Known as the cradle of alpine skiing, St. Anton is the mountainous Austrian village transforming into a premium global ski resort
Writer: Ed Budds | Project Manager: Dave West
Found within the Arlberg region of the mighty Austrian Alps, St. Anton caters for every possible variety of winter explorer. Whether craving an adrenaline-fuelled, action-packed week of high-octane winter sports, or a hiking adventure through the stunning mountain range, St. Anton delivers on all fronts for every demographic of tourists.
Evoking visions of far more than just a cosy wintry ambience and the iconic location of the British film, Chalet Girl, St. Anton exists as the spiritual home of skiing, where pioneers such as the Stuben am Arlberg-born Hannes Schneider invented the Arlberg technique at the start of the 20th century. Providing the blueprints of modern alpine skiing, this technique revolutionised the sport, just as St. Anton has revolutionised the full-package ski resort.
Visitors are spoilt for choice when it comes to bars and restaurants in St. Anton. Whether seeking an afternoon of beer drinking or simply a relaxed, wine-fuelled afternoon admiring the scenery, this stylish and welcoming resort has it covered in full.
Industry Insights - St. Anton Tourism Association
Bouncing back in true style after struggling through the treacherous clutches of the COVID-19 pandemic, Martin Ebster, Director of the St. Anton Tourism Association, introduces us to the breathtaking alpine resort aiming to become the global ski village.
We take a deep dive into the state of the travel industry, the changing dynamics and challenges of managing a global tourist destination, as well as hear more about the exciting plans for what promises to be a spectacular renaissance and hopeful future for the resort.
Outlook Travel (OT): Firstly, can you tell us about the association’s origins?
Martin Ebster, Director (ME): We have been in tourism for 120 years now, starting at the beginning of the 20th century when there was already something resembling a tourism association in St. Anton.
When Hannes Schneider created the first ski school in the world, there was an association put in place that started managing the visions and plans for tourism there. However, after the Second World War, there was a re-foundation of the St. Anton Tourism Association.
We went through the process of renewing our strategy in the years 2018 and 2019 and our vision and mission are to prepare the best possible conditions for anyone, all around the world who wants to walk, ski, bike, or move athletically in the mountains of the Alps. This is why we call ourselves the cradle of alpine skiing, not because we invented the sport, but because we were the leader in the development of the classical skiing technique.
Now we have gone further, declaring ourselves a region where people can come to live too and enjoy the mountains.
OT: What kind of traveller does St. Anton most cater to?
ME: No matter who you are or where you come from, we believe you should be able to be sporty and active in the high alpine region of St. Anton.
We realise that we live in an alpine region where you will find yourself moving up and down when visiting, but our overall mission is to become the global village for mountain sport, in both summer and winter.
Skiing has always been the number one priority for us and always will be. We are known for being a premium region for sporty people to come and enjoy the slopes and for our wide range of winter sports.
Recently though, it has changed slightly in terms of the need to now prepare conditions for tourists who don’t necessarily want to ski seven days a week but might want to hike instead or go tobogganing.
We have always hosted summer guests who enjoy hiking and mountain biking, but mountain biking in our region has often proved difficult due to the steep climbs. However, the development of e-biking has completely changed the situation, and we are now a distinguished e-bike destination.
We really want to position ourselves to be seen as a casual premium. That means we want to improve in quality, which we try to do every single year, but we want to stay down to earth and like a friend to our guests.
We don’t carry our noses up in the air, we would like to be casual guys and girls who are happy to be able to welcome our guests, but we want to do this in a high-quality manner, offering a premium experience when staying with us.
Also, we are a very international destination. In a typical winter, we have about 50 to 55 different nations every single week arriving in St. Anton, not only among guests but also employees.
We want to create a St. Anton community that can live, eat, drink and play sports together, no matter where they are from, creating a true global village.
OT: What does the village and resort have to offer in terms of sustainable and eco-friendly travel experiences?
