It’s a long trip from Adelaide, Australia to St Anton, Austria – 33 hours to be exact – but so far, the “cradle of alpine skiing” has proved worth it.
Our trip from Adelaide took two long flights (13 hours from Adelaide to Dubai and 7 hours from Dubai to Zurich), a three-hour layover in Dubai, a 3 hour wait in Zurich airport, a 2.5 hour bus ride to St Anton, and a 10 minute local bus ride then walk with our luggage to our accommodation.
We arrived at night in the dark, which made it difficult to have a good sense of our surroundings but easy to go to sleep on roughly to right schedule. In the morning we excited to discover an excellent view out our window: snow on the ground, which slopped off into the distance and down into a mountain valley, with a peak in the far distance. On the left, was a very square, Austrian-looking building with white walls and wood-framed balconies.
Our first day at Ski Arlberg was mostly an exploration day. It’s our first time here, and there is a lot to see. Ski Arlberg is one of the five largest ski areas in the world. Unlike a lot of North American resorts that expand from peak to peak, with skiing top to bottom; Ski Arlberg feels like several small villages, each with only a few lifts and runs, which joined forces. There are several lifts that seem to exist only to connect one village to another.
The light was fairly flat as we made our way from St Anton to Zurg. The snow was pretty hard-packed and everyone (including us) was sticking to the groomed, marked runs. Despite this, the skiing was pretty good and the crowd was fairly spread out.
The runs are all numbered, and it was near the end of the day when I realised that the numbers were going up the further from St Anton we travelled. With snow, there is a lot of off-piste potential.
We found a great BBQ restaurant at the top of a Trittkopf II gondola for lunch. The food was very good and the views were spectacular, straight down into a small valley town. The mountains here really tower above the villages.
We finished up back on the St Anton runs at the slope-side bar Krazy Kaguruh. It seemed fitting since it was Australia Day. St Anton is known for it’s apres ski and so far it has lived up to its reputation. We ended up sharing a table with three guys from Northern Ireland.
I love travel because experiences like this: spending Australia Day in Austria drinking with the Northern Irish, standing on German benches in ski boots singing ABBA and Bon Jovi.
I woke up surprisingly ready to go considering the lingering jet lag and drinking efforts from the night before. The clouds lifted in the morning and we had a beautiful blue-sky day, which allowed us to get a better sense of our surroundings. The size and scale of Ski Arlberg became more apparent. It really is huge.
With no new snow, we decided to ski a few of the nearby areas that we hadn’t gotten to yet. In the morning we ticked off most of the marked runs on Gampen peak, then we crossed the road to Rendl. This requires taking your skis off and actually crossing the road to a gondola heading in the opposite direction from the rest of the lifts.
Rendl peak is wide-open and it easy to see what the ski options both on-piste and off are. Again, with snow, there is heaps of potential. The area is surrounded by towering rocky peaks, which made for an awesome view in the blue-bird day. There is a small bar with comfortable seats across from the top gondola house if you just want to take in the view.
The run down from Rendl is Run 1, which was one of our favourites so far. It is long and winding, with some narrow rolling spots, a few sharp corners, and a few steeper pitches. It was a lot of fun, fairly quiet, and the snow was very good.
It was meant to snow today, and it certainly delivered. The morning started off windy and overcast. After ticking off the marked runs at Kapall peak, which had some good steep pitches, we headed towards Galzig peak. Galzig was croweded and a lot easier, except for the rapidly fading light.
After an early stop at Mooserwirt for lunch, the snow started coming in hard. Everyone else was coming down because they were starting to shut lifts down. We lapped the lower lift and beginner pulmas a few times – the snow was very good and coming down fast. However, we called it a day early as there wasn’t much else open to ski and we decided to save our legs for Day 4, which will hopefully bring an open mountain with fresh snow.