Better News: St Anton and Austrian skiing are back!

Better news for Euro snow fans at last, St Anton and Austrian skiing are back!

UPDATE 20/01/21: Well sort of, for locals. The deteriorating COVID-19 situation in Europe saw the Austrian government extend the lockdown to the end of February, with a review in mid-February.

For skiers it remains as we reported pre-Xmas, with limited opening for locals. The mooted re-opening of hotels in January will not happen now.

Cable cars and ski areas have been allowed to reopen. Hotels and restaurants are however still closed and entry regulations (quarantine requirement – see below) are in effect. De facto, skiing is only possible for locals.

17 January: The lockdown has been extended until at least 7 February. Shops, museums, and service providers might be able to open from 8 February. Hotels and restaurants will stay closed until the end of February. Minimum distance to others has been changed to 2 m (6.5 ft). In shops and on public transport, FFP2 masks will be required from 25 January.

If we could get there, we are at least considered ‘safe’ –

“From 15 January, only the following countries are considered safe: Australia, Finland, Greece, Iceland, Japan, New Zealand, Norway, Singapore, South Korea and the Vatican.”

This was the previous update from Xmas Eve:

Stubai Glacier fires up today Xmas Eve, St Anton from Boxing Day.

Limited skiing facilities for locals and the regional population will be available initially.

Powder skiing St Anton am Arlberg
St Anton stacks up with anywhere on the planet © TVB St. Anton am Arlberg Josef Mallaun

St. Anton am Arlberg is the original heart of Austria’s largest inter-linked ski area, with 305 kilometres of slopes, 88 lift and cable car systems and 200 kilometres of freeride terrain.

The 2020-2021 season celebrates some big anniversaries, including 100 years of official ski schools.

Yes, St Anton is where the legendary Hannes Schneider effectively launched modern skiing in the winter of 1921 with his invention of ski courses and the Ski School Arlberg. He came up with the then radical idea of dividing skiers into groups according to their ability and teaching them according to established guidelines.

Two years later in neighbouring St Christoph the Bundessportheim was created, to provide structured training for instructors and standardised qualifications.

Ski Instructors training at St Anton am Arlberg
They pretty much invented carving and teaching it too © TVB St. Anton am Arlberg Patrick Bätz

Who was the first Englishman, or woman, to be told to ‘Bend at zee knees!’ we wonder? Literally millions more have been since as the Arlberg method came to dominate ski teaching and technique around the World.

Interski, aka ‘The Ski Instructor’s Olympics’, has been held here twice, in 1991 and 2011. Which makes it 30 years since Australia first sent a team to Interski, where they wowed international and local experts alike. The detail of the performance was mostly erased from this correspondent’s memory by the quality of the after party at the Krazy Kanguruh, never mind the passing decades, but I’ll never forget the reception their display received. Their outfits were pretty cool too..

Australian Interski Team at St Anton 1991
Some of Australia’s original Interski team St Anton, 1991 © Owain Price

In any normal season aprés ski is as much or more a highlight of any Austrian snow holiday than it is just about anywhere on the planet.

St Anton alone features 90 bars and restaurants. But obviously with COVID-safe protocols in place and lessons learnt from last spring’s outbreaks across major ski resorts in the Alps things will be a lot more subdued for 2021.

Initially there will be nothing at all until January –

“The hospitality industry (hotels and accommodation providers) including bars and restaurants will remain closed until -under certain circumstances – open on January 18th, 2021”

St Anton am Arlberg works in close collaboration with the Center for Social and Health Innovation (CSHI) in Innsbruck, and serves as a model region for the ‘Covid-19 – Risk Management Winter Tourism’ concept initiated by the province of Tyrol. The aim of the project is to identify or avoid situations with an increased risk of infection in the winter season as early as possible. Current information on safety measures can be found on the link here.

You’ll never run out of options here

St Anton am Arlberg skiing

Unlimited is pretty much the only way to describe Austria’s largest inter-connected ski circus. The first t-bar went in at Zurs in 1936-37, followed soon after by the World’s first cable car built specifically for ski access. It carried 30 skiers at a time, 7 times an hour, for a total capacity of 210 per hour.

Nowadays an array of 88 lifts including the latest high-tech gondolas, cableways, and bubble express chairs hooks up 305km of marked pistes and a massive amount of freeride terrain.

They say it’s among the top 5 in the World, and it’s certainly easy to argue a case for St Anton am Arlberg being the world’s best ski resort.

A ski highlight for competent and reasonably fit intermediate or above skiers is the chance to do the ‘Run of Fame’ challenge – 65km and 18,000 vertical metres of downhill skiing – in a day through the entire Arlberg skiing area. It covers the dimensions of the fully connected skiing area, from Warth in the north via Lech/Zürs to St. Anton/Rendl in the south.

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. Just resist the urge to lunch and chill too along the way, which the beautiful high villages entice you to do. You can enter the Run of Fame at almost any point in the skiing area, with information displayed at appropriate points along the route.

Unlmited freeride? Tick © TVB St. Anton am Arlberg Josef Mallaun

For the latest Arlberg ski info (including restrictions etc) check here

Austrian Tourism info (including latest updates on COVID-19 restrictions etc) here

Valluga cableway St Anton am Arlberg
The Valluga cableway is spectacular and so are the runs from the top © TVB St. Anton am Arlberg