We know there's more to this Middle European gem than skiing, but when the resorts on offer are of the quality of St Anton, Kitzbuhel and Lech, it's hard not to focus on them.
St. Anton regularly wins the epithet of 'best resort in the world'; Kitzbuhel certainly has the scariest downhill run in the infamous Hannenkham (but much more besides), and Lech is the perfect family ski resort. That all three are picture perfect alpine villages with barely a modern-looking building in sight only adds to the charm.
St. Anton, Austria's flagship resort, ranks among the top few ski resorts in the world. Better suited to intermediate or advanced skiers rather than beginners, it is known for its challenging on-and-off-piste terrain. Some of the best off-piste is in Rendl and Stuben, but you need to wrap up warm if going to Stuben as temperatures here often dip ten degrees lower than the surrounding area. Snowboarders are also well provided for with an excellent fun park, and there are permanent racecourses for those who want to test themselves against the clock.
St Anton itself is compact, with a pedestrianised main street, and boasts arguably the best après-ski scene in the Alps. This draws a young crowd that likes to ski hard and party harder, and the glühwein flows into the small hours at the resort's dozens of lively bars.
By contrast, nearby St. Christoph is a small, peaceful alpine village that makes a good alternative for families or those seeking quieter surroundings. At 5,900ft, St. Christoph is one of the highest resorts in the Alps, which more or less ensures decent snow conditions. Beginners can take lessons at the excellent ski school.
Speaking of ski school, it's always a bit galling when you're skiing along in what you think is quite an accomplished style, only to be overtaken by a stream of kids wearing crash-helmets, fearlessly bombing down the pistes like colourful cannonballs. At least if they were your kids, you could take pride in the precocious little nippers. This is where Austria's renowned ski schools come in, and Lech has one of the most highly respected of all. The picturesque Tyrolean village, with an onion-domed church, horse-drawn sleighs and a wooden bridge across the river, has managed to retain much of its old-world charm and is the perfect family resort. With expert tuition from the ski school's highly qualified instructors, your kids will soon be progressing from snowplough to parallel turns and schussing. For the youngest, there's also an on-slope kindergarten where they can play and get their first taste of skiing, leaving parents to enjoy the extensive pistes of the Arlberg area, including the famous White Ring ski tour to nearby Zürs and back. Besides skiing, Lech offers plenty of other options for keeping young minds entertained, from ice-skating and a flood-lit toboggan run to a traditional Christmas market and watching deer being fed in the nearby forest.
And finally to less family-friendly and more fur-friendly Kitzbuhel. This attractive village attracts a see and be seen clientele, and hosts the social event of the Austrian ski calendar - the weekend of the skiing World Cup where lycra-clad lunatics hurtle down the Hannenkham run, the most infamous racing course on the ski circuit. Kitzbuhel also has superb places to stay and dine, and enough good quality skiing for those who actually might want to venture out on the slopes.
|St Anton & St Christoph|