Never mind the skiing, show me the way to the nightclubs

St Anton is reaping the rewards of playing host to a major championship
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The Independent Travel

For adrenalin skiing and round-the-clock fun, St Anton has always been the best resort in Austria. Yet until this year's World Alpine Ski Championships - which ended yesterday - it had never hosted a major championship. Indeed, it had never applied, leaving neighbouring Innsbruck free to host the Winter Olympics in 1964 and 1976.

For adrenalin skiing and round-the-clock fun, St Anton has always been the best resort in Austria. Yet until this year's World Alpine Ski Championships - which ended yesterday - it had never hosted a major championship. Indeed, it had never applied, leaving neighbouring Innsbruck free to host the Winter Olympics in 1964 and 1976.

In 1996 St Anton finally went up against St Moritz for the right to stage the championships. At the vote in New Zealand, its representatives watched in alarm as the Swiss showered delegates with gifts. But the Austrian pretender snatched the crown, and it has benefited from the break.

When the championships opened two weeks ago, St Anton came alive to the sound of music and celebration - but it has also started to enjoy unaccustomed peace. For the real prize was not hosting a major event but the eviction of the railway that had bisected the town.

The legacy from the championships will undoubtedly help the resort in the years to come. St Anton's new subterranean railway station is almost as short a walk from the centre as its predecessor. But the old stone station is still in place, along with its celebrated buffet. The new men's downhill course has been designed by St Anton's favourite son, Karl Schranz. Several new pistes opened for the championships will remain in place for holiday-makers.

Although there was room for 20,000 spectators, most of St Anton's terrain was used recreationally throughout the championships. During the Arlberg-Kandahar race on the traditional course holiday skiiers could watch the best 15 women skiers zip past, then cross to the Valluga cable car and plunder the wide steep unpisted slopes of the Shindler Kar and Mattun until they closed.

St Anton's renowned Arlberg ski school has plenty of beginners' classes, but the resort caters best for aggressive snow-users. With a ratio of eight men to one woman throughout the season, the atmosphere is laddish - which suits some, not others.

But St Anton has long enjoyed a raffish reputation. Aprÿs-ski starts early here, either at the Mooserwirt or the Krazy Kangaruh, conceptually Australian and now an enduring part of Alpine legend. Located at the top of the final piste, its patrons thrive on manic drinking and dancing in ski boots long before dinner is on the hob, let alone the table.

The after-dinner scene is just as abandoned. The Underground bar, with modestly priced drinks, trad decor and live music, is an ideal start. Come midnight, it is over to Kartouche, opened by Jonathan Verney five years ago. He saw the potential profit in a club that crammed in as many teenagers as possible, to drink beer at AS20 (93p) per half litre and continue rocking until chucking-out time. This year, he has doubled his repertoire by turning The Drop into The Kandahar, a club for the over-25s. Does this mean that St Anton is becoming more sophisticated? Probably, but the point still seems to be to drink and have fun.

Arising bleary-eyed after a night of revelry, skiers have a choice of five resorts on the Arlberg ski pass, although only St Christoph and Stuben are directly linked with St Anton. The word is that the other two, Zurs and Lech, currently a 30-minute bus ride away, will be invited to join the party within five years. That would mean building a lift to Zurs, long proposed, but the reborn St Anton has found the confidence to rule the world.

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