This Austrian ski resort offers extreme terrain for powderhounds and extreme après-ski for those with the energy to sample its non-stop nightlife. Here's my guide to the resort and mountains
St Anton, the bustling, hugely popular ski resort at the foot of the Alberg pass in Austria (spreading across to St Christoph, Stuben, Zurs and Lech) offers some of the best – if not the best – extreme skiing and après-ski partying in the world… and the aim is to make St Anton an even more action-packed place, if that is possible.
Plans are afoot to link St Anton's mountain access via lifts from Rendl, to the resorts of the adjacent Paznaun Valley. This will enable a direct link into the small satellite village of Kappl (neighbour to St Anton’s closest rival, the equally hedonistic super resort of Ischgl) which in effect would then become St Anton’s ally. This link would also provide one of the world’s most amazing ski areas, with runs from Ischgl already descending to duty-free Samnaun in Switzerland. When this connection is made, the area will have more than 130 lifts covering more than 220 miles of marked pistes – and the off-piste will be simply mind-boggling.
Even before this becomes reality, St Anton has installed the world’s first Ferris wheel gondola lift at the Galzig base station, tripling capacity, allowing ground-level embarkation and making queues a thing of the past.
A traffic-free main street is lined with typical, traditional buildings full of pretty old-world charm, good shops, hotels and of course the bars and restaurants that make up the legendary St Anton après-ski.
St Anton is the largest and liveliest of the Arlberg resorts, with hotels and restaurants ranging from good-value to ritzy. The whole Arlberg region is easy to access on the mountain, with a fast lift system and bus service to the perfectly groomed slopes of Lech and Zurs.
The Arlberg resorts are all pretty expensive these days, with Lech and Zurs catering to royal guests among its well-heeled visitors. St Christoph is an upmarket hamlet with the super-luxe Hospiz hotel as the icing on the cake, while St Anton has started to become a pricey option – especially over the Christmas/New Year period. Stuben, another small hamlet, is the most economical option and offers the easiest access to the mountain and off-piste skiing. However, it is off the beaten track when it comes to après-ski.
Prime locations for accommodation lie in and around the lifts to the slopes, and there is now a new Wellness Centre featuring public amenities including indoor/outdoor pools, a sauna and steam baths, a sun terrace and some excellent restaurants.
Good intermediates and experts will have the most fun with tough red and black runs, not forgetting the awesome off-piste bowls below Valuga and plenty more refined skiing to be enjoyed just a bus ride away in Lech and Zurs.
If dialling from the UK, prefix all numbers below with 00 43 and omit the first zero.
Best in Galzig
Galzig Verwall-Stube (05446 2352501) Gourmet food at the top of the mountain; try a range of spectacular seafood dishes.
Sennhutte (05446 2048) on Galzig home run. Good range of Austrian-inspired food and choice; also live music.
Best in St Christoph
Hospiz Hotel (05446 2611), St Christoph. A world-famous hotel and restaurant. Most people remember the lederhosen-clad staff and the novel helter-skelter slide down to the toilets… but the food is superb, as is the service. It also has one of the best-stocked wine cellars in Europe.
Rodelhutte (05446 22690), on Gampen. Excellent meat dishes and good value.
Best fast food
Krazy Kanguruh (05446 2633), just above the village (400m). If local cuisine isn't your thing or you want a change, this place does great burgers, pizzas, and snacks. Most people come here and to the Mooserwirt (se below) for the beer and frolics, and the crazy drunken descent back to town.
Rafflstube (05446 2910) in the -centre of village, inside the Hotel St Antoner Hof. Delicious Austrian fine dining. Reservations are imperative, since the exclusive restaurant has only eight tables. An overflow dining room is available, though it is a little less special.
Restaurant Museum (05446 2475, www.museum-restaurant.at) at Rudi Matt Weg 10. Located inside the old museum itself, this formal, cosy restaurant serves hearty dishes by renowned chef Stephen Dialer. Prices are reasonable. Take the time to wander the rooms upstairs afterwards, as the museum is fascinating. St Anton, remember, was the village that pioneered the modern "Arlberg method" of skiing.
St Anton is famed for its buzzing après-ski, as life really takes off during the late hours when the bars fill up with shiny, happy people. A week in St Anton will see you staggering between the bars, some more legendary than others... a night "on the piste", if you like.
Best places to start the night
Mooserwirt (05446 3588) On the mountain, this and Krazy Kanguruh are legendary places to hang out as it turns dark. This one has the best selection of beers in the resort. Situated down Blue run No1, starting just past the Zammermoos chair, keep right past the Krazy Kanguruh. Book a table in advance and watch the electric shutters descend as the light show and party really take off. The place is jumping and packed to the rafters.
Krazy Kanguruh (05446 2633) One of the better-known bars in St Anton, and world-renowned. The party starts here early. Expect people dancing on tables and sliding 400m back down to town after a skin-full.
Best for live music
Underground on the Piste (05446 2000) The much-loved Underground bar has moved, and is now right at the foot of the piste. It has always been one of the best spots in the world for après-ski, with its great food, friendly atmosphere and top live music all night long. Joan, the eccentric owner, lost the lease on the old Underground... so this is set up in her house! Head right before the new Galzig Ferris station, then use your eyes: not many people’s houses have the word "Après-ski" lit up in neon, so you won’t miss it.
