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St. Anton this week

post #1 of 11
Thread Starter 

DSC02530.JPGI took the 6pm-8am Philadelphia flight to Zurich, but arrival was delayed by de-icing and then a long luggage wait.  I rushed to the train platform and my 10:30am train to St. Anton pulled up. The 2.5 hrs passed quickly, in the comfortable train packed with skiers, mostly Brits.  After we left Zurich, there was non-stop alpine mountain scenery to take in.   I jumped in a taxi in St. Anton to take me 6 miles up the road to my hotel in St. Christoph and I first felt the sting of the Euro. Thirty dollars for a fifteen minute taxi ride.  After checking in and changing I walked across the street and hopped on my first lift by 1:45pm.  I skied to closing at 4:15pm and was satisfied with what felt like a full half day of skiing.  But it turned out to be a longer day than expected, I made a newbies mistake and just missed the only lift that would have taken me to a slope back to my hotel, so I ended up having to ski down into St. Anton and then wait 45 minutes for a public bus to take me back to St. Christoph.


St. Anton is composed of two main areas, St. Anton and the Lech/Zurs area.  They are similar in size and each has about 40 ski lifts.  Last year I skied Zermatt and was disappointed by the lack of moguls and expert terrain available.  There was no such shortage in St. Anton. There are expert runs off just about every single lift with numerous bowls and couliers(euro for chute) on the top half of the mountain.
The groomed trails, or pistes, were well covered but hard and icy in many places.  I would not recommend St. Anton as a intermediates destination because there were so many steep and icy groomers connecting the different areas.  I don't fancy myself as a cruiser, but I thoroughly enjoyed cruising the miles and miles of pistes while exploring the resort.   Hard not to just enjoy being immersed in the incredible 360 scenery.  I think I rode about 60 of the 84 lifs druing my stay.  The St. Anton area has two side areas, Stuben and Rendl.  These areas connect to St. Anton and comprise about skiable 1,000 acres each with 3 or 4 lifts.  From end to end St. Anton is probably about 10 miles wide with a vertical of 4,000 ft.  Then add in the same for Lech-Zurs, a short 20 minute bus ride away, although the vertical might be a little bit shorter.  

The 2nd day I spent going from one end of Sst. Anton to another. The 3rd day I took a short bus ride up the road to Lech-Zurs. I had read that this area was more for intermediates, but somehow I read wrong.  Just about every lift had all varieties of terrain with many bowls, mogul fields, chutes and lightly skied out powder fields.  I took the challenge of skiing what is known as the White Ring, which is a circular route around the towns of Lech and Zurs. There are lifts on both sides of the road connecting the resorts, and you take a ski bridge across one end and then a short walk across the town of Lech at the other end to connect the sides.

DSC02577.JPGOn my last day I was first one up the mountain at 8:45 so I could maximize my skiing time  and catch the 3:00pm train back to my airport hotel in Zurich. It was interesting to see the lift operator prepare the ski lift.  It was a quad with about 100 chairs and they were all stored underground for the evening.   They popped up one at a time from underground as he loaded the naked cable with the chairs.  There were doubles, triples, quads and sixers on the mountain.  From the triples on up they had a moving carpet to load them, some were heated, and from the triples on up they had a retractable hood for storm days.  

A few observations. On my last run at Snowbird a few weeks ago I saw two separate ski accidents where the patrollers were preparing to haul a victim in the meat wagon.  During my entire stay in St. Anton I never saw any accidents, nor did I even see a ski patroller.  Also, it was extremely rare to see someone who had fallen down.  In the USA, your lift ticket covers ski patroller services, but in Europe, a rescue ride down the mountain will cost you, how much I have no idea. There is insurance available but I didn't have it, nor would I know where to get it.   In a skiers guide to St. Anton it mentions that ski insurance might not even cover off-piste (off the groomed trail) skiing, even when marked as a route.  The "no free rescue" was in the back of my mind as I explored the mountain, alone.

I didn't meet or hear another American during my stay, the language spoken was 90% German, with a few Brits and other Europeans around. Lift tickets are the only bargain in Austria at about $60/day.  Hotels are expensive and hard to find when staying less than a week. Food is also expensive, expect to pay at least 50-75% more  for each meal.  An orange 10oz Fanta on the mountain was $5! The only bargain is the free breakfast spread provided by your hotel. This was the third European ski hotel I've stayed in and breakfast in the US doesn't remotely compare to theirs.  Europeans who travel to the US must think we are Neanderthals when comparing breakfasts.  Many different types of cheese, fresh pastries, meats, fish, granolas, and the list goes on.  

