A March 2004 trip
to St. Anton by lcampbell
Quote: The alpine province of Tirol in Austria is home to almost 600 mountains over 3000 meters. With so many ski areas to choose from, it is hard to pick just one. But world -lass St. Anton is one of the best, not just for expert skiers, but for everyone.
Another really great thing about St. Anton/Arlsberg area is that there is plenty to do for the non-skier or when the skier wants a day off: winter walking, snowshoeing, a nice museum, tobogganing, horse-drawn sleigh rides, ice skating, shopping, swimming, spa treatments, and a new wellness center. And that is only to name a few. There are tons of accommodations in all price ranges to choose from (9200 beds) and 82 bars and restaurants.
While not necessary, it might be a good idea, at least for the first day, to have a ski guide show you around. I know that this is not a common practice in the USA (but we don’t have ski areas this big either), but it is quite typical in Europe.
It is just a short trip to Innsbruck from St. Anton, by bus or train. Innsbruck is the commercial and cultural capitol of Tirol province, and is definitely worth a visit. I really enjoyed the "trippy" Swarovski Crystal Worlds, and the Bergisel Ski Jump. The bell museum looked interesting too, but I didn’t get to visit it. Check out my journal "An Average Ski Jane Goes to the Alps" for more information, or see the Innsbruck Tourism Board website.
Once in St. Anton, the town is very small and the ski lifts are reached right from the main part of town. To reach other nearby Arlberg villages, you can ski to them from St. Anton (if you are ambitious or adventurous) or you can take the free shuttle bus.
If you want to visit Innsbruck for the day, it is easily done by train or bus as well. You should not need to rent a car for any reason while visiting St. Anton/Arlberg.
See the St. Anton am Arlberg Tourism Board website (link above) for transportation information.
The sun was shining brilliantly, and it was warm enough to eat out on the deck, which was crowded with other sun-worshipping people having the same idea. Despite how busy it was, we met the wait staff quickly and received our drinks and food efficiently as well. The Hospiz-Alm serves traditional Tyrolean food, and my choice was a classic – sausage and sauerkraut with a large roll, which was excellent and reasonably priced (most dishes under €10). Other dishes I saw around me that looked tempting were the chicken wings and the hearty potato soup.
While we were eating, someone from my group pointed out the owner up on the wooden balcony. He was dressed in traditional clothing, and looked quite important. Indeed, his establishment has long been an important part of the history of the area.
The word "hospiz" means "hospice" and that is exactly how the Hospiz-Alm started out. In the late 14th century, a man named Heinrich Findelkind was working as a shepherd in the Arlberg Pass area. He often witnessed people in need of help as they crossed over the pass. Heinrich got permission to use the land in the now St. Christoph area to build a hospice to shelter these travelers. It is estimated that 50 lives were saved in the first years the shelter was open. In 1397, Heinrich got support from the Pope to build a chapel next to the hospice, as well as other buildings. The chapel honored St. Christopher and the Brotherhood of St. Christoph was formed to "safeguard the existence of the hospice" (according to the museum plaque that I read).
During the Reformation and later years, the hospice fell into neglect and the Brotherhood was dissolved. In 1957, the hospice was destroyed by fire, but was rebuilt and reopened in 1962. There was also a re-founding of the Brotherhood of St. Christoph, now with 14,000 members. It has worldwide support for charitable works. The owner of Hospiz-Alm is a member, as was the woman telling me this story.
Now guests can stay and eat at the Hospiz in St. Christoph and enjoy some of this rich history. Take a look at the website for more information.
Oh! I almost forgot to mention one special thing about the restaurant. Given that most of the customers have likely skied in for food or drinks, and given that it is very difficult to walk down stairs in ski boots, the Hospiz-Alm has come up with a solution: make a slide down to the restrooms. This is great fun - you may even need it multiple times if you drink enough refreshments!
Member Rating 5 out of 5 on March 21, 2004
Hospiz-Alm Restaurant and Hotel - St. Christoph
St. Anton, Austria
One of my first sights going up the first chair lift was two guys coming off the top of the mountain on a parachute. And get this – they had skis on! I assume this is a tandem thing with an instructor. The guy in front was laughing and yelling "Great fun! Great fun!" in German as he came down.
After a full day of skiing, enjoying the stunning scenery and warm sunshine, I didn’t even make a dent in exploring St. Anton – you would need a week, for sure. The whole area has 6 villages – St. Anton, St. Christoph, Stuben, Lech, Zürs, and Klösterle. There are 82 ski lifts, 260 km of groomed runs, and 180 km of off-piste runs. This is a great place for all levels of skiers – the runs are pretty evenly divided between easy (36%), intermediate (42%), and expert level (22%).
My morning was spent near the Kapall lift, trying out different runs in that area. We went past (but not down!) the slopes used for the Alpine Skiing World Championships each year. Next, we skied to the village of St. Christoph for lunch, where I ate traditional Tyrolean food and learned more about the history of the area (more on history in other journal entries). From St. Christoph, we headed up near the Valluga, the highest point that can be reached (2811m).
