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.
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
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.