“The season that never was” – both strange and surreal for all who experienced it. Empty slopes, great off piste conditions but throughout we have missed all of you who make St Anton special.
St Anton sparkled in it’s natural pristine beauty, serenely peaceful and blessed by an above average snowfall and great powder conditions this winter. The wild Ibis could be seen grazing in abundance, undisturbed. Unlike our Swiss neighbours, St Anton never fully opened to tourists as all accommodation remained closed. Only the lucky few living or working in the resort or daytrippers were able to ski, but lifts were kept open thanks to a common understanding of the importance of skiing for both mental and physical well being.
Just before Christmas, fantastic early powder conditions marked season start, albeit without tourists. Safety precautions were exemplary, FFP2 masks were mandatory on all lifts – a new experience but in fact in early season, as temperatures plummeted, masks provided an extra layer of protection from the cold and later in spring from the sunrays. Mostly we rode private gondolas, safe in our bubble of 4, and on chairlifts a maximum of 2 ensured you never rode with a stranger. Restaurants were closed but a takeaway service was allowed so we dined al fresco, or specially in Lech, special ice benches were created, with rugs for warmth, making a safe but convivial atmosphere. We were safe in our snow bubble, with almost zero covid cases in St Anton the whole season. However back then we still believed at some point it would open. In the meantime with fingers crossed, we were euphoric to be skiing never once taking it for granted how lucky we were. Were missing all the visitors who make St Anton special – the fun buzz was replaced by relaxed companionship, sharing time with locals.
In March, some cases of new strains were found in a handful of villages remote from us in St Anton, so the whole province of Tyrol was placed in another lockdown and this time we were asked to take antigen tests every 48 hours to continue to ski. As we love our winter sport, we soon slipped into a routine and testing just became a part of our pre-ski preparation. In this period, for just a couple of nervous weeks, lifts in St Anton closed following the new testing regime, however lifts in Lech and Zürs kept running. Two weeks later, restrictions eased and St. Anton opened it’s lifts again, so we were able to ski in the whole resort, being forever grateful for the stering effort of the Bergbahnen Arlberg.
Towards the end of the season, as temperatures started to warm, there was a growing enthusiasm for touring. Rendl and Stuben – both of which had been closed all season, were the favourites for sweet powder descents. For the more adventurous, we were able to start day touring to the stunning Silvretta region. After an early start, we took the Vermuntbahn gondola followed by a fun taxi ride through the tunnel to Bielerhohe at 2,023m on Silvretta see. Views from here to Piz buin are spectacular – we chose a 1300 meter ascent, challenging but suitably rewarded with an incredible descent in near perfect powder. On April 12th lifts finally closed marking an end to this surreal season.
One afternoon this season, we stood above Happy Valley gazing into the horizon – normally strewn with skiers on the home run, this time an empty piste – almost ghost like, and we knew we’d never see it like this again. Could this season be summarized as the weirdest, saddest and strangely wonderful winter seasons ever? The season that never was – except for some lucky locals and season workers. While we felt blessed, to have enjoyed a private ski resort none of us can wait for next season to welcome back all the powder hounds, our friends and guests that make the Arlberg such a special place. A huge thank you to the Arlberg Bergbahnen for keeping the lifts running through the last winter.
We have missed all of you who make St. Anton special.
Now is the perfect time to start planning your next Off Piste guiding holiday for 2021/2022. In uncertain times we continue to be flexible as we know things may change. Check out our packages and offers here.