What can I say about St Anton, Austria? How do you describe the best week of an already awesome season of snow and snowboarding? (I’m still working on a short review video…)
St Anton was always going to be a big week – it was my last of the season, the resort is known as one of the best in Europe, and better still it was the destination chosen for “The Edmonds Snow Holiday 2012” where I’d be linking up with friends I hadn’t seen since last year.
I’d deliberately taken it easier in Mayrhofen the week before, and stayed for a day in Innsbruck on Saturday, which was a nice chance to chill for a day in a very relaxed city. More importantly – I got to a launderette to wash my clothes and boarding gear! The part which needed cleansing most was my ripening (possibly rotting) boots, but sadly I couldn’t get them washed and dried so they’d have to smell a week longer until I got them home…
Getting the train over to St Anton from Innsbruck was as easy as ever. The trains in Europe are cheap, regular and efficient – €12 from Innsbruck to St Anton, a one hour journey, and it drops you two minutes from the main street in St Anton.
The links and transport around the Austrian ski resorts really are fantastic – so much easier and cheaper than the ‘airport resort transfers’ in France.
The trip was organised by my friends Paul and Rachel Edmonds, and booked through ‘Alpine Elements’ – in total there would be nine of us in the group, most of whom I’d met the year before on the 2011 trip.
I walked 15 minutes up the main street of St Anton to the catered Chalet Alber in the Nasserein area, and it was excellent to finally catch up with everyone after a year of only email and facebook contact.
As we’d all arrived early, Paul, Matt, Steve and myself headed up to get a bonus half-day of boarding in. They’re all ex-seasonaires and into freestyle boarding… making them a lot of fun to go boarding with. All of them can hammer it down the slopes, but are more interested in finding hits and kickers to pop and spin back onto the piste, or some run up the side to spin off and drop back onto the piste, ollieing and jumping over every bump and fence – I get lost with the terminology for all the tricks but its fun just watching, and sometimes trying.
I guess I’m lucky in that I enjoy everything, however not a master of any – freestyle jumps and tricks, the park, straight-lining and weaving down the slope as fast as you dare, or trekking to get to some knee deep off-piste powder – so I’m really happy to board with anyone and follow along with their preference.
There had been an incredible amount of snow in St Anton this season, but for our week it was nothing but blisteringly glorious clear skies and sunshine, and by the end of the week with the snow melting slightly, I was down to a t-shirt – and ended up getting sunburnt! My skin going from its usual Shetland blue, past Scottish white, to a hot burnt red.
Always wear sun block!
Its good fun going out with a group, and after so many weeks of making decisions and trying to learn routes and piste maps, it was nice just to be swept along by everyone else! I’m never too worried about where we’re going as long as we’re boarding and having a laugh.
At one point down around the Stuben area, Paul and Matt discovered a cornice they wanted to jump off – I’d have loved to as well, but lacked the bottle to take it on – it was a big drop! It takes time to build up to things, at least for me, and I’d rather feel some ways confident about what I’m doing as opposed to ‘throwing caution to the wind’ and ending up in hospital. This being the case my progress is sometimes slow, but I always feel I get a bit better everyday.
After exploring some of the St Anton area, we all fancied heading over to Lech, which is also covered on the St Anton lift-pass, so we were surprised to find that there’s no actual skiable link… well, we were told you can actually ski over but you require a guide for a challenging off-piste section and won’t be allowed on the last lift up without one.
This being the case we made our way down towards Alpe Rauz between St Christoph and Stuben to catch the free bus. I’m not even going to pretend the bus trip was fun! It was busy, we couldn’t get on the first bus, were packed like sardines on the following one and it sometimes scary in the tunnels meeting other buses. The question at this point was “given that St Anton is so good, is Lech really worth the hassle?”
Well, we all enjoyed Zurs and Lech, it was quieter, there’s some nice long runs, and the park was good, but one trip over was enough for me, and most of the others.
The snow could be pretty hard packed in the mornings, but by 10am things were starting to soften to slush nicely. We grabbed some cheap food for the ‘Spar’ in the middle of the main street, and would thing head up to Rendl.
This was probably one of our favourite area’s, especially because it included the run ‘R1’ down to St Anton, which we did countless times. It also had a park, and while the others were happy to hit the bigger kickers, it sort of lacked intermediate jumps for me. It was still pretty awesome, and with my GoPro and camera being handed around we got some excellent pictures – even some of me!
Apart from the ‘R1’, one of our other favourite runs was the long blue run ‘17’ and onto ‘S1a’ to Stuben. Nearer the end of the week a few of us took the Valluga cable car, which goes from peak-to-peak and is a worrying height above the ground in the middle. It’s worth going just to see the views from the top of Valluga.
From there you can take the red runs ’19’ and then onto ’14’, which then took us onto our other favourite ’17’ to Stuben. It was probably one of the best and longest runs we did all week.
Apres-ski? Yet more fun. The ‘Krazy Kanguruh’ is one of the most popular places, which is at the bottom of red run ‘21’ or you can follow blue run ‘1’, and we found ourselves there or next door at ‘Taps Coyotes’ most days along with half of St Anton! It was funny watching so many drunk people trying to get down the slope, even some of the young instructors were having trouble getting their skis on at times for the short run down to St Anton.
I was laughing at one girl in particular who was having more issues than most, the hilarity peaked amongst her friends as she took a run up and attempted to jump into her skis… naturally this didn’t work and after she managed to get back to her feet and into her skis, she set off down the hill beginning with riding over the discarded boards and skis on the ground… it was funny until we realised our gear was amongst it! Another instructor headed down the after her holding his ski poles in one hand and a bottle of beer in the other! Amusing times.
The biggest nights out are Wednesday and Thursday, Thursday being the seasonaires day off, although in St Anton I get the impression that every night is a big night if you want it to be. Our biggest was Wednesday, where we ended up in Scotty’s, which is a seasonaires hang out, and does good cheap pizza.
Apres-ski jagerbombs, wine with the chalet meal, and then more pints and shooters in Scotty’s ensured a lively night, and the place was packed but good fun.
There was some talk the next day about me outside a burger shop, trying to pole dance on a lamp post and landing on my head, and a policeman telling everyone to keep me quiet because I might have been singing too loud… although I think its all rumours and lies!
It was interesting hearing my friends opinions on St Anton and Austria as they’re nearly all ex-seasonaires who have worked in France. I think they all agreed that St Anton is one of the best places they’ve been, and they were disappointed they hadn’t come to Austria sooner!
It’s so good going with a group of friends and that was certainly the biggest factor in making this the best trip I had throughout the whole season.
The debate for next years venue has started already… bring on The Edmonds Snow Holiday 2013!
St Anton am Arlberg – http://www.stantonamarlberg.com/
Alpine Elements – http://www.alpineelements.co.uk/ (The chalet was ok, a bit unorganised and the food wasn’t as fantastic as some chalets. The logistics were good though, and cheap!)
Krazy Kanguruh – http://www.krazykanguruh.com/ (There’s a map which shows where the place is on the piste)
For trains and timetables – http://www.sbb.ch/en/home.html