Just back yesterday from a week in St Anton, where we were blessed with a great snow base from the early season falls, and fantastic sun and clear blue skies for 5 out of 6 days skiing.
I read all the reviews, heard all the stories, listened to all the rumours that St Anton was a bit special, but was still a little surprised at just how good a week we had. Yes - the company you share does make a difference, and I was lucky enough to have my wife and 2 adult kids with me, along with my best friend Skidaddle, and 3 other good skiers and especially decent people, including Ellistine and his other half. 8 of us shared a catered chalet booked through Skiworld.
The morning flight out of Gatwick on Sunday 4th was on time leaving, and arrived 30 minutes late on a clear and calm day - a good start. We were in resort for early afternoon, and were greeted by our chalet host, Wallace. You would never have guessed he was Scottish.....
A bit of cake and afternoon tea and we were off into town to get our bearings. The chalet was situated in Oberdorf, up the hill on the road round to Stuben
but only 10 minutes walk into St Anton. We walked into town and located Scotty's bar, with the cheapest pint in resort. Thanks, Wallace. A few beers were consumed before we returned to the chalet for dinner, and met the resort rep, Adrian, who was re-christined Hadrians Wall. He took a lot of good natured stick very well, it has to be said. Lift passes were delivered, and a superb dinner was eaten, before we all retired to bed, eager for the mornings action on the mountain, and the long awaited meeting with Tino_11.
Monday morning saw a promising start with a little cloud and the sun poking through, and we headed to the bus stop at the end of the road, literaly a minute from the chalet. The bus arrived early but waited for us to walk down the path, and we were soon waiting at the door to the shiny new Galzig cable car for the first lift of the day, somewhat amazed to find no more than another 15 or so people doing the same thing, having read of "huge queues" and "serious congestion". I stand by what I say that the first week in January is the best week of the season to ski.
We were whisked up to Galzig, one of the main mid stations in St Anton, and tentatively skied down a nicely groomed blue that would have been a red anywhere else, and back up a chair where we took the next cable car up to the Valluga, the highest part of St Anton, where we were greeted with this view:
After some interesting reds down across the Schindler Spitze, a steep and high peak that views the whole spectacular valley, and down to the cafe at the top of the magnificent Blue 17 run down to Stuben. There we met up with Tino_11, got to know each other and spent a fabulous day touring around the area, finding our feet. It was going to be a very good week.
St Anton is full of people who take themselves very seriously, you can sense that just from walking around the town and seeing what people look like. There are a lot of very good skiers around here, this is certainly not a place for the tentatrive or nervous skier, and certainly not a place for beginners. It has some lovely long runs, some great off piste, and some exciting and fun ski routes. The scenery is as spectacular as it can possibly get, notwithstanding the fact that I havent skied the Dolomites yet. No run here is easy, especially on day 1 when you are finding your way around, but the place has an atmosphere to it, something a little bit special, and the feeling or travelling around over distance. There is always something new to have a go at, and some of our group skied off piste and moguls for the first time, depsite being experiened in terms of previous weeks.
Having clear sunny weather really does help make or break a ski week, and we were really lucky to have almost perfect visibility, give or take the odd first hour or so of flat light in the shade, light snow, or low cloud.
As for the slopes, the grading of colours leaves a little to be desired. We skied blues that were harder than some of the blacks, reds where you needed to pole in some stages, and blacks that simply flew to the valley floor. The condition of the pistes was excellent in the main, despite there not having been any fresh snow for almost 2 weeks, and St Anton is lucky enough to have quite a lot of sun on its slopes to soften up the snow. Luckily for us, it was still very cold during the day so the snow kept well all week, but there were a few bare patches off the pistes, and a couple of runs with stones showing through later on.
The runs up the Gampen side were lovely in the morning, drenched in sun and beautifully groomed, perfect rattling corduroy. You can take the 4 man chair from town straight up, or what we prefered to do was take the flashy Galzig cable car from next door up, and ski a few runs over on Galzig before heading down the valley on blue4 which we christened the Dentist run (as it was in shade all day and was seriously cold as you hurtled down the piste), and where the 2 mountains meet you can take the Maltun chair up to Gampen back into the sunlight.
We played around on Galzig quite a bit, where you can ski down the St Christoph and Studen side on some lovely long blues and reds, including the fantastic blue 17 run where you come back up the Valfahegr chair from Alpe Rauz, and link back up with the Schindlerat Chair back up to thr peaks of Schindler and Mattunjoch, where the serious off piste was already well tracked, and where you could follow ski routes or thick untracked snow back down towards the Dentist run.
