Skiing in St Anton am Arlberg – the good, the bad and the luxurious!
Growing up we spent most of our holidays with our family either on the farm or at the beach, lazing in the sunshine, swimming in the oceans …
skiing was never an option!
Having signed my relocation contract (London!), we were lucky enough to not really have anything to worry about … at all … my employer was locked in, removalists confirmed and relocation agent for a rental property booked.
We had nothing to do other than think about the holidays, what, where, how … and most importantly … first! Now our trip to St Anton ended up being our second holiday (we couldn’t resist booking a quick weekend to Paris), but it was certainly our first one we planned, booked and paid for!
Planning a ski trip …
It was the most exciting and nerve racking time, we didn’t know where to go, what to do or what to expect, or if we would be any good at skiing! It is a holiday you would either love, or hate, obviously correlated to your ability to pick up the basics and build some confidence.
That being said, we started looking at accommodation, for those of you who may have done the same, our experience is that there is a considerable gap in the quality of accommodation. These were either affordable, back to the future (styled in the 50s) hotels/chalets, or lavish chalets for the affluent folk completely out of our price range. One thing was certain, we needed a place to come home to after a long day of skiing to relax, or even worse, spend the day at if we ended up hating the snow.
From the moment we stumbled across the Mooser hotel, nothing else compared. It was an incredible, amazing restaurant with even better views. The resort, and I call it a resort because of the amenities available to us was out of this world! It was by far the most amazing place we’ve stayed.
Let’s start from the beginning…
We got picked up from the station in a lovely Audi Q7, driven up the mountain to where the hotel was located, we then drove into what appeared to be a single car garage. The automatic door closed, classical music started playing and the enclosed box we were in started to move …
it was a car lift leading to the expansive underground car park…
From the moment we arrived, the staff were so welcoming and informative, they showed us to our room and around the premises (this was needed to explain how everything worked!). We were in heaven, constantly surprised with a few nice touches (which made all the difference), the free of charge mini bar, the glass jars filled with shortbread on the bedside tables, the spa, equipped with infra-red sauna, dry-heat sauna, rock sauna, steam room and an outdoor infinity-edge pool was incredible!
Then, you get to the ski locker room, you’re allocated a locker which has been fitted with heated boot racks!! Yes, that’s right – heated boot racks!! This means, when you get down in the morning, your slip into nice toasty warm ski boots – perfect!
The first day, we were picked up in a free transfer to the resort to collect our boots and skis from the hire company before meeting at the ski school for our very first group lesson. The word to describe our first lesson would be – WOW. Our instructor was a young British girl, around 20 years old. The first half of the lesson, we spent learning how to walk up a piste sideways, then plough (or pizza) down to the bottom, slowing down and eventually stopping. We did this over … and over … and over again.
It was basically doing side lunges up the hill and permanent squats coming down again the hill…
Now, I’m not one to brag (or maybe I am), but we picked up the basics quite quickly compared to the rest of the group and thankfully ‘graduated’ mid lesson and were moved to the group in the next level. This was much better, no more side lunges to go up the piste, instead you casually grab onto a button lift, which at a very relaxing pace drags you upl! Here we are, standing at the top of our very first blue piste… petrified.
Nevertheless what goes up must come down, so with a bit of confidence from our (now male mid 20s) instructor, we put the last hour of learnings into action and proceeded to plough, intending on following the instructions tracks … and then
completely out of control, tearing down, exhilarating, free!
… I’m not sure if it’s the unnaturally high levels of oxygen in the mountains, the adrenaline or a death wish but it felt amazing, the pace you pick up in such a short amount of time is simply astonishing. Now I should mention that whilst this is a blue run, it’s in St Anton, which we’ve come to realise not the place for beginners, the blue runs, are ‘blue runs’ and effectively comparable intermediate runs in most other resorts, so whilst we picked an amazing hotel, we clearly failed on the beginner ski resort research.
At the end of the lesson, we continued to ski putting what we learnt into practice without an instructor before calling it a day. We headed back to the Mooser hotel, spoilt for choice in the Spa facilities, we literally did not know what to pick first, I believe we spent a total of 10-15 minutes in each one of them, however I’m convinced the infra-red sauna is what saved our quads and glutes after the high intensity combination lunge, squat workout!
At this point, I should mention that the Mooser hotel, is a ski in ski out hotel, which means, without a transfer, to get down the village you need to be able to ski down. Given our success on the first day and confidence we built we honestly thought nothing of it…
Let’s give it a go… famous last words!
