In search of... après-ski in Austria

You've had a long, hard day playing on the slopes, but you're still ready to party the night away.

The advent of winter condemns Britons to months of long nights, cold winds and unremitting showers (as opposed to persistent drizzle for the remainder of the year) but our happy cousins in mainland Europe are a short journey from oodles of white, fluffy snow in the Alps, notably St Anton am Arlberg, a veritable jewel secreted in the Austrian Tyrol.

The advent of winter condemns Britons to months of long nights, cold winds and unremitting showers (as opposed to persistent drizzle for the remainder of the year) but our happy cousins in mainland Europe are a short journey from oodles of white, fluffy snow in the Alps, notably St Anton am Arlberg, a veritable jewel secreted in the Austrian Tyrol.

Where did you say?

At the federal border of Vorarlberg, St Anton lies at the foot of the Arlberg pass next to the river Rosanna, 1,304m above sea level. With a population of just 2,208 it has more than 80 ski lifts and cable cars, 260km of pisted runs and 185km of powder-snow slopes. It's a mere 100km from Innsbruck airport and 200km from Zurich and Munich.

Enough with the vital statistics. Why should I go there?

That's easy: no other European resort offers the same intoxicating blend of great pistes and jaw-dropping off-piste potential. There are no concrete apartments here; this resort is about traditional guest houses and restaurants owned and run by local families. Best of all, St Anton provides more nocturnal entertainment than Glasgow on Hogmanay.

Okay, you've got my attention

Well, apparently, St Anton is home to the Alps' very first ski club (established in 1901) and ski school. Faultlessly hosting last year's World Alpine Championships helped to ensure that this resort remains among Europe's best. With huge, sweeping runs and vertigo-inspiring gradients, St Anton is a must for anyone looking to improve their skiing. Most "black" runs in other European resorts would only qualify for a "red" in a resort so large that you'd need a few months to exhaust its runs.

Situated at the northern end of the Alps, it's one of the first locations to catch the winter snow. Combined with high-altitude slopes (the zenith of which is the monster peak Valluga at 2,811m) a great covering of snow is virtually guaranteed.

Safe off-piste skiing is a way of life in St Anton and few European resorts can compete. With moguls, trees and near-vertical descents to circumvent, on-piste reputations count for little. Put simply, this resort is always full because it's a perfect destination for skiers and snowboarders alike.

Let's hear more about the après-ski

Sorry, got a bit carried away. Well, wintering in St Anton ensures that you'll be spoilt or choice on venues with alcohol (schnapps is always a popular tipple) as copiously abundant as fresh snow. Two hundred metres up the mountain, the popular Krazy Kangeruh is always full of well-lubricated skiers from across the globe. Their hedonistic credentials are tested to the full when trying to negotiate their way back down the mountain.

Moosewirt offers oompah-sing-along songs for a majority German crowd as huge as they are insatiable, while Fang House is a real treat, fusing a contagious après-ski vibe with great music that you won't be embarrassed to hum when you're sober. The bar menu offers the only kebabs in town, while Hasse, the constantly smiling Swedish manager, treats every patron like a long-lost relative. Just don't start him toasting schnapps, unless you have a wheelbarrow and a sober companion to take you back to your hotel.

That's more like it. Where else do I head for once the pistes close?

There's so much on offer that I don't know where to start. St Anton may offer the largest ski area in Austria but its cosmopolitan village remains essentially diminutive, traditional and crammed full of outstanding clubs, bars and eateries. Funky Chicken is always bustling, with people chomping on succulent flame-grilled chicken and mountains of chips. The food is very tasty, and the energetic crowd hangs out way past bedtime for the chance to kick back with a tall drink, chew the fat and soak up the great tunes.

Pomerdoro offers excellent food (pasta and pizza) for people wanting to refuel on a budget, while The Underground would be a welcome addition to London's tube system. Offering American-style ribs and live music always ensures an animated clientele upstairs, while you'll find cool blues music, and a welcome respite for battered eardrums, in the basement.

Drop In and Kartouche are decked out in chrome and mirrors (circa Boogie Nights 1977), but provide a thumping soundtrack where bright young things dance the night away.

It all sounds great. But what if I'm nursing a hangover and want something a little quieter?

Fair enough. There's something for everyone here. Pub 37 is a small but perfectly formed bar more akin to a traditional English pub, while Platzl Bar's rustic aesthetic and food menu are always tempting. They'll also throw in some memorable live country blues to boot.

Hacienda and Bobo's attract a more sophisticated crowd, more Fulham Road than mountain trail, but if you're looking for something really extraordinary catch a taxi out of town to Resthaus Ferwall by St Anton's picturesque reservoir. The 10-minute drive through snow-covered woods offers plenty of excitement but the decor, atmosphere and specialised mountain game menu at this family-run restaurant are undeniably worth the trip.

How can I get there?

Travelling in the popular month of February, you can book a return flight to Zurich on easyJet (0870 6000 000; www.easyjet.com) from £70 including tax. (Alternatively, you can fly to Munich with Go or Innsbruck with KLM.)

A train from Zurich airport to St Anton costs £55 return with an approximate journey time of two and a half hours. No bus transfer is needed as St Anton's train station is in the heart of the village. (There are also rail links from Munich via Kufstein or direct from Innsbruck.)

Bed and breakfast accommodation at the Hotel Pepi Gabl (00 43 5446 2229; www.hotelgabl.com) costs 45 euros (£28.11) per person, per night. A week's ski pass with cost about £120. For more information on St Anton am Arlberg visit www.arlberg.com.

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