Where to ski this season: Austria

The serial seasonnaire's guide to the pistes, the people and the parties in the rarefied atmosphere of the Arlberg Massif

Snowfall has become notoriously unpredictable in recent years, but Half-Term is here, the heavens are currently open for business, and so too are some of the continent’s flashiest and most bibulous ski resorts. Eddy Downpatrick talks us through a few high-profile lairs in Austria.

St. Anton

Where to ski this season: Austria
Pristine pistes above St. Anton am Arlberg

The resort town of St. Anton, for anyone who’s been, is renowned perhaps more than anywhere else in Austria for the quality and boisterousness of its après-ski, notably typified by the table-dancing, stein-smashing antics at the Krazy Kangaruh. To get to it, you’ll have to negotiate tired pegs to the bottom of a likely-moguled piste and to leave it, you’ll have to get those same legs, now likely full of hooch, down a most-definitely moguled hillock.

What else can you expect to find here? A lot of blokes. They outnumber the fairer counterpart (that sweet enemy) four to one and a not insignificant amount are Brits. Why? Corporate trips… Lads holidays… False perceptions… Fantasy expectations…

Zurs

Where to ski this season: Austria
Zurs — a sleepy yet refined enclave in the Arlberg region

If looking for something a little more refined, look no further than Zurs, which sets a cap on the number of visitors encumbering the resort at any one time. The sexes are far-better balanced and you’ll see distinctly fewer drunken schmucks zig-zagging their way across the thoroughfares.

The Milch Bar consistently has the prettiest waitresses you’ll ever see anywhere — with honourable mention to the Flexenhütte just up the road and of course, to sexual objectification. The latter of these two can be booked out for whole-of-restaurant dinner parties in which dancing on tables ablaze is the done thing. Take that, St. Anton. 

"The local physician in Zurs, a most resourceful fellow indeed, has been known to prescribe yoghurt for sunburn and neck braces for migraines..."

(A note on the skiing: it happens on either side of the village itself with the south-facing side generally favoured in the morning and the north-facing in the afternoon.)

The local physician, a most resourceful fellow indeed, is also a charming DJ notorious for his bizarre diagnoses and even more eccentric remedies who over the years has earned the moniker, Doctor Death. He has been known to prescribe yoghurt for sunburn and neck braces for migraines. You don’t have to break the bank to stay here, but if you want to, it won’t take much in the way of effort. Just stay at the Lorünser or the Zürserhof. Haus Kung and one or two of the other B&Bs offer great rates, lovely rooms, and great service. Haus Kung also plays neighbour to kindly cows wintering in their alpine cattlesheds and is run by a wonderfully-cynical farmer-cum-mountain-guide called Hans and his wonderfully-welcoming English wife, no less adept on a pair of skis, Lorna.

St. Christoph and Oberlech

Where to ski this season: Austria
The start of a long afternoon in St Christoph

Two culinary treats to mention in wider Arlberg country: the Hospiz Alm in St. Christoph which even has its own slide in the restaurant – well worth a ride and probably the smartest such any of us is likely to see; the Mürmeli in Oberlech, tucked away to skier’s left of the south-facing slopes. This hotel is not irregularly placed at top of the Arlberg’s restaurant charts (but be sure to book ahead — a secret it no longer is).

Lech

Where to ski this season: Austria
Lech — beautiful skiing, "exceptionally-overpriced" champagne

It would be remiss, while we’re here, not to give a tongue-in-cheek’d nod to the Ice Bar in Lech which finds itself halfway between the main road and the top of the loftiest chair lift. You can ski into your seat and be served exceptionally-overpriced champagne by vacant-eyed young ladies all to the monotone thump of consciously-ironic minimal house music.

Further Reading