DSC02623.JPGThere is a lot of travel and expense involved with skiing Europe.  Probably a much better deal is going for a week with a travel agency, but I had a free freq flyer ticket and can't leave work for a weeks time to travel.  Another thing to consider, is hauling skis and boots around, not for the weak - and if you have any sign of backache or tendonitis, forget it! At times I felt like a pack mule, and thought with just a few degrees less of fitness I could never do it.  Renting is the way to go, except for the cost, time and lack of familiarity with your own equipment.

Speaking of equip., I only ski about twice per year on destination trips, and I'm slow to spend my ski budget upgrading my skis. But this year I broke down and bought Rossi Phantoms 97's.  I had buyers remorse when I compared them in the garage to my Rossi Bandit's, thinking how I am going to manage skiing bumps with these wide skis.  My new skis have been to Snowbird and now St. Anton and they have been completely tested on all mountain conditions, and I'm thrilled and surprised they ski better than my old thin sticks in any condition.  They are quick in the bumps, I think I'm now skiing bumps better than ever and they work just fine cruising down the piste, no hesitation in getting them on edge. I even got caught in a moderately steep south facing morning crud field that had frozen overnight.  It was hairy until I traversed out, and the Aussies in the lift overhead had a good chuckle at my predicament.  But my skis held the edge while I clawed to the slope until out of harms way.

Patience is necessary with this kind of trip.  There is lots of traveling and waiting for time to pass.  I didn't have any real trouble with jet lag.  I slept enough on the plane and then the train ride to get me through my first day.  Luckily the plane was more than half empty both ways, and I made sure to reserve myself a seat online in an empty triple row so I could stretch out on the long flight.  The stewardess said the flights are empty all winter and the airlines makes their money on cargo.  My USAIR frequent flyer ticket only cost me 35,000 miles + $65.
In closing, I used to think that considering everything, Snowbird was likely the best ski resort in the world.  Ignorance is bliss, because now I have to rank St. Anton over Bird/Alta.  At least 4 times as big, with a similar mix of terrain except bigger. And although I don't think the snowfall quite measures up, from what I read, St  Anton has a reputation of being in the highest rankings of European snowfall.  

If you are considering a trip to St. Anton, I suggest the Mad Dog St. Anton ski guide, which has a list of budget hotels, B&B suggestions and other info.  But I see it is not available right now on Amazon, try Amazon UK or another used book source.  I think the end of January is likely the best time to go.DSC02584.JPG  There are long school holidays in Feb which crowd the resort and March is busy.  By the end of Jan, hopefully the sometimes unreliable European snowfall will have accumulated enough to open all of the mountain.  When skiing in Europe if you arrive in Geneva, Switzerland you can ski the western Swiss resorts like Verbier and Zermatt or the French resorts of Chamonix and the Three Vallleys.  To ski in St. Anton you fly into either Zurich, Innsbruck or Munich to ski the Austrian, German or western Swiss resorts.  St. Anton is the no-brainer considering the terrain, snowfall and ease of access which allows a half day of skiing on the way in. 


Last year I skied Zermatt, and posted a report titled "Zermatt Not My Kind of Skiing".  I can emphatically state that St. Anton is My Kind of Skiing!!


If you made it this far, here is a 2 star youtube video compilation I took from my handheld camera. 


Here is my complete online photo album.



Above is the village of St. Christoph, headquarters for my trip.

Edited by SnowbirdDevotee - 2/4/11 at 4:00pm
post #2 of 11

That is a real nice TR. I appreciated your details. And here is one question, you took the train (we went by road, to Lech-Zurs in 09) to St. Anton, from Zurich Airport, did you not have to change trains in Zurich Main Station? Just knowing there is a direct is helpful, since I vaguely recall there was'nt one.


Very interesting, your comparison to Alta-Bird, I have to agree though the snow in Utah is pretty much unbeatable, amount and quality but on terrain, length of runs, scenery..well, its good to read an objective perspective from a "local" of alta-bird, or devotee so to speak.


Interesting, you mentioned the fantastic breakfasts, what about dinner, most Austrian places were half-board when we went, i.e. breakfast and dinner, and it was the best food I have eaten anywhere (Montana in Oberlech); so just wondering what happened to the dinner?


You are an expert skier, just curious did you do the Valluga trail into Zurs, with a guide? Was it open, and how was it?


Thanks for a superbly detailed and lively TR.

post #3 of 11

It's nice to hear you had a good trip. Unfortunately, the ice you were seeing was a remnant of the unusually warm weather a few weeks ago that really played havoc with the snow base.


I only saw one rescue the whole week I was there. The girl must have twisted her knee or something, because she looked relatively ok as she sat with her group, waiting for the patroller. But, I did see a several wipeouts on the whiteout days. Unseen bumps were catching people off guard.


