by: Mike Barrett - 24th March 2012

  • 4
  • Beginner
  • Intermediate
  • Advanced/Expert
  • 5All-Mtn. Terrain
  • 3Family Friendly
  • 5Aprés Ski
  • 4Terrain Park
  • Overall Value
Terrain, Lifts, Scenery
Crowds, Expensive, Buses

Full review

Our first experience in Europe was to ski St Anton am Arlberg, the bastion of alpine skiing and the mecca for off piste. We stayed in the town of Pettneu which is about a five minute bus ride from St Anton, there were absolutely no available rooms in St. Anton during our stay, that should have been a serious red flag right there! The terrain that is available in St Anton is UNBELIEVABLE!!! The Schindlergrat must be one of the best lifts in the world. One run on the map would swallow whole ski areas in America. If our local hill has 3000 acres of terrain then St. Anton has well over 3,000,000 acres! The ease of accessing the off piste stuff was surprising easy although a guide will get you to the goods a lot easier and safer. The fact that you have to take a bus (pretty much everywhere) to get to and from Zurs and Lech is a bit of a bummer, especially if it's a powder day because everybody will be on the same schedule and the buses will be jammed. The skiing itself was very good. I'd have to say that skiing in Europe as compared to North America is neither better nor worse but it is most definitely different. The lift lines are an entirely different story! For such an advanced society there is absolutely no civility in the lift lines, EVERY MAN FOR HIMSELF! (or herself). There are no corrals just a giant vee that everyone kind of pushes their way to the front in, throwing elbows and planting ski poles between someone else's skis are all just part of the fun apparently. Every morning there will be a large line to get up the mountain and then the upper lifts will form lines as the crowd surges higher on the mountain but as the day progresses the lines will subside (everyone goes to lunch and starts drinking by about 12:30) and by the afternoon you can pretty much ski onto the chairs without waiting at all. So if you can either get ahead of the crowd or stay behind it you can avoid the largest lift lines. The lifts themselves are modern and efficient (except for the lifts in Stuben, which unfortunately access some of the best terrain on the planet, and the lift out of Zug). I've never even heard of an 8 seat bubble lift with heated seats!...fancy indeed. The run down to town at the end of the day is total comedy, thousands of skiers descending the same run on either slushy bumps or pure ice and most of them are not very good. In a way it was kind of fun to have this mass of humanity serving as moving slalom poles but for some I could see it as nothing more than a dangerous chore to be completed as quickly as possible. The Square Bar became our regular hangout during the 2 weeks we were there. Kathy was nothing short of awesome and the place has a real good vibe (so long as it isn't storming, The Square Bar is an outdoor establishment). St Anton Bar is right next door if the weather is bad but be forewarned any indoor bar is SMOKEY!...and a lot of restaurants too. The town of St Anton is charming but not nearly as extensive as I would have expected (I know that Whistler is a purpose built resort but it has EVERYTHING you could need or want). All the grocery stores close by about 7pm and a lot of places are not open during the day...odd. I guess that everybody eats lunch on the hill. Most of the restaurants seem to either have the exact same menu or something very close to it. Everything is EXPENSIVE! If you need to use a ski bus to get back to your hotel then you need to leave town by about 5:30 or so and although the buses run until late at night after that time they become pay buses and their frequency drops off quite a bit. Taxis are expensive but if you have a large group then they may be worth it. Overall we had a good time, met some fun people, enjoyed some spectacular scenery and skied some of the best terrain on the planet...we will go back!
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