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Summer days in St Anton, Austria

On the mountains in St Anton am Arlberg, Austrian Tyrol

Every winter, the town of St Anton am Arlberg in Austria’s Tyrolean Alps becomes a mecca for skiers and snowboarders. Rated as one of Europe’s top resorts, winter sports fans come from around the world to take advantage of its fantastic pistes and the serious après-ski partying after hours. But what happens when the snow melts and the skiers head home? When the 10,000+ visitors leave and the town is left to its 2680 permanent residents? Despite my love of the mountains in winter, like many skiers I’d never been to a ski resort off-season. So when we were planning our European rail trip, St Anton – with its train station on the main route across Austria – seemed the perfect stop for a couple of days of summer in the mountains.

St Anton am Arlberg, Austrian Tyrol

The town of St Anton am Arlberg

The journey up into the Arlberg valley keeps you in suspense, as a series of tunnels means you only get brief flashes of the scenery. So when we emerged out of the station we were hit by a wall of colour. By mid-July the snow on the mountains has almost totally disappeared, so instead of being covered in the blanket of white I’m used to, the mountains were a palette of shades of green instead. St Anton is a classic pretty Alpine town, with rows of traditional wooden buildings at the base of the slopes and a meltwater stream running through the valley. With so many hotels and chalets to cater for the winter visitors, a lot close in summer, but where they don’t you can often grab a bargain. Many of St Anton’s shops and restaurants stay open all year too – though at this time of year you might want to swap the usual ski resort Glühwein for a more seasonal Hugo Spritz (with elderflower cordial, prosecco, sparkling water and fresh mint).

On the mountains in St Anton am Arlberg, Austria

Views down the Arlberg valley

But the big draw for summer visitors to St Anton is the same as for the winter ones – the mountains. It was my mum’s birthday while we were in town so we took her up into the mountains to celebrate with lunch with a view. Three of the ski lifts from the centre of St Anton are open during the summer (with different ones running on different days) so we took the Galzigbahn cable car up to the first lift station at 2085 metres high, where the restaurant is open over the summer. Getting into a ski lift without wearing five layers, shuffling in ski boots and carrying skis was a whole different experience. It gave me more time to check out the panoramic views of the Arlberg valley opening out below us – not that the birthday girl appreciated this bit, she’s not a fan of heights so kept her eyes firmly shut until we got to the top!

Vallugabahn cable car, St Anton Austria

The Vallugabahn cable car carries on up the mountain from Galzig

Once safely up the mountain and fortified by a huge plate of rosti (and a few medicinal glasses of wine to help my mum get over the trauma) we walked off lunch on one of the many mountain pathways. The mountains around St Anton are dotted with yellow signposts, each marked with the numbers for different walking routes. You can get a booklet from the tourist office with details of the routes, which cover over 300 kilometres altogether. You can do anything from our lazy half-hour circuit across a meadow of wildflowers, right up to a serious multi-day trip staying in mountains huts along the way. And if you want to cover more ground, there’s also a whole network of mountain biking routes around the area, or you can get the train to one of the surrounding towns and then cycle or walk back to St Anton.

On the mountains in St Anton am Arlberg, Austria

Mountain flowers and a birthday drink with a view

If that all sounds a bit too much like hard work – or you need to soothe aching muscles – then like many mountain resorts, St Anton has a ‘wellness centre’. Although it sounds dubiously medical, it’s actually what German-speaking countries call a spa, so you’re more likely to find a pool and sauna than ice baths and colonics. In winter you’d probably want to take advantage of the heated whirlpools and jacuzzis, but on a sunny July day the outdoor pool was lined with sunloungers and packed with people. For most Brits, a ski resort might not be the obvious place for a summer holiday, but many Europeans head for the mountains every year. And having tried it out I can see why – you’ve got beautiful scenery, lots to do outdoors (however energetic you feel), an escape from the summer city heat, but without the crowds you’d get on the coast.

On the mountains in St Anton am Arlberg, Austria

Views across the mountains

The details

St Anton’s ski lifts are open this summer from 25 June to 28 September 2014. A trip on one lift will cost €15,50 for a return ticket, rising to €25,50 to go up the three lifts to the highest point. You can also get a special Hiking Pass which covers all the lifts (starting at €33 for three days) and a St Anton Card which covers the lifts and access to the pool and spa complex (from €48,00 for three days). Arlberg-well is open 9am–9pm from 14 June to 28 September 2014 and entry costs €6,50 (or €3,50 after 6pm).

Have you ever taken a summer holiday in the mountains?

