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St. Anton, Austria

St. Anton, Austria

Inbounds descents down powderfields up to five miles long dump you in the middle of the Tyrolean frescoes and church steeples of a too-cute ski village.

The craggy expanse of St. Anton is pure Sound of Music high country, with Vail-wide acreage and Jackson-size vert. By Alps standards, of course, said comparisons are a drop in the big-mountain bucket. But here, inbounds descents down powderfields up to five miles long dump you in the middle of the Tyrolean frescoes and church steeples of a too-cute ski village. The town has a car-free main drag lined with ski shops, noisy bars, and quaint hotels with huge patios that are as happening as the hills are alive.

Powder Day: The upper reaches of the Valluga lifts are often closed during big storms. Don't wait for them to open; take the two-minute bus ride to Rendl, a base area across the valley. Ride the Rendl gondola to the Riffel I and II chairs. From the top of Riffel II, take laps on the wide-open, terraced steeps of Rifflescharte. Then hit the Gampberg area off the mountain's shoulder.

Three Days Later: If the lifts have been closed for avalanche control, take the Valluga I cable car to Valluga Peak; you'll find plenty of stashes in the chutes. 

Must Hit: From the Valluga I top station, head right and take any trail leading through the rock chutes and around the pronounced Schindler ridge to the face of the Valluga Schindler Kar, a close-to-sheer, nearly 2,000-foot drop. 

The Stash: Valluga Nord falls off the back side of the Valluga summit and leads through a broad valley to the village of Zürs. You need a guide for this—without one, you can't board the Valluga II tram.

Backcountry Access: Unless you're comfortable skinning all day onto an Alpine glacier (read: crevasses), you're best off hiring a guide through the Skischule (43-5446-3411).

Local's Take: "It can be hard to get enough rest, with all the parties. You need earplugs if you want to fall asleep before morning, advises Walter Wasle, a 35-year St. Anton resident whose house is on the town's main drag.

Weather: Like most of the Alps, St. Anton's weather is variable—lots of wet snow and lots of sun. February and March get the most schnee.

Don't Miss: 2004 Arlberg-Kandahar Men's World Cup race (February 14—15) is a famous event and an infamous party.

Après: All runs lead to skihuttes, on-slope bars that crank from two o'clock till who-knows-when. Try the Sennhütte for a nice sundeck and an easy ski to the base.

Fuel: Most restaurants specialize in schnitzel and wurst. The Museum Restaurant (43-5446-2475) serves an upscale version of the traditional dishes in a pre—World War I mansion.

Up all night: You will be. Try the Postkeller and Piccadilly in the Post Hotel; by ten you'll barely be able to squeeze onto the dance floor.

Digs: The Sporthotel on the main drag has downsized, Euro-spare rooms and free Internet access (43-5446-3111, 111— 186 euros including dinner). For other options, check out stantonamarlberg.com.

Elevation: 9,222 feet Vertical Drop: 4,944 feet Acres: 5,436 Getting There: St. Anton is less than three hours from Zurich or Munich by train. Both cities have direct flights from the U.S. The train station is a five-minute walk from the lifts and most hotels, so you don't need a car. Info: 43-5446-2269; stantonamarlberg.com

 
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