It's five o'clock in the afternoon when we come out of the Arlberg tunnel. I've been to St. Anton many, many times, but every time I arrive, I get that strange feeling in my stomach. St. Anton feels like a sort of homecoming. I don't know the exact reason, but it probably has something to with the great freeride vibe you'll find in this great mountain town.
Lots of snow and vast terrain
St. Anton am Arlberg is probably the most popular freeride destination in Austria. It's not exactly a coincidence, because St. Anton has two assets that can't really be copied by other resorts. St. Anton gets lots (and by lots, we mean LOTS) of snow and the terrain is vast and mind blowing.
Those two things make sure that skiers and boarders who love powder are attracted to St. Anton. This has been so since the 1930's, when Hannes Schneider introduced the modern Arlberg ski technique to the world and starred in the first freeride movie, the Weisse Rausch. A lot of riders call the Arlberg home nowadays. A lot of mountain guides and even more seasoners from Scandinavia, Australia and England. Just to name a few. Lots of snow, a good vibe and endless possibilities in the backcountry guarantee a great experience, but also powder stress and lots of competition for first tracks.
If you know where to go in the Arlberg, and you don't mind a little hike every now and then, you can ride powder days after the dump. If you don't know where to go, you're about to experience a lot of powderstress in the morning when you're waiting for the Galzigbahn to open on a powder day. Lots of riders rush down the Bachseite, the accessible pitch that's an easy target for beginning riders. You'll probably see the first riders coming down in the bowls of Kapall and Matun at 10.00. Powderstress is doing its job.
We are not being fooled by this white rush. We descend towards the Valfagehra chair and ski towards Stuben. Even though this little village is fully connected with St. Anton, you'll experience something completely different here. And all because of two old, slow and long two-seater chairlifts. The powder stress isn't really around in Stuben and we dive into various bowls and powder fields and ski around 1000 meters of vertical before we get in the chair again. Over and over and over again.
We get back later in the afternoon to hike up Stuben's Maroikopf. After a thirty minute hike we're at the cross at the top. Guide Fredi is showing us his secret stashes and just before dark we arrive at a tiny guest house, where a taxi is waiting for us to drive us back to St. Anton. It's amazing what good knowledge of a ski area can do. Fredi managed to lead us to some great snow, that we definitely would not have found ourselves.
Every normal freerider could spend a weekend, a week or even a season in St. Anton and Stuben, with pitches and slopes such as Matun, Kapal, Valluga, Rendl, Albona and much, much more. But…Lech and Zürs are part of the Arlberg region as well and on top of that they opened a connection between Lech and the ski area of Warth and Schröcken this season. The Auenfeldjet is adding a lot of slopes, but more important for us, a lot of terrain to the already vast region of the Arlberg.
Lots of secrets
We go up with the Muggengratbahn in Zürs and after a short hike, we're looking at a sweet descent. We're spotting the gigantic flank of the Albona where we've skied the day before. I'm surprised, again, by all the possibilities of this region. There are so many more secrets to discover! You just have to know where to find them And more important: when to find them. Snowboard guide and former Freeride World Tour competitor is passing me on the hike like he's using an escalator. He's telling about the possibilities of the Arlberg, with a big smile on his face. Lines that are ridden in the past and that will be ride again in the future.
Great stories are told in the Anton bar at the end of the day. Everybody agrees that they have to come back to St. Anton. Of course there are resorts where it's less crowdy. But if you know where to go, than the Arlberg will keep amazing you with nice lines!