Huddersfield Daily Examiner - - FRONT PAGE -

S the April sun shines over the Aus­trian Ty­rol moun­tain range, there’s only one sound that can be heard for miles around. It’s 3.30pm and DJ Ger­hard is start­ing his set at the leg­endary après-ski bar Mooser­wirt in St An­ton. He’s blast­ing It’s a Fi­nal Count­down by Eu­rope across the piste: his go-to party opener.

I down my first oblig­a­tory Jäger­bomb in re­spect.

The 68-year-old ‘King of Apres-Ski’ has played the Moose ev­ery day for 26 years – pos­si­bly the long­est DJ res­i­dency of all time.

Ev­ery af­ter­noon skiers flock back to the re­sort to join the après par­ties on the slopes and in the town, which are sec­ond to none in the whole of the Alps.

It’s been 10 years since I spent a win­ter sea­son in St An­ton – first work­ing as a chalet house­keeper for Ski To­tal, then later fly­ing the nest to be­come a wait­ress at the rowdy après-ski bar Krazy Kan­gu­ruh.

Be­ing paid to race stag par­ties at down­ing Smirnoff Ices seemed like a sen­si­ble ca­reer move at the time.

But while the Mooser­wirt re­mains largely un­changed in the decade since my last visit – in­clud­ing the set list – I was ex­cited to see what had changed in the re­sort which was my home for five glo­ri­ous months un­til April 2008.

Though thank­fully this time I could hang up my mop bucket and en­joy be­ing a guest with Ski To­tal and their part­ner Ing­hams.

I’d be drag­ging my univer­sity friend along for the ex­pe­ri­ence – and as long as she can put up with all my tire­some sea­son­aire sto­ries and I could put up with her miss­ing two days of ski­ing due to hang­overs, we’d get along just fine.

De­spite fly­ing from Gatwick our jour­ney was rel­a­tively pain­less – even en­joy­able.

We flew with Aus­trian Air­lines who pro­vide free food, booze and soft drinks on the short flight – a con­cept long for­got­ten by UK bud­get ri­vals.

Af­ter a white-knuckle land­ing at Inns­bruck Air­port (we were caught in freak winds), we were met im­me­di­ately at ar­rivals by our Ski To­tal reps who di­rected us all onto our ap­pro­pri­ate coach.

Un­like some French re­sorts where you have to en­dure a never-end­ing per­ilous jour­ney wind­ing up the moun­tain for eter­nity clutch­ing a sick bag – St An­ton is just an hour away.

The trans­fer time is a great as­set to the re­sort, and for­tu­nately for those of us who do not travel well, it’s a straight road the whole way.

Driv­ing back into the town for the first time in 10 years I felt a pang of nos­tal­gia. The pretty re­sort is set in a val­ley of two peaks with the Nasserein sub­urb on the east and the Gastig on the west.

We would be stay­ing the Ho­tel Post which is set in the pedes­trian area in the cen­tre of the town.

Just a stone’s throw from the Galzig­bahn gon­dola and the Gam­pen chair lift, the ho­tel is a per­fect lo­ca­tion for both ski­ing and for en­joy­ing the nightlife.

It has a tra­di­tional Aus­trian feel and af­ter swiftly dump­ing our lug­gage, we’re en­joy­ing a com­pli­men­tary glass of pros­ecco on the sunny ter­race while some lo­cal mu­si­cians croon in the cor­ner.

Later at the wel­come drinks party we’re greeted by our host Heimo, who gives us the run­down of the week’s ac­tiv­i­ties at the chalet-ho­tel.

As well as the wine-tast­ing night and spe­cial gala din­ner, we’re in­vited to take part in a ski race in St Christoph, where I gather guests are in­vited to speed down the moun­tain af­ter be­ing force fed five shots of schnapps.

Mean­while Heimo pro­vides turn by turn com­men­tary of the guests hurtling down the piste as they com­pete to win the cov­eted Ho­tel Post’s ski tro­phy.

We learn that many guests re­turn to the ho­tel ev­ery year for this spe­cific an­nual event, and it’s clear that the staff recog­nise some old faces as we min­gle at the wel­come party. And the race isn’t the only ap­peal to re­turn.

The ho­tel of­fers a sub­stan­tial buf­fet break­fast, af­ter­noon tea and a good four-course meal ev­ery day.

The rooms are clean and spa­cious with a typ­i­cal Aus­trian feel and bal­conies ei­ther over-look­ing the high street or the loom­ing Ty­rolean moun­tains.

There’s a rea­son­ably priced bar in the ho­tel with weekly en­ter­tain­ment and a large ski room in the base­ment.

But the main at­trac­tion is the beau­ti­ful spa with large swim­ming pool, jacuzzi, saunas and steam room – the per­fect way to re­lax af­ter a hard day’s ski­ing – if you haven’t been tempted to join the après party of course.

But ski­ing in St An­ton is not for the faint-hearted or for be­gin­ners.

Al­though it does have some begin­ner pistes near the Nasserein gon­dola, the pistes are hard, and many of the red runs would prob­a­bly be clas­si­fied as blacks in other re­sorts.

If you’re ski­ing back to St An­ton on the Galzig area (which in­cludes ac­cess to Stuben, St Christoph, Zurs and Lech), there’s only two routes back to the town – the blue Happy Val­ley or the no­to­ri­ous black mogul wall. On our ar­rival we were told by our dishy rep Ge­orge that an avalanche had closed Happy Val­ley so, along with ev­ery­one else, we would have to brave the dreaded wall. But if you’re legs can’t take it, head up the Gam­pen or Rendl lifts – per­fect for af­ter­noon ski­ing.

Back in 2007 head­ing to the sunny Rendl area was an or­deal – hav­ing to catch a ski bus to take you to the other side of town.

Then you would brave the rick­ety yel­low cable car to the Rendl Beach to re­lax in deck chairs and watch the en­er­getic skiers and board­ers brave the jumps in the Snow Park.

Now the new mod­ern Rendl­bahn lift is in the cen­tre of town just a few hun­dred me­tres from the Galzig­bahn chair, mak­ing a visit to the south­fac­ing slopes much more pain free.

In fact in the last decade the ski area has been hugely ex­tended with dozens more runs and 88 lifts mak­ing it eas­ier to ac­cess the huge 460km Al­berg ski area – I barely recog­nised the piste map.

Mean­while, the choco­late box town is largely un­changed, with a buzzing at­mos­phere and ar­guably the best nightlife in any ski re­sort.

Al­though some old favourites like bar Funky Chicken and club Kan­da­har are no longer there, my clas­sic sea­son­aire haunts Cuba, Postkeller, Scot­tys and Bobo’s are still go­ing strong.

The town now boasts a weekly silent disco and plenty of live mu­sic for the fel­low party an­i­mals.

Within the blink of an eye the week had whizzed by in a blur of slopes, sun­burn, schnitzel and schnapps.

And as we boarded our coach back to Inns­bruck, my travel buddy Ceri con­ceded that St An­ton was the best re­sort she’d been to.

Now I may be bi­ased as th­ese slopes were my home for five months, but if you like to ski hard and play harder, nowhere else comes close. My only re­gret is that it took me 10 years to come back and visit – but this time round I won’t wait so long.

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