I enjoyed the whole day of skiing, but found the last run of the day down Happy Valley to be a bit crowded. It is difficult for someone of my meager skills to avoid so many folks. Good thing we stopped for a schnapps on the way down to take the edge off!
Over drinks I heard about a crazy race at St. Anton each April called the Weiße Rausch. The goal is to get from the Valluga down to St. Anton as fast as possible using any route the contestant chooses. The kicker is that there are obstacles just before the finish line that amount to something like mountain climbing on skis which can foul up the best of race times. I’m sure there is an equally crazy party after the race, but I didn’t get the details on that.
The St. Anton am Arlberg Tourism Board website has all the details on ski passes, ski rentals, ski schools, accommodations, and more.
Ski St. Anton
St. Anton, Austria
Attraction | "Ski & Local Heritage Museum"
The first point I should make is that the museum is located in the upstairs of a small restaurant called the Kandahar House, a historical entity in itself, with excellent food, I’m sure. The restaurant/museum is near the main square in St. Anton (ask for someone to point the way).
In the series of small rooms upstairs, there are presentations on many aspects of Arlberg history. First, there is a wall dedicated to the Brotherhood of St. Christoph, a charitable organization dating back to the 14th century (see Hospiz-Alm entry of this journal for more information). The current Brotherhood group is made up of 14,000 people from all over the world.
Arlberg has been important since Roman times as a link in vital trading and military routes. From 1309 on, salt convoys somehow made their way over Arlberg Pass. The first true road was not built until 1824, and the train route didn’t exist until the 1880s. There is a whole room dedicated to photos of the building of the railway and tunnel.
After access to the area improved, skiing and tourism came into prominence in Arlberg.
The museum brochure claims that alpine skiing was “pioneered to a large extent by men from the Arlberg.” I don’t know enough about the subject to know how true this is, but it is certain that Hannes Schneider of Arlberg was crucial in introducing skiing to the world. As an early ski instructor, he perfected the “Arlberg method” and made films showing the technique. Schneider started the Arlberg Ski School, and demonstrated his method in many countries, including America, where he moved in 1939 after the Nazi invasion of Austria.
There is a large part of the museum dedicated to Hannes Scheider, and also displays regarding the local ski club and the Arlberg-Kandahar Ski Race, which was first held in 1928. There are old skis, snow shoes, cow bells, among other things. There is a representation of an ancient rock carving depicting people on skis that was supposedly found by the While Sea in 2000BC.
The museum is open 11am-5pm each day except Monday. Admission is free but donations are appreciated.
Member Rating 4 out of 5 on March 21, 2004
Ski & Local Heritage Museum
St. Anton, Austria
Our first stop was Sennhütte, where we caught the last rays of sunshine out on the deck. We were having a drink and waiting for the rest of our group, when live music started up inside the bar. From the uncrowded sundeck, Sennhütte had seemed pretty tame. Inside was another story. There was a lively crowd – elbow to elbow at tables covered in empty and full glasses of varying mixtures - already singing along with the local favorite musician, Didi Diesel. In additional to Austrian favorites (dare I guess, drinking songs), this one-man band played some sort of Russian makes-you-feel-like-breaking-a-glass thing (maybe not a good idea in a bar…) and a sexy kind of Spanish flamenco thing. Unfortunately, our group arrived, and being unwilling to fight for a table, we headed down to the next spot.
But Sennhütte was definitely not crowded compared to Mooserwirt. This apparently is THE party place up on the mountain. It was packed with people outside, so we didn’t even try to get inside. It was obvious that this is where the young, trendy, partiers liked to hang out (if that’s your thing). A giant umbrella on the outside sundeck was fully prepared for service in bad weather to keep the party going.
Our conservative group ended up down in town at a nice place called the Underground on the Piste. Beers and schnapps fortified everyone as volume level went up in the sunroom we had taken over in the back. Ski boots came off, feet went up, and drinks went down too easily. It was almost a shame that we had to move on – but we had dinner reservations elsewhere and a bus waiting to take us back to Innsbruck.
Dinner was at the old St. Anton train station, now a restaurant called S’Wirthaus am alten Bahnhof. Dinner was simple and very reasonably priced (and with good wine to continue our après-ski festivities). I had the Speckknödelsuppe, which was a consommé with bacon dumpling (€3,80) as well as a small Tomato, Mozzarella, and Basil Salad (€4,50). Both were very good. And did I mention the wine was good too?
Other selections on the menu ranged from €6,90 to €15,70 and included things like Wienerschnitzel, Venison stew with red cabbage and bread dumplings, Spaghetti Bolognese, and Fish Fillet with potato salad. S’Wirthaus restaurant is located near the town center and their phone number is +43(5446)2213700. It is open 10am-midnight, with warm meals served 11:30am-2pm and 7:20pm-9pm.
Too soon it was time to leave S’Wirthaus and St. Anton to board the bus, interrupting our relaxing fun and talking with our new St. Anton friends.
Aprés-ski Drinks and Dining
On the way down the mountain
St. Anton, Austria
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