Reds, blues, blacks, routes, off piste......the whole place is begging to be skied and skied hard and fast as well as the week goes by and your confidence increases. Tino spent a couple of full on days with us, and he was great fun, and we shared a few beers in the Mooserwirt which is one of 2 main stop off points on the main run back into town from the slopes, the other being the Krazy kangharu where we spent the last hour of our time on the slopes at the end of the week.
You take blue4 or 2 from the top and onto blue 1, where both bars are clearly signed. However, this run is well worht doing top to bottom in the morning before it becomes busy, icy, full of donuts and quite dangerous by 3.30pm. I would hate to have seen this run over Xmas or New Year!
We decided to have a day over at Rendl, somewhere which often gets overlooked by many who visit St Anton. Rendl is in the sun most of the day, and offered some gorgeous and varying runs, all of which I would thoroughly recommend, including the ski routes from the top of the 2 Riffel chairs.
There is a park over at Rendl for those of you who like to play, and Ellistine got his twin tips out! The Abfahrt run off Rendl is absolutely fantastic and has to be skied before lunch to really feel the beauty of it, as it does get harder once the sun goes, and people make it more difficult to ski.
The Rendl gondola is only a 3 or 4 minute walk from the main lift in town, and is also served by the highly efficient ski bus service.
You can also ski down from the Galzig and Schindler areas into Stuben, where a free bus operates to the Sonnenkopf area, where we spent another day. We were all quite hungover unfortunately, and probably werent really feeling the greatness of this area, but its well worth a trip over as well, with some quite tricky terrain over at Glattingrat, with a tremendous blue run (5) back down to the main cafe area. The Abfahrt is a long and wearing track which does get quite icy late in the afternoon.
last lifts were mainly 4pm in most areas, so if you do venture to Sonnenkopf, make sure you hit Stuben before 3.15 in order to get back over to St Antons lifts.
We were up Valluga late one afternoon, having took the last cable car to the very top at 4pm and witnessed a spectacular sunset:
We didnt make it over to Lech and Zurs, mainly because we couldnt be bothered as there was so much we wanted to ski again, and to be fair we covered some serious mileage in the 6 days with a lot of good fun along the way too:
St Anton is a cosmopolitan village, not the bigger town I had imagine it to be, less like Verbier
. Its not cheap, although nowhere is with the current exchange rate. Expect to pay £5 a pint everywhere, sometimes more, although some bars have a happy hour. Scottys down past the bank near the Pharmacy was 4 until 6, and a pint was £3.50, which was more bearable.
Theres a couple of supermarkets in town, well stocked too. Its a lot cheaper to take some beers back to the chalet, and then head out after dinner!
It was my wife's 40th while we were away, and we had an absolute scream one night until the early hours, with a pistey basher ride up the mountain, followed by a fondu and hot stone cooked meal, before we headed around several bars creating quite a bit of interest as we went:
Would I recommend St Anton? Most definitely, but only for those who are competent and experienced enough to handle it, and I dont mean that in a negative way towards beginners or timid intermediates, but there is some steep, difficult and busy terrain here. There was a bit of everything for us all, and its easy to get about. We never queued once for a lift, except for the 2nd stage cable car up the Valluga, which warns you that it is for good skiers only before you go up!
Would I go back? Absolutely. I found a number of runs here I thoroughly enjoyed, each for their own individual reasons, and skied them better and better each time. All of our group loved the place: the variety, the conditions, the town, the chalet, and the superb Wallace - our good natured fun loving chalet host. God knows how relieved he must have felt when he waved us off on Sunday morning.
Congratulations to Skiworld for a faultless holiday, excellent transfers, and Monarch Airlines for on time and smooth flights. The journey each way was virtually faultless and as relaxing as travelling on a package can get.
Runs to recommend:
Ski route 14 and 12 off the top of Giffel at Rendl, good fun
Red 1, the Rendl Abfahrt, a pleasure from top to bottom before lunch
Blue 4 "The Dentist" down from Galzig, fast and cold
Red 14 from Schindler, steep and difficult but spectacular views
Blue 36 on Gampen, fast cruising in the sun
Blue 17 down to Stuben and Alpe Rauz, best in the morning when its seriously fast and not so busy
Ski route 15 off Schindler, very steep in places and lots of moguls to have a go at
Ski route 18 off Galzig with a natural half pipe at the bottom and some deep powder still to be had even after 2 weeks of no dumps
If you havent been to St Anton yet, put it on your list of must see places. It doesnt get the rave reviews in the likes of WTSS for nothing.
A seriously fantastic weeks skiing.