Griabli (05446 3673), on the mountain next to the Mooserwirt. Great live rock, blues and jazz music most nights. Popular and friendly, and offering a slightly less rowdy atmosphere than the neighbouring bars. Also serves great food with excellent service.
Best for cheap booze
Funky Chicken Very popular with a young St Anton crowd, this place serves chicken (unsurprisingly) and the place is packed after 11pm when Funky Margarita Hour kicks in. The beer is the cheapest in town – and there's lots of it. If you like a crowded, party-animal atmosphere, you'll feel right at home here.
Bobo's This underground bar is great if you want to get away from the pop and commercial music scene with a laid-back atmosphere, good live music and cheap beer. Find it next to Testa Rossa Coffee bar, underneath Dorfstub’n restaurant.
Kandahar With its international guest DJs, this is a top night-spot that morphs from cosy Thai/Indian restaurant into music bar, then nightclub from 2am right through to 6am.
The Hazienda (05446 2968; you need to book) Great for cocktails by the open fire. Superb food, too! After 11pm, it turns into a club – a great nightspot all round.
Piccadilly An old-school Brit-pub-disco. Some excellent live music before a dance/trance DJ takes you right through until the early hours in the Postkeller disco next door.
Hospiz Hotel 5* Situated in St Christoph (all the other hotels listed are in St Anton itself), the Hospiz has been a refuge since 1386. It's a truly luxurious, prestigious hotel with a reputation for fine food and an impressive wine cellar.
St Antoner Hof 5* Arlbergstrasse 69. Another luxurious hotel; many rooms have mezzanines and open fires. Superb food, excellent pool and spa, central location.
Hotel Schwarzer Adler 4* Dorfstrasse 35. Again, a vintage choice – this time established in 1570. Luxurious, close to the lifts and bars, with a lovely pool and spa and three restaurants.
Hotel Post 4* (www.tumbl.it/post), Dorfstrasse 11. Top-quality hotel, very central, offering half-board accommodation. Facilities include an excellent restaurant with a nightclub underneath, so opt for quieter rooms at the rear (with piste views) unless you are a night-owl.
Best for location
Sporthotel 4* Dorfstrasse 48. Located in the central pedestrianised area, this comfortable, traditional hotel has a good half-board restaurant – very good value. Other facilities include an indoor pool and a nightclub in the basement.
Skihotel Galzig 4* Hannes-Schneider-Weg 5. Modern, bright and clean, this hotel is blessed with a superb location right near the Galzigbahn. B&b guests are treated to a really good breakfast, but they will have to eat out for dinner... which isn't a bad thing in St Anton, where tdiners are spoilt for choice. Recommended.
Lux Alpinae 4* (www.tumbl.it/thomluxalpinae), Arlbergstrasse 41. Innovative, stylish boutique hotel with an indoor climbing wall right across the back. All rooms face south to the slopes of Rendl; sit in the bath and enjoy the views. Superb food, too. The only downside is the 10-minute walk to centre, though a regular shuttle bus is provided. Welcoming hosts. I stayed here and loved it.
Best of the rest
Kertess 4* Alte Arlbergstrasse 39. Owned by the same family as the Lux Alpinae, and situated right above it. Traditional, with excellent dining and quality service. Indoor pool, shuttle bus.
Hotel Tyrol 4* Arlbergstrasse 77. Situated 400m from the centre, this 100-bed hotel serves excellent food. Facilities include a sauna and solarium, plus a free shuttle bus.
Hotel Mooserkreuz 3* (www.tumbl.it/dskimooser), Mooserkreuzweg 1. Set back 800m from the town centre, but overlooking it, the Mooserkreuz has a sauna and indoor pool; guests can ski to the door.
Grieshof 4* Im Gries 20. Quiet yet central, with an indoor pool and friendly service.
Hotel Montjola 4* Gastigweg 25-29. Cosy lodging with excellent food, approximately five minutes' walk (uphill) from the centre. The fondue is exceptional.
Hotel Fahrner 3* Gastigweg 37. Again, uphill from the resort centre. Has a lovely, traditional Austrian atmosphere; family-run.
Hotel Pension Rendlhof 3* (www.tumbl.it/crystalrendlhof), Dorfstrasse 71. Well-received small hotel just minutes from the centre, yet out of range of the late-night singing!
Haus Genewein 3* Rudi-Matt-Weg 2. This is a top little b&b, with extremely accommodating hosts who like to socialise with their guests. It is situated only about 100m off the roundabout, by the Galzig lift. Even better, it is only about 20m from the legendary Underground on the Piste (see The après-ski – Best for live music, above) in it's new location.
British Airways (www.britishairways.com) and Easyjet (www.easyjet.com) fly to Innsbruck – easily the best option, since transfer by car takes less than an hour. Buses leave from terminal F every 15 minutes to Innsbruck rail station, then trains leave for St Anton hourly and take about an hour to get there. Train timetable: www.oebb.at/en.
British Airways, Easyjet, BMI (www.flybmi.com) and Swiss (www.swiss.com) fly to Zurich. Transfer takes about three hours by car. From the airport, there are eight trains a day to St Anton.