The Austrians say: “You take your wife and family to Lech, your girlfriend to Zürs, and your skis to St Anton,” so where better to travel to at this time of year than one of the world’s best resorts.
It was here that Hannes Schneider, the blessed son of a cheesemaker, developed modern skiing techniques and helped organise the first ski race, the Arlberg-Kandahar, which took place in 1928 (jointly conceived by Austria’s Ski Club Arlberg and the British Kandahar Ski Club).
St Anton’s current crop of powder hounds still includes the British, alongside Swedes, Germans and Aussies who schuss in to enjoy the finest off-piste skiing and après- ski partying in the Alps.
Tom Barber is a founder of originaltravel.co.uk
1 | STAY
As institutions go, an après-ski drink (or seven) at the MooserWirt terrace bar on the piste down into town is right up there. It’s rowdy, raucous and something of an Eighties time warp (particularly on the music front), but amazingly good fun.
Cleverly, in 2012, the bar built a luxury 17-bedroom hotel that guests can retire to after far too many steins of lager and Jägermeister shots. Mercifully, the rooms are so well soundproofed that guests need never hear the Europop and daily rendition of the 1986 poodle-rock standard “The Final Countdown”.
2 | DINE
Having supper at The Museum Restaurant may not sound like the crazy antics St Anton is famed for, but this evening-only eatery, in a cosiness-personified room with wood panelling and open fire, is outstanding. Try the Tyrolean venison with juniper jus and an underrated Austrian wine. The eminently missable 2011 British comedy (Tamsin Egerton aside) Chalet Girl was filmed in St Anton and the Museum doubled as a chalet. museum-restaurant.at
3 | PARTY
If you’re still standing after all that après-ski, then Kandahar awaits.
The best nightclub in town features a St Anton legend (within circles) — guitarist Gunar — earlier in the evening, but come midnight it has morphed from bar through Thai and Indian restaurant to party central, with DJs wheeling out funky house classics ‘til 4am. Catch a couple of hours’ sleep, then eat, ski, rave, repeat. kandaharbar.com
4 | DRINK
I refer you to the MooserWirt (see STAY, above) and its rival in the St Anton après stakes, the Krazy Kanguruh, on the opposite side of the same piste.
Both are huge terrace bars where the crowd consume thousands of steins of lager (2,500 litres in a single afternoon at MooserWirt, allegedly) and dance in ski boots on the tables. Both have passionate supporters, but which venue is for you?
The Krazy Kanguruh attracts Aussies and Brits, while the Mooser lures the Swedes, but we’re with the Mooser for the simple reason that trying to get across the slope from KK to your scratcher might prove difficult, and because of its resident DJ, Gerhard, who has made like it’s 1994 since, well, 1994. krazykanguruh.com
5 | LUNCH
En route from St Anton to Lech, on the extensive Arlberg ski network, stop for lunch on the sun terrace of the Hospiz Alm Chalet, the outdoor restaurant belonging to the Arlberg Hospiz Hotel. It boasts an impressive cellar of oversized wine bottles, so polish off a magnum (or Methuselah...) with your Wiener schnitzel, served by dirndl-wearing waitresses, before using the slide down to the loos (stairs + ski boots = hell), taking a peek at the cellar while you’re there. arlberghospiz.at
6 | DO
Get a guide. Even the locals do, and it’s the best way to seek out St Anton’s superlative powder skiing. The must-do itinerary for experts is the Valluga North Face descent down to neighbouring Zürs, where you are actually obliged to have a guide since the descent is so technical. Take a series of three ever-smaller cable cars and gondolas to the Valluga summit and then negotiate several terrifying “don’t-look-down” traverses along cliff edges. Survive that and it’s perfect powder the whole way to Zürs.
7 | SEE
How après-ski should be done at the SennHütte, yet another piste-side piss-up joint, but one frequented by Austrians rather than Antipodeans. This is the place to enjoy the true Tyrolean Teutonic experience rather than the pastiche, complete with oompah bands and boisterous singing and — inevitably — dancing in ski boots. Everyone speaks German, and you’ll think you do too as the steins of lager keep coming. sennsationell.at
8 | WHY NOW?
St Anton’s topography (it sits at 1,304m in a cradle of Alpine skiing) means that it normally has snow later than almost anywhere else in the Alps. On 18 April 2015, the White Thrill race, a hectic trip down from the Valluga summit five miles back into town, is a must. Navigate through the thousands attempting the challenge and it’ll take a proficient skier around 15 minutes (the record is just under eight) with the occasional uphill section just to keep you on your toes.
9 | WHEN IN...
Walk up the slopes to the Alber’s Rodelalm restaurant on Thursday night safe in the knowledge that what goes up must come down, and you duly do, by toboggan, in the dark and invariably drunk. Fortunately, hearty Tyrolean food means you’ll have a bit more padding to protect you. We find Rodelalm’s Tiroler Gröstl (roast potatoes, bacon and onions) has the desired effect, washed down with plenty of schnapps for Austrian courage. rodelalm.com
10 | AVOID
...St Anton if you’re a so-so skier. There are better places in the Alps for beginners or intermediates and while the piste slopes are decent, St Anton is mainly about the off-piste.