Despite its fearsome reputation, a quick look at the run stats will reveal a relatively small number of black graded pistes, compared to what you might expect, but that is because much of the steeper terrain has been given the status of ‘off-piste routes’ which are not normally groomed or patrolled (although they are secured for avalanche danger).
It’s also important to be aware that most published statistics, which for 2013-14 extend to 340km of piste served by 94 lifts, refer to the entire Arlberg region, which includes St Anton/St Christoph’s linked area; the separate Lech/Zurs area (accessible via a tricky off-piste route with a guide but more realistically for most on the bus); the newly linked Warth/Schrocken (linked by gondola to Lech, not St Anton); and several other smaller areas.
So St Anton’s sector perhaps adds up to a third of that whole Arlberg figure, and when you take out those freeride routes, the kms of piste that are actually groomed and on your doorstep drops from triple to double figures.
Those local slopes are divided into three main areas. Most famous, and arguably the area on which St Anton’s reputation is built, is Galzig-Valluga, reached by a spectacular modern gondola from the heart of the village. This provides access to bowl skiing and some long reds. The second main area, Gampen-Kapall, can be reached by the Nasserein gondola and offers more intermediate level terrain. Finally the separate Rendl Mountain is easier to reach than it used to be thanks to a newly realigned gondola that departs from a more central part of the village rather than the outskirts as it once did. This is often a good, quieter option when the off-piste terrain is awful and the pistes, particularly in Galzig, are crowded.
Most of the legend that is St Anton relies on the tiny Valluga 2 cable car which climbs up the slopes to the region’s highest point at 2,811m and opens up some seriously extreme terrain. So serious in fact that you are not allowed to enter the cable car with skis or board unless accompanied by a qualified guide. Those challenges include the option to ski through the Pazieltal towards Lech, but are only suited to extremely skilled expert skiers who won’t be unnerved by the danger of death if a wrong move is made. However for the rest of us the top of Valluga 1 at Vallugagrat (2,650m) provides ample access to lots of steep and deep terrain, it is exposed to some of the most abundant snowfall of any area in Austria and much of the Alps. These are just some of the numerous itinerary routes, open bowls for which perhaps St Anton is most famous, chutes and steep gullies that abound in the sector – although it does have to be powder day for them to be at their most epic of course.
Although St Anton is most famous for its off-piste terrain and un-groomed itineraries it’s a little known (and perhaps in the circumstances, slightly ironic) fact that it was here that trails were first groomed to make skiing easier – this was before automated machinery, just a few men with a hand-pulled roller flattening the snow surface back in 1949.
Back in St Anton, some of the gentler terrain is found right next to the village where there’s an excellent children’s ski school area incorporating protected nursery slopes for young learners. More extensive gentle terrain with mostly blue graded runs are located in the Gampen area above.
Intermediates are spoilt for choice, but should certainly take a look at the separate Rendl sector, reached by new gondola from the village centre and home to almost entirely red rated pistes with a maximum steepness of 40 per cent.
There are still tough groomed runs for advanced skiers as well as all the freeride terrain. Mattun and Schindlergrat are infamous bump runs for example.
The Ski Arlberg Pass includes the neighbouring ski slopes of Lech Zurs (reached by bus from St Anton) which has a tamer reputation than St Anton. The pass has also been extended further for winter 2013-14 with a new gondola connection from Lech to a third sector, Warth Schrocken, offering another 60km of piste all on the one pass, now covering a giant 340km of groomed runs, one of the world’s five biggest ski regions.
St Anton’s main terrain park is located on the resort’s Rendl mountain which has had something of a renaissance in recent seasons with a new lift, its base station closer to the resort centre and linked to the rest of the ski area, making it far more accessible and more of a core part of the St Anton scene.
The Stanton Park is home to a plethora of kickers, ramps, pipes, boxes and rails and keeps getting larger each season. It now has three main lines, a Pro-line, medium line and jib-line so there’s something for all ability levels. The park has also been designed for easy access and fast laps thanks to its location next to two lifts.
The Park is also located next to Rendl Beach which features a terrace, a bar and restaurant with the aim of creating a chilled, party atmosphere; helped by occasional events including snow volleyball tournaments and freestyle contests such as the compete in the O’Neill Kirschbaum Battle (http://www.kirschbaum.cc) each March.
With the Ski Arlberg ticket you can access 4 more terrain parks ... as well as a newly created funslope on Galzig.