Staying Saturday to Saturday opens up a lot more options for accomodation, since that's what most places are setup for. The owner where I stayed said she only does week-long stays arriving on Saturdays so that she doesn't have to spend all her time on property.

post #4 of 11
Thread Starter 
Originally Posted by dustyfog View Post
 did you not have to change trains in Zurich Main Station? Just knowing there is a direct is helpful, since I vaguely recall there was'nt one.


You are an expert skier, just curious did you do the Valluga trail into Zurs, with a guide? Was it open, and how was it?

Right,  I took a train from the airport to the main Zurich train station, less than 15 minutes away, i had less than 10 minutes to find my way to jump on the train to St. Anton.  The train cost about $140 roundtrip. No wonder we drive in the US, would have been much cheaper to pay for gas and drive, if I had a car, but a rental was >$300. But of course regular riding residents would pay less.


The Valluga trail appeared to be open.  But I didn't hire a guide. I emailed Piste to Powder but they never got back to me. I skipped the guide, I spent enough dough as it was. I look at the guide as a novelty, completely unnecessary. I found my way around easily and the powder was too old to be worried about. I  saw quite a few guided parties around the resort


Edited by SnowbirdDevotee - 2/4/11 at 4:00pm
post #5 of 11

That Valluga-to-Zurs run is usually on the must-do list.  But as Glenn says you're not getting up to the top without a guide.


No surprise St. Anton skied much better than Zermatt.  Zermatt is a low snowfall/good preservation area best skied in March/April.  St. Anton is lower, more sun exposed (thus the hardpack pistes); January is probably a good time there most seasons.  This is quite a positive review for a time when there had not been much recent snow.  I would be interested in the dinner question (included in hotel stay, and how good was it?) also.  I have an unofficial source claiming Zurs is one of only 2 resorts in the Alps that gets 400 inches of snow per year.  Zermatt is likely around 200 inches.


I first felt the sting of the Euro.

Yes, I recall that from my 2 ski trips to France.  I just came back from Japan, and Europe skiing is definitely more expensive.  I had hotel packages including dinners in both Chamonix and La Grave.  The Chamonix hotel food was so-so, La Grave pretty good. In both cases we ate a few meals in independent restaurants, which were amazing in quality but of course not cheap.

post #6 of 11
Thread Starter 
Originally Posted by Tony Crocker View Post
 I would be interested in the dinner question (included in hotel stay, and how good was it?) also.

I was trying to avoid that. I paid much more for my hotel than I would have liked. Dumb story but you asked.

My flight was booked in March because I didn't want to lose my 35K seat.  In August I started looking for a place to stay and couldn't find a reasonable room, although I know I could find one now.  The only room I could find for 2 nts was at the Alberg Hospitz at St. Christoph, I think it was $270/nt tax included.  Ouch, but I was only staying 2 nts. (I ended up staying 3 because USAIR canceled my flight in November and I had to stay an extra day).  Only breakfast was included.

The workers all reminded me of the father and first mother in the sound of music.   Nice and extremely friendly and service-orientated, but completely by the book.  They had two dining rooms, one a gourmet type rest and the second a more regular restaurant.  The first evening they told me the regular rest was completely booked, even though hardly anyone was there, so they led me into the other restaurant.  I sat down and saw no prices on the menu, I was a bit disorientated after travel and my first day of skiing, but knew enough to get up and walk out, they immediately found room in the more than half empty regular restaurant, where I had a $40 good liver meal.  The second night somehow I thought they were having a buffet in the gourmet rest, they had an enormous spread but after I sat down I realized it was only appetizers, but could have easily been a meal for me, and even after seeing the no price menu, I was too tired and hungry and decided to just go with it.  I had a gourmet prepared three course dinner with pork knuckles as main course.  I choked when I got the 75euro or $110 bill.  What a waste!   I liked the food, a lot.  But I'm no Bill Gates and would rather save my ski budget for more trips. 


The third night I went to another restaurant with no prices, and walked out of that.  But then I found a nice completely empty restaurant in the Ski Austria "ski camp" hotel that only cost $32 with big soup and desert.  Pork something or other but good.  Also, seriously, I was more worried about hurting myself walking around the icy streets than I was of the slopes.  The 3rd nt I brought a ski pole along in my quest for a reasonably priced meal.

On the mountain for lunch I found a cafeteria that had filling $25 lunch.  Don't tell anyone, but next time I'm going to bring a doggy bag to breakfast and scarf cheese, salami and bread from the breakfast bar for lunch.


