oldest there, but only by a whisker (one of the OL’s).
The other main après venue for us was the oudoor Square Bar (or some such name), part of the St Anton Hotel , near the Galzigbahn.
Nightlife: Didn’t indulge. Little evidence of hedonism, but I assume that it all goes on after we were tucked up in bed. The OL and I looked for a quiet bar for a drink one evening after dinner. We tried the Hotel Alte Post bar, but it was like a bloody kindergarten, with (English) kids scampering about to the strains of a (barely) live Austrian C&W duo, so we ended up in Jacksy’s (?) Pub, which was fine (decent old people’s music, Doors, Stones, that sort of thing).
The anti smoking movement seems not to have reached Austria; all bars and most restos were very smoky.
Accommodation: Hotel Schindler, Alte Arlberg Str, about 3 mins from the Galzigbahn. . Small B&B hotel, although with excellent resto. Very comfortable, decent brekkie. We had a mini suite thing, with a sitting area separate from the bedroom, with a good view own the valley, the kids had a perfectly decent room. Very small bar area. The hotel doesn’t offer half board SFAIK. We would (will, I hope) stay there again.
Travel: We booked flights to Munich befor ewe decided to go to StA. Not the best place to fly to. We transferred by train, which worked OK (just) but took a long time. On the way out, we were able to dine in Munich and arrived in StA at 11.45pm (after 2 changes in total). On the way back (2 changes, different route), our train from St A was delayed by over an hour, and we made the ‘plane by about 2 mins (our insurance would have covered the cost of another flight if needed). Next time, we’ll try to find a closer airport.
Costs: About £500 total for the flights, IIRC, about €1700 for B&B and about €100 for the train (good value). Passes €194 each for adults, €116 each for kids. Grub what you make of it. Prefer not to think about total cost, if you don’t mind.
Conclusion: To say that StA is a great ski area will not add much to the sum of human knowledge. We had a great time, the kids loved it and want to return next year. The OL and I rather missed the ambience of eg Kitzbuhel, but we both enjoyed the skiing a lot. For reasonably keen and competent skiers, it’s a very enjoyable place. We’ll be back, I’m sure.

St Anton Resort Report Feedback Thread

Last edited by A snowHead on Mon 5-03-07 12:38; edited 6 times in total
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