With the summer in full swing, the sun shining (ok, not in London, but presumably elsewhere in Europe) the cocktails and the sun cream flowing in equal proportions, it’s time to focus on one thing….skiing. That’s right…for those of us that are slaves to the school holiday calendar, it’s time to choose a ski resort and get accommodation booked before everything is full. Think you’re going to come back from your summer holiday and find a place to stay…good luck with that!
Our top choice this year is a ski resort that one doesn’t necessarily, but should, associate with family ski holidays…St Anton in Austria, where we skied last season. Our first back-to-back repeat ski resort in a decade. Synonymous with hard skiing and even harder apres-skiing, St. Anton is often overlooked as a family destination because of its party reputation…and it’s a reputation that is well deserved. You can seamlessly transition from the snow covered pistes to dancing on the tabletops of mid-mountain Moosewirt…and after a few beers, a few jager bombs and maybe a few schnapps to even things out, strap on the skis for the final 3 minute descent to the base.
Ok, wait where was I…oh yes, family and kids. Very important. Aside from the alcohol-fuelled party spots in St. Anton, the resort is an incredible destination for kids. Let’s start off with the local ski school which is amazing. Now you may ask how I know this, not having actually seen any actual ski instruction (gotta beat the other parents to the ski lift, right?).
Fair question. Well to start my youngest Huxley was ripping up the slopes by the end of the week and, more importantly the instructors seemed to tolerate him despite his daily request at the beginning of each lesson, and usually once after lunch immediately after they had gotten the kids back in their ski gear, to pee. Lessons last from 9:00 to 15:00 and include lunch, which, for my kids, meant schnitzel and fries for six straight days.
For a more relaxing apres-ski alternative there is the Arlberg Wellness Centre, a short walk from the main lifts. The heated indoor/outdoor pool keeps the kids occupied for hours while simultaneously draining them of the last remaining energy they have left after their long day of skiing. At dinner the kids sit in exhausted silence, shovelling pieces of schnitzel (yes they have this for dinner as well) into their mouths and begin for bed. Right, this last bit isn’t really true…especially the silence part…but you get the idea. Family fun.
The Wellness Centre also has a sauna and steam room for adults and massages by appointment for whichever parent doesn’t draw the short straw. Admission for swimming only is a reasonably priced €4.50 for children and €4.50 to €8.00 for adults, depending on how late in the day you arrive. Oh yeah, they also have a gym…but if you ski all day and then go to a gym, we probably won’t be friends.
Next up for the family is the nighttime toboggan run. What’s better than that? Last year we took Harry for the first time and I would say that 10 is the minimum age for them to start. To be clear, this toboggan run is a British health and safety officers nightmare, but if you strap your helmets on and be smart, it’s a great time. So here is how this works, you buy a ticket for the gondola and the toboggan rental. From the top of the mountain you sled down this well lit (well, mostly well lit) trail. Halfway down the mountain there is restaurant and the only way to get there is…you guessed it…toboggan. So you can stop, have a hot chocolate (or schnapps), grab a bite to eat and continue to the bottom. Pro tip: always buy the multi trip pass. You may think that you only want to go once, but once you get to the bottom and your son starts having a temper tantrum because he wants to go again and you need to wait in line to buy another ticket, you’ll have wished you bought the multi-pass. True story.
I can talk about how the numerous restaurants are super family friendly, there’s schnitzel and fries at every restaurant and how you can quietly sip an aperol spritz at a piste side cafe as your kids sled down the beginner slopes….which are all great things about St. Anton.
But if you go to St. Anton and don’t take your kids, whatever their ages, to apres-ski at least once, you have failed as a parent (too harsh maybe…but not totally untrue).
There is always room on every tabletop for a couple of kids to dance and kids make the perfect aprés-ski accoutrements. So no need to compromise. Grab the kids, it’s family time in St. Anton!