In St. Anton proper there was many more reasonable dinner choices.  Also, in St. Christoph no way can you eat before 7pm, some places don't open until 7:30pm. 

Next time I'll use the Mad Dog St Anton guide or online help to find a B&B or more reasonable lodging, reasonable probably meaning $100/nt for a single.  No $60 SLC La Quinta (for 2) in euroland.  The word Sport Hotel is what I would be looking for.


>But as Glenn says you're not getting up to the top without a guide.

You can get up there, but not with your skis w/o a guide.

post #7 of 11

Just for comparison, staying in St. Anton itself can be a lot cheaper, especially if you are staying for an entire week.


For example, last month I stayed in a single room in a nice B&B right next to the Rendelbahn and Galzigbahn lifts for €60/night. There were several other places in town offering a similar price as well. And, since most places in town are within easy walking distance of the train station, you don't have to add taxi fare to your costs.


For dinner, you've got everything from cheap burger stands to budget-busting restaurants. I went to a place a couple of times where I had a large pizza or big plate of spaghetti bolognese + 0.5 L of Coke for about €15. Plus, it had a good atmosphere since it was a bar and restaurant. A couple of years ago, I remember going to an Italian place with quite good food that worked out to be about €20 or €25 per person I think, but I didn't go there this year. I never felt inclined to go to any of the really expensive places though, so I can't comment on those.

post #8 of 11

devotee, were you skiing a lot of off piste while you were there or did you stay on the piste like at Zermatt?

post #9 of 11
Thread Starter 

When I was at Zermatt off-piste was extremely limited.  Because of the glacial nature of the mtn there are huge boulders off-piste, it would take a ton of snow to cover them.   St. Anton has off-piste skiing just about everywhere you look, and it is taken advantage of, but there are absolutely no warning about any cliffs, so caution is always in order.  In Zermatt everyone stayed between the poles.  St. Anton is not glacial.  I didn't see one bowl at Zermatt, while St. Anton/Lech/Zurs has a bunch of them. I wouldn't recommend Zermatt as a destination for skiers looking for advanced skiers looking for steeps or moguls.  The town of Zermatt was way cool though, and so was the train ride up the valley to get there, also the 6,000 ft vertical was fun.


Next year I hope to ski one of those mega resorts in France. Trouble is they are a little more difficult to get to than Zermatt/St.Anton - no short train ride, I'll have to bus it or rent a car.  (but there is a train to Verbier, Switzerland also on my list) It was nice to get a half days skiing in the day I arrived.  18 hrs after I left home.   

post #10 of 11

Hmmm for some reason I always thought Zermatt had good off piste (and thought you didn't take advantage of it)... guess not.

But St Anton I definitely know that theres some legendary off piste there... good to see you take advantage of it. Next time Valluga though?

And Verbier... damn that's some ill terrain there


Overall awesome TR

post #11 of 11
Thread Starter 

Hmmm for some reason I always thought Zermatt had good off piste (and thought you didn't take advantage of it)...
But St Anton I definitely know that theres some legendary off piste there... good to see you take advantage of it. Next time Valluga though?

>and thought you didn't take advantage of it

Come on now!

I am sure that Zermatt has good off-piste, if you had a guide.  Also, i was there in early December, but the coverage was good, just about everything was open.  It's glacial, it appeared that they must have cleared many of the big rocks of the slopes that were everywhere off-piste.  St. Anton had a completely different feel, with a number of good bowls. 






























There were a number of 1,000 ft vertical fairly steep shots at St. Anton that I skied.  Then there were a few more steeper ones that  I stayed out of since i was skiing alone.   There was good off-piste skiing just about everywhere you looked, and it was taken advantage of while at Zermatt Everyone stayed on the groomed slope.   Maybe four foot more of base would have opened it up more. 

To do Valluga you have to have a guide.  I considered it, but figured I spent enough and would rather put the dough towards another trip next year.  Also, in reality it is likely more a novelty except that with good snow you could probably ski powder on the way to Zurs.  But then again, I go the feeling and was told, it if is snowing, you can ski clean powder all day at St. Anton.


I've taken a couple dozen destination ski trips, always with friends or my kids.  But, considering the logistics and that I have freq flyer miles, looks like I'll be doing my Euro skiing alone.  But I'm glad that I made the move last year to fly East.  The experience makes me more of a complete skier and I really enjoy the cultural part.  I have enough miles for a couple more trips over and I plan on using them.  Since I'm relatively close to EWR and PHL I might as well take advantage of it!  I xc ski all the time alone, but like company for downhill, but I really enjoyed my solo trips.  It's nice not to have to wait for people while skiing(same goes for getting out the door in the morning<g>)  and eat up the vertical. 

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