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St Anton am Arlberg, Austria

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For many, St Anton-am-Arlberg is both the cradle and Holy Grail of the skiing and snowboarding world. Ringed by majestic peaks, it has slopes of the highest calibre and a charming old railway town in which to celebrate the conquest – or attempted conquest – of those slopes. It is also close to other illustrious neighbouring ski areas – not just Lech and Oberlech, but Zürs, Stuben and St Christoph which are all available on the same lift ticket, giving the region a true embarrassment of riches. There are sweeping, beautifully groomed cruising runs, long, thigh-burning bump runs (particularly from the top of the somewhat hair-raising Schindlergrat lift at Schindler Spitze), daunting but exhilarating couloirs, and magnificent off-piste opportunities including (for brave hearts only) an exciting but quite severe descent from the very top of St Anton’s highest peak, the Valluga (9223 feet) down to Zürs). This is only permitted when you are accompanied by a qualified guide. Steep but much less daunting are the shortish, sharp descents through snowfields which filter into the Steissbachtal (Happy Valley) gully, the great homeward-bound route taken by so many skiers and boarders at the end of a day’s adventures. The Valluga slopes are the focal point for huge areas of off-piste and the starting point for the exhilarating run down to the picturesque village of Stuben. The delightful hamlet of St Christoph, high on the infamous Arlberg Pass, was an important and historic trade and military artery across the Alps. The five-star Hospiz Hotel, built on the site of an ancient hospiz where monks regularly rescued travellers overwhelmed by fierce storms, is one of the finest hotels in the Alps, and has a 14th century wine cellar right beneath the church.

Written by  Arnie Wilson.

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