POLLY put the kettle on. Polly put the kettle on and made a triple chocolate sponge cake, calorific canapés with the aperitifs, chicken chasseur and yummy banana and honeycomb mousse.
'A prosecco, then crisp white wine meant a late black run was ditched in favour of the safe option of a gentle gondola ride to the valley to investigate the night life'
Polly, and her co-chalet girl buddy Bina, are the stalwarts of the chalet party holiday for ravenous skiers, supplying their hungry charges with hearty breakfasts – porridge a must for early morning skiers and boarders, followed by a full British fry-up – afternoon teas and a three course evening meal with lashings of wine to embellish tales of derring-do on the mountains.
We were in St Anton, one of Austria’s top Tyrolean resorts, where party animals burn the candle at both ends, where late nights carousing are followed by early(ish) mornings on the slopes, revived by that chilled champagne mountain air working its magic on thick heads.
Alka-Seltzer and Berocca would go out of business if you could bottle that crystal clear air.
But there’s a rumour going round. Whisper it quietly: the Pleasure Police are on patrol. The town is trying to tone down its après-ski excesses with holiday company reps discouraged from leading their guests on bar crawls.
And hotels and restaurants are barring ski-booted revellers from their premises after 8pm so that après ski, that kicks off from mid-afternoon, doesn’t stretch into one marathon drinking session with raucous rowdies interrupting diners. We certainly wouldn’t have enjoyed any interruptions to our classy dinners at the Post or the Museum.
Well, that’s the theory. There was no evidence of pleasure policing during our stay. Not that we tried to enter licenced premises in our ski boots after hours. We were too knackered, and happy to ease our tired feet and bodies into the warm luxury of our sauna, followed by an invigorating swim in our pool, or succumb to the deft touch of a masseur to knead tight muscles.
Ours was a chalet with a difference. Named the Mountain Lodge, it is the epitome of modernity in this very Austrian town. It has been designed and built for Inghams, the holiday company that has brought tourists to St Anton for decades, and looks like it has landed from outer space.
Unlike its cute, chocolate-boxy timber neighbouring chalets in traditional Alpine style, it stands alone, sweeping curved walls and huge windows facing the peaks.
The interior is beautifully finished, stylish but comfortable, a cow hide on the wooden floor, triple glazed to keep in the warmth, a glass-fronted fire, big comfy leather chairs and sofas, a big dining table – and tiny kitchen for Polly & Co to prepare our goodies.
The bedrooms with en-suite bathrooms are all impeccably spick and span thanks to Polly & Co. My only gripes: smoky glass in the bathroom isn’t the best for application of contact lenses and cosmetics. The living room could do with more subtle lighting, all the better to relax over a St. Anton Sunset – Grenadine, white wine and orange juice – with our fig, parmesan and parsley canapes.
We weren’t just here to indulge in chalet cuisine. Skiing was the name of the game. So under the instruction of Frank, from the Skischule Arlberg, we hit the pistes. We were early in the season and good snowfalls had been compromised by rain and a melt. Thanks to the snow-making machines there was plentiful of cover on most of the runs, which were silky smooth. And the promise of a snowstorm kept the off-piste skiers and boarders happy.
Skiing in St Anton ticks all the boxes for beginners, intermediates, advanced, thrill seeker and powder puppies. Boarders are assured of challenging runs and fun.
After a long morning of skiing, broken only by hot chocolate under a swirl of whipped cream, we late lunched at the top of the mountain, at the Verwallstube, Europe's highest gourmet restaurant where you could rub shoulders with Princess Caroline of Monaco. We didn’t. But we enjoyed stunning views and fancy food.
I took Frank’s lead and ordered the bouillabaisse – the best fish stew outside France – and dreamy desserts. A prosecco, then crisp white wine meant a late black run was ditched in favour of the safe option of a gentle gondola ride to the valley to investigate the night life and see if the boot ban was making any difference to the fun vibe of St Anton.
The reason behind this ‘boot ban’ edict from the St Anton am Arlberg Tourist Board is, according to its director Martin Ebster, less to do with aesthetics than acoustics “as ski boots make an unmistakeable noise on making contact with solid ground.”
They also make an unmistakeable noise on making contact with solid wooden tables on which patrons dance wildly every afternoon during the unmissable après ski.
No one visiting this resort should miss the combined craziness of the Krazy Kanguruh and the Mooserwirt, where head banging and bodysurfing, schnapps-downing and beer-swilling collide with ski-boot jiving to rock’n’roll, heavy metal and oompah-oompah band music
These two frenetic establishments, pumping out liquor and music in equal measure, stand on either side of the blue piste number one, just above the village but not near enough to be entirely incident-free as over-lubricated skiers head for home. That’s if you can locate your skis or board in the forest of equipment stacked in racks and leaning higgledy-piggledy on every inch of walls.
After a session at the Mooserwirt – where at least 2.5000 litres of beer are downed every afternoon up to 8pm, making it Austria’s fastest beer seller – one of our party failed to locate his expensive hire skis.
In high dudgeon he tramped and slithered down the side of the slope to report the loss at the hire shop. Don’t worry, he was assured by the helpful staff at Sport Alber. Someone ‘borrowed’ them for the journey down and brought them in.
The chalet gels were on hand back at the Mountain Lodge to provide another superlative dinner, plump our pillows and banish any thick heads with hangover-busting breakfast. Then Polly put the kettle on…
Inghams (01483 79 11 14; www.inghams.co.uk) offers the resort of St Anton in the Austrian Tirol with 7 nights at the Inghams Mountain Lodge starting from £554 per person for 7 nights on half board, including return flights to Innsbruck and resort transfers. 6 day lift pass starts from £149, ski and boot hire from £170 and 3 days ski school from £145. An Adult Ski saver from £365 (includes 6 day area pass, 6 day ski hire & 3 days tuition)
Daily flights are available from London Gatwick with easyJet to Innsbruck with www.easyjet.com from £60 return. British Airways (www.ba.com) flies five times a week from London Gatwick and new for 2012-13 Monarch (www.monarch.com) will fly three times a week from Manchester airport. Affordable resort transfers are available through www.transfer.tirol.at.
For more information about Tirol www.visittirol.co.uk or St Anton visit www.stantonamarlberg.com.
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