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St. Anton am Arlberg, Bild: JackKPhoto / shutterstock

Sankt Anton – a white paradise with a great history

Skiers from the New World find it difficult to hear the word “Sankt Anton”. And since this is obviously unchangeable, the name of the popular winter sports resort in the Alps was unceremoniously “Americanized”. Anyone who travels from the United States to the Arlberg on their skis or snowboarders speaks of “Stanton” when they mean Sankt Anton. The inhabitants of the lively town on the border between the Austrian provinces of Tyrol and Vorarlberg take note of this with great equanimity, and for the large number of ski instructors, “Stanton” has become a name corruption that is easy to live with. After all, the numerous guests from the USA don’t let themselves be left with tips.

The memory of the pioneer Hannes Schneider

Four towns in this region claim that the cradle of winter sports once stood within their walls. This is associated with a certain Hannes Schneider, who founded Austria’s first ski school in the early twenties of the last century. In Lech and the neighbors Zürs and Sankt Christoph, he is said to have taught his students the first stem bows. And this at a time when the telemark style was still very popular with alpinists. If you go in search of traces in Sankt Anton today, you will even come across a monument in memory of Hannes Schneider in the park in front of the Ski and Local History Museum. Sankt Anton claims this pioneer for itself because he launched the local ski school and was already employed as a ski instructor in Sankt Anton at the early age of 17. The fact that American vacationers have a special relationship with Hannes Schneider and cultivate it with “Stanton” can probably be deduced from the fact that this ski instructor emigrated to the USA with his family in 1939 and spent the rest of his life there.

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Once upon a time, the people at the pass were very poor

Getting around St Anton
On the road in St. Anton, Image: Boris-B / shutterstock

For most holidaymakers, Sankt Anton is something like a synonym for carefree days and for the great freedom in a white paradise. Where Hannes Schneider once crouched down and taught the well-travelled excursionists the right swing while having fun on boards, winter sports are at home. The ski area around the Valluga, the highest mountain in the region, is one of the largest in Austria. Sankt Anton, the main town in the upper part of the Stanzertal, has changed its original appearance, but it has retained its very special charm. He is still down-to-earth, but has opened up to an international crowd of guests, not only in the cold season. Sankt Anton was once an important stop on the heavily frequented pass on the local mountain Gampen. The people who professed their homeland here were traditionally poor, but the farming structures in this community, one hundred kilometres from Innsbruck , changed with the start of international tourism.

The freestyle enthusiasm in “Stanton Park”

However, a first hotel opened its doors in Sankt Anton as early as 1895. It had around a hundred beds and even then boasted centrally controlled heating in all rooms. Today, the town with its excellent hotel industry is approaching the million mark in annual overnight stays. In 2001, Sankt Anton was the venue for the Alpine Ski World Championships, and World Cup races take place there on a regular basis. If you are enthusiastic about freestyle skiing, you will be drawn from the Rendl mountain station to the so-called “Stanton Park” and you will find rails and boxes of all levels of difficulty. Skiers on the Arlberg rave about the above-average long slopes and the snow reliability. It is guaranteed, among other things, by the installation of snow cannons. The cable car takes you up to the 2,650-metre-high summit of the Valluga, and those who dare to do it and have the appropriate skills can even descend from there to Zürs and Lech.

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The sport here is not seasonal

Winter in Sankt Anton
Winter World Sankt Anton, Image: Styve Reineck / shutterstock

But Sankt Anton is more than just fun in the snow. This place is a year-round destination with hospitable people and cozy dining rooms. But there is also the parish church of St. Anton, which is built immediately before the threshold of the 16. To 17th century and dedicated to three saints: the Virgin Mary, Francis and Anthony. The second church in Sankt Anton presents itself in a baroque robe, and its spire was the landmark of the village for a long time. But then it was destroyed in a fire. The Ski and Local History Museum is located in the so-called “Trier Villa” and conveys the history of Sankt Anton from the Middle Ages to modern times. In summer, holidaymakers hike through wonderful nature with numerous lakes, alpine pastures, waterfalls and moors. The fact that the place is not only a worthwhile destination for winter sports is known to those who know the scene. Because the sport there is not seasonal. The “Arlberg Giro” and the “Bike Marathon” take place here. And if you are interested in the country and its people, you should come there for the cattle drive or the Advent market, which traditionally heralds the “white season”.