St Anton and the Arlberg is the cradle of alpine skiing, and for many St Anton remains the original and best place to enjoy it.
These days you get the same spectacular terrain, reliable snow, vibrant town and unforgetable aprés that made it great, plus the latest in new lift technology thanks to big investments over the past few years.
So time to go if you’ve never been, or go back if you haven’t been for a while, like SA Editor Owain Price.
Thank you Hannes Schneider! Without the guru of modern alpine skiing I guess I wouldn’t be writing this now, and you wouldn’t be reading it, because skiing as we know it would not exist. The original Austrian Ski School he founded in 1920 at St Anton introduced the “Arlberg Technique” to the world, and allowed millions to take up the sport as it spread and skiing became accesible to a mass audience over the following decades.
Of course other advances in equipment and lift technology, never mind trasnport for access to the mountains, followed, but without his new ski technique that made the exhileration of the sport readily accessible and teachable things would never have progressed so far.
On the lift front the first t-bar lift went in at Zurs in 1936-37, and the Galzigbahn cable car in St Anton soon after. It was the world’s first cable car designed specifically for ski access, carrying 30 skiers at a time, 7 times an hour, total capacity 210 per hour, which was likely enough back then.
If anyone who rode it came back to ski now they would be amazed at the advances in lift technology. The latest of which debuts this season, the new Flexenbahn gondola featuring 10 passenger cabins with a capacity of 2,400 per hour. The new Flexenbahn link between Zürs and Stuben/Rauz and 3 more new cableways this season – the Trittkopfbahn I and II and Albonabahn II, complete a 50 year dream to connect the entire vast Arlberg skiing area via cableways. So from 2016-17 the Arlberg skiing area will be the largest contiguous skiing area in Austria, boasting 305 km of downhill skiing as well as 87 lifts and cableways.
The list of other pioneers and ski stars at the Arlberg is long, their contributions and capabilities are manifold, and their stories unique. However, all these people have one thing in common: a love of skiing and a love of the Arlberg. Together they have made the Arlberg into a legend known all over the world.
The new lift links have allowed the area to create a new super circuit challenge, the “Run of Fame”, which boosts the skiing experience to a maximum of 65 downhill skiing kilometres and an incredible altitude difference of 18,000 metres. The skiing run leads across the Arlberg and through the entire Arlberg skiing area. It covers the entire dimension of the now fully connected skiing area – from Warth in the north via Lech Zürs with the new Flexenbahn to St. Anton/Rendl in the south – the entire Arlberg skiing area will be covered. An average skier will need almost a full day to cover the entire run via the Arlberg, from Warth to St. Anton/Rendl and back again. Skiers can enter the “Run of Fame” at almost any point in the skiing area; the necessary information will be displayed at appropriate points along the “Run of Fame”.
Sounds like good enough reason on its own to head back to St Anton. We fell in love with it back in 1991, when Australia’s first ever Interski instructor team came to town to show the world how we taught skiing downunder. Their demonstration was exceptional, and the after party at the legendary Krazy Kanguruh slopside bar even better. The Austrians invented aprés ski too, and it shows in ski towns like St Anton.
Being older and wiser I’ll try to party less next time. With all the new lifts and faster access to the amazing descents on offer I don’t think there’ll be much energy left either. Only one way to find out, and the only way you’ll find out how awesome it is too is to go. With lots of cheap airfares to Europe it’s a lot easier to get there now, and the variety of accommodation means there are plenty of great value packages for a week well under $AUD 1,000.
fast facts The Arlberg has 305km of groomed trails & 180km of ungroomed.
getting to St Anton & The Arlberg Fly Innsbruck 100km, Zurich 200 km, Munich 250km; easy rail and road connections, shuttle bus service from Zurich airport
more info www.austria.info/skiing www.arlberg.net
www.stantonamarlberg.com/en www.lechzuers.com www.tyrol.com
ski tour packages www.travelplan.com.au www.mogulski.com.au