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.