27 Comments Post a comment
  1. Was there anybody ele there? I remember going to St Anton in summer (I lived in Vorarlberg at the time) and the place was empty, apart from one other group of people in the restaurant we went to for lunch! It’s a seriously beautiful town though.

    August 21, 2014
    • It wasn’t packed but there were quite a few people around – probably just about the right balance between not being crowded and not being eerily deserted either! It’s a really popular place to go for walking and cycling so we were pretty much the only people not wearing Lycra or walking boots!

      August 21, 2014
  2. I admit, the first thing I did after I finished reading the post was to look up how far from Vienna it is, since I will probably go next year in May (see you there?).

    It looks beautiful and since I don’t ski, I love taking summer holidays in the mountains, I feel like it’s the perfect time for me. 🙂

    August 21, 2014
    • Yes hopefully see you there! St Anton’s not that close to Vienna – five and a half hours by Railjet train (though the tickets were €32 one way so not too bad), but another ski resort that looks lovely (and has a big lake as well as the mountains) is Zell am See and that’s only just over four hours from Vienna so might be a good option too.

      August 21, 2014
  3. Hadel #

    Reblogged this on Hadel.

    August 21, 2014
  4. Ah, yes, and such a beautiful trip it was. We went to Telluride, Colorado which is a famous ski valley nestled in the San Juan Mountains. During the summers, they have lots of music festivals in the valley so to keep out cars and traffic, they direct non-residents to park at all the ski lodges at the top of the mountain and you take the gondola down into the valley for the festival. It was a grand view, especially for myself, and I won’t forget the ride out that night either. The small community was lit up and glowed like a town in a miniature train-set.


    August 21, 2014
    • Sounds gorgeous! I’ve not visited any of the ski resorts in the US yet but did spend a couple of days in Colorado in a cabin in the woods near Durango last year and loved the area, I will have to go back and explore a bit more!

      August 23, 2014
  5. Your pictures are gorgeous! Looks like a beautiful place!

    August 21, 2014
    • Thanks so much – it was so pretty, I couldn’t get over all the shades of green around!

      August 23, 2014
  6. Sam #

    The Austrian Alps really are gorgeous in summer! I really love how easy it is to hike in Austria, with such well marked and laid out tracks. I’m looking forward to going back in September, when the leaves are turning.

    August 21, 2014
    • Yes it’s so well-organised and there is such a big range of walking routes, you could go back fro years! Enjoy your trip in September, sure it’ll be gorgeous then.

      August 23, 2014
  7. Un recorrido como este resulta un buen estímulo para los sentidos y permite a la mente una recarga de paísajes y momentos para reflexionar de cuanto se pierden nuestros ojos en esta vida.
    Muy bueno se ve el turismo en los Alpes por estos meses.

    August 21, 2014
    • Gracias, es un buen momento para visitar!

      August 23, 2014
  8. Oh how beautiful are these photos! I think I’d love both the winter and the summer experiences – maybe one day…

    August 21, 2014
    • They are both gorgeous in their own ways! I was really impressed at how reasonable the accommodation etc was in summer too, you wouldn’t think of the Alps as a budget destination but they can be!

      August 23, 2014
  9. Amazing pics! Hope to go there someday! 🙂

    August 21, 2014
    • Thanks, it’s such a lovely area – hope you do get to see it sometime.

      August 23, 2014
  10. I love going to the mountains in the summer! The ski towns in the Rocky Mountains near where I grew up have lots of things going on in the summer, and it’s nice to get out of the heat!

    August 22, 2014
    • What a great place to grow up! I would love to visit the Rocky Mountains someday – always though of visiting in winter but maybe summer would be better after all!

      August 23, 2014
  11. Interesting idea, thank-you. I think I would actually prefer to visit while the tourists are away and it’s a little warmer!

    August 22, 2014
    • It’s definitely a lot quieter, and a lot cheaper – I would definitely go back and spend some more time in the mountains in the summertime.

      August 23, 2014
  12. Such fresh, crisp colours Lucy – the mountains look gorgeous in the summer. I’m loving the sound of the Hugo Spritz 😉

    August 24, 2014
    • I did think of you when I saw the Hugo Spritz Suzanne! It’s very nice and summery if you fancy a change from the Aperol version!

      August 25, 2014
  13. Riding around in gondolas bathed in sunshine is my idea of heaven, Lucy. I so much prefer the mountains in Summer. Glad you had a great time. 🙂

    August 29, 2014
    • It is beautiful in the snow but I think I might be a bit of a summertime convert now too Jo!

      September 2, 2014
  14. sjebner #

    Absolutely gorgeous! And we are just back from Austria ourselves!

    September 3, 2014
    • Thanks – and hope you had a great trip!

      September 3, 2014

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