ME: Sustainability is a theme that everyone talks about now and we’re all working on it, especially as traffic to and from tourist destinations must be considered in terms of CO2 emissions.
Everyone in the destination, community, municipality, and of course, the St. Anton Tourism Association, must start to think about sustainability and improve this across the next years.
One thing we are very proud of is that we normally don’t need to buy any electricity from the European grid. We produce our own sustainable electricity from water use. The cable cars also use energy from hydropower for their operations.
We use 60 percent of the electricity we produce, and we can sell the remaining 40 percent back into the European electricity net.
Also, we have a brand-new heating business where we heat with wood produced and collected from the surrounding area of around 50 kilometres around St. Anton. All the main buildings are already connected to this heating system, sparing about eight million litres of oil in the last two winters.
OT: Could you pinpoint a couple of the major changes or challenges that have occurred within the tourism industry recently?
ME: Obviously, we had a whole winter without a single guest staying here in St. Anton due to the COVID-19 pandemic, which of course caused a financial challenge for the tourism association.
We are always working on improving our infrastructure, by looking at what we could possibly do to benefit our guests.
As well as the negative effects of COVID-19, we also suffered after Brexit happened, as there have been problems not only for us but all our British tourists, and the British travel agencies.
The first winter was a disappointing experience because there was not a single guest who could stay with us. Last winter was better and now we are really working to show guests from all over the world that we are happy to have them here again.
It’s been great to see the whole industry brought together, to collectively help it get back on its feet, and the atmosphere has been fantastic at our resort lately.
“It’s been great to see the whole industry brought together, to collectively help it get back on its feet, and the atmosphere has been fantastic at our resort lately”
OT: Looking ahead, what are the association’s key priorities for the coming year and what do the next 12 months look like for St. Anton?
ME: Firstly, we want to start with a really good, normal winter again. It will not be 100 percent back to how it was in 2019, but it will hopefully be a satisfying experience for the guests who give us the honour of coming here.
In the next 12 months especially, we are looking at improving the quality of everything. It doesn’t matter if it’s a restaurant, hotel or a ski school, they all must improve so that people think it’s worth it, at a time when everything is getting more expensive.
We want people to say it’s worth spending money here because the experience is so good.
We also have many projects that are waiting to be realised across the next decade, with a focus on sporting events. We will host the Alpine Ski World Cup in January for women, and afterwards we will have the Junior World Ski Championships. Finally, at the end of the winter season there is the White Rush, which is the craziest ski race in the world.
In Focus: Valluga Viewpoint
A vastly underrated spot that remains a must-see experience for every variety of tourist can be found at the highest point of St. Anton’s skiing area, 2,811 metres above sea level, on top of the Valluga mountain.
Standing at the summit you can see the mountain panorama of five nations – Austria, Liechtenstein, Italy, Germany and Switzerland. This is an unbelievably beautiful spot and is just one of many hidden gems where you can get away from all the bustling skiing activity.
It’s a wonderful place where you can be alone and enjoy the winter as it really is, away from the tourism element.
Getting There and Around
St. Anton boasts a perfectly situated railway station right in the middle of town, which connects the resort to the whole of Europe with high-speed, regular trains. Tourists can therefore come from Germany, France or Switzerland as well as many other destinations, meaning there are no cars required in St. Anton at all, a positive sustainability factor for this idyllic destination.
Additionally, in St. Anton, you will find a wonderfully efficient and reliable bus system that carries about two million people every winter, without any additional costs for guests. This means you can be at the cable cars in a few minutes from everywhere in the region.
Many tourists choose to fly to Zurich, a route which is especially popular with Americans or visitors from South Africa or Australia. When arriving in Zurich, there is a train at the airport that arrives in St. Anton in just two hours, again eliminating the need for cars. It is as simple as stepping straight out of the plane and getting onto the train, a system perfect for the inexperienced or first time voyager.
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