Skiing: Austria's most intriguing resorts

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The Independent Travel

ST ANTON

ST ANTON

This is hardly a prepossessing place. Bisected by the railway line between Zurich and Innsbruck, with its pedestrianised main drag running alongside the tracks (which are to be moved to accommodate the 2001 World Skiing Championships), the town is dominated by the sort of unremarkable architecture that makes lowland Austria so dull. But roll your eyes upwards, and you are thankful to be there. The setting is stunning, with mountains climbing to 2,800m and beyond. And to the north west, below the Valluga peak, is some of the best skiing in the Alps. The Arlberg ski-pass gives access to St Anton, the resorts of Lech, Zurs and Stuben, and the linked ski- area of St Christoph, covering a total of 82 lifts, 260km of pistes and 180km of off-piste. Although there are some easy runs into St Christoph, most of the St Anton area is best suited to intermediates and above. For them, the Schindlergrat area borders on the sublime, not only heading downhill - on the runs, pisted and unpisted, that drop off either side of the lift - but also going up: the lift is one of the great skier's ascents, suddenly flying over a sheer drop as it reaches the top.

St Anton also has a heavy-duty apres-ski scene, and the standard of accommodation is high. But those are its lesser attributes: the great thing about St Anton is the skiing, especially in late season when the snow sticks around and the sun comes out.

All the major tour operators except Neilson, and more than a dozen independents, offer packages to St Anton.

Stephen Wood

PFUNDS

Where? You'll never get a flash of recognition when you announce that you're off to Pfunds, in the Austrian Tirol. That's partly because Pfunds is not a ski resort. The village has a ski school, but its speciality is to ship its clients around the impressive range of resorts nearby. What lends a special spice to this arrangement is that Pfunds is near the point where Austria, Switzerland and Italy meet. So in a week you can spend a couple of days skiing in each of the three countries. The best return on travelling time invested is in Ischgl, in Austria. But even this excellent high-altitude area is approached through Switzerland: it's only a 20-minute drive from Pfunds to tiny duty-free Samnaun, which has the world's biggest cable-car (a double-decker) in the cross-border ski area it shares with Ischgl.Nauders and Serfaus (in Austria) are even closer, Schoneben (Italy) and Bad Scuol (Switzerland) a little further - all of them worth a day's exploration; Bad Scuol maybe more. St Anton and Austria's other Arlberg resorts are in easy reach, the scenic glories and swank of St Moritz more remote (well over an hour's drive). Pfunds itself is a quiet place in winter, delightful to explore, with the Hotel Post offering solid comfort.

Made to Measure Holidays (01243 533333) can put together tailor-made, inclusive packages for Pfunds. The Hotel Post also collaborates with the Pfunds ski school to offer multi-resort trips.Chris Gill is co-editor of 'Where to Ski and Snowboard' (Thomas Cook, £14.99).

Chris Gill

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