So, out we go on to the side of the piste, it felt like rush hour, we waited patiently for a break in the traffic before setting off, zig zaging to the other side and back again to ‘show’ Jenna the way, pausing for Jenna to make her way over to me, except, she decided to stop, literally in the middle of the piste with snowboarders and skiers whistling past her, immobilised and unable to turn around!! To cut a long story short, we ended up removing our skis, walking half way down a relatively steep piste (which I find much harder than actually skiing), clipping them on and skiing the last third of the way for our second, much needed lesson to rebuild some confidence.
The remainder of our time, including Christmas day (which was quite festive and a lot of fellow skiers dressing up and skiing around as Santa or elves for the occasion), we continued without lessons and consistently improved our technique.
No trip to St Anton is complete without heading up to Valluga.
We decided to take the gondola up to check out the view we heard so much about. To get there, you need to take the Galzigbahn, followed by the Vallugabahn. This will take you to the restaurant which is worth the views. If it’s not too windy and weather permitting, you absolutely have to take another journey on the Vallugabahn II, this takes you all the way to the viewing platform for some seriously amazing panoramic views over the valley unbeaten anywhere else in St Anton!
On the highest point, there the gondola is around 190m above the valley … for those who petrified of heights (like Jenna!) it’s better staring out into the distance at the beautiful peaks rather than looking down. Luckily we shared the gondola with a couple of people and their dog, so Jenna spent most of the time crouching down (where you can’t see out) and patting the dog to distract her from how high we were!
On our last day at the Mooser hotel, Boxing Day, heavy snow was predicted, something Jenna had never seen before! We woke up, and nothing… but we waited and waited and by around 9.30am it was snowing, it was incredible!!
The snow was that heavy that within the hour the snow was that thick that we decided to make a snowman and have a bit of fun on the hotels patio overlooking the Mühltobel Gorge.
We eventually made it down to the station to head back to Zurich for our flight, only to realise that with the excitement of the snow, we incorrectly read the ticket and our train had left several hours earlier!!! Lucky for us, the lovely staff at the station were still in the Christmas spirit and amended our ticket free of charge, allowing us to catch the next train which got us to Zurich with literally a minute to spare before having to catch the connecting train to the airport – we made it with only a few seconds to check our bags!! Talk about luck!
Tips And Reviews
Where to stay:
Obviously we recommend the Mooser hotel, but it will depend on your budget. It is a luxury hotel, but you do get what you pay for! Nothing beats coming back to your hotel, having somewhere nice to relax, unwind and a comfortable bed! The best part about the hotel is that it is owned and adjoined to the Mooserwirt (below). Guests of the hotel have their own private entrance so you can avoid the crowds at the front!
Where to hire your ski gear:
We hired our ski gear through Alber Sport. I was lucky to get the current’s season and essentially brand new boots, where Jenna’s had been used for a few seasons, the padding for the shins a bit thin, but overall still in good condition. The staff were friendly and provided a quick chat through the basics, like, how to put the boots on properly!! They provided the free transfer from the hotel in the morning and even dropped our shoes off at the hotel to avoid the inconvenience of having to head back at the end of the day to go pick them up, meaning we could head straight back to the hotel!
Where to eat:
Given how important Christmas Eve is to Europeans, we thought it would be best to make a reservation for dinner. We found The Sport Hotel online, it was a steakhouse, which suited us. We made a reservation via email, and the hotel were quick to respond and confirm our reservation. The staff were friendly and the food was delicious. I would recommend stopping in for a bite to eat if you can!
We had our Christmas Dinner at the Mooser hotel. The chef is incredible, the restaurant has views over the ski fields and the food was delicious. You should pre-book if you want to eat there though!!
If you’re after a more casual dining experience, you can’t go past Mooserwirt. Not only is it the biggest Apres-ski in St Anton, their food is incredible… well when I say their food, we only ate the burger and chicken wings, lots and lots of chicken wings. They are by far the best chicken wings we’ve ever eaten (and I’ve eaten a few!). We went late one night, after the kitchen had shut, but the lovely bar tender offered to cook us wings and chips (the only thing he knew how to make) which was perfect for us. The waiter saw me trying to take a photo of my beer glass and he brought over a brand new clean glass and told me I could keep it… Check out our Trip Advisor Review!
this is where I first started collecting beer glasses!
Getting to St Anton
St Anton is very well connected. We caught the train from Zurich in to St Anton – direct high speed train and it was convenient, on time and comfortable. Tickets can be purchased through SBB online to reserve a seat. The trains can get very busy and they do check your tickets!!
Skiing is a dance, and the mountain always leads. ~Author Unknown