St Anton am Arlberg Off-Piste

St Anton and the Arlberg ski area is where you’ll find some of the best off-piste skiing in the Alps. There are enormous amounts of off-piste terrain including high altitude ski routes, narrow chutes and couloirs and hidden valleys for deep-snow skiing far from the ski lifts.

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Valluga North Face Off-Piste

St. Anton's 'off the back' descents are legend and can be crowded on a powder day, but these 'must do' descents are worth skiing even many days after a fresh snow fall, especially the Valluga north face descent to Zürs. The gut-wrenching Valluga summit descent into the Paziel-Tal to Zurs is world famous for being one of the "must ski" off-piste descents accessible from a lift station and justifiably so. This awesome off- piste descent is certainly not for the faint hearted! A small gondola carries sightseers and skiers to the observation platform at the Valluga summit, but for safety sake only those accompanied by a qualified guide are allowed to take their skis or board to the summit.

From the exposed summit the slopes on all sides disappear into the abyss and the first timer is not quite sure where they should begin to ski as they are faced with a convex slope and what appears to be a labyrinth of cliffs and rocks. It may help to consider that an experienced mountain guide is unlikely to allow you to attempt the descent unless already satisfied as to your skiing ability and the fact of the matter is that nervously straining your eyes will not make this gut-wrenching descent any easier so best to relax, enjoy the scenery and pretend you are not a little bit afraid.

Following the guides careful instructions the descent begins with an option of two variations from the summit. The classic Valluga North Face begins with tight turns in the fall line on the far left of the face, where a tenuous traverse leads right; here great attention is needed as a fall could end in a rocket slide leading to cliff which one would not wish to visit twice. A successful traverse skiers right, then a traverse skiers left leads to elation among the group as the first obstacle is over and the terrain now looks almost enjoyable. Now only wonderful turns lie ahead but care is again exercised to avoid the 40 meter cliff at its base. During this adrenaline surging skiing try to stay relaxed, look up from the tips of your skis and enjoy your skiing while marvelling at the view ahead.

Once you've gained the col splitting the two dominant summits of Valluga and Rogspitze, you cast your eyes back to what you've skied and either thank your luck you survived or ask your guide when you can ski it again! The scenery here is dramatic with two towering summits overhead creating an intimidating yet a marvellous atmosphere. Skiing away from the col you're now faced with seemingly endless powder slopes down to Zürs.

The second option from the summit, Valluga Bridge Couloir, is equally exciting and, to add to the adventure, your elementary mountaineering skills and head for heights will be put to the test as you make your way down the roped steps to gain the old wooden Bridge that spans the famous "Bridge Couloir". After a step down under the wooden planks of the bridge, a tight 40 degree couloir requires expert technique in jump turns. After 15 turns the couloir disappears around a left banking corner before finally opening up into the wide west slope of the Valluga, where sweeping turns lead you to a meeting point safely at the base of the west face. A short traverse northwest leads you around a hidden corner to open up a treasure of powder and adventure running all the way to the Zürs ski area.

Galzig Off-Piste

The Galzig ski area is reached by an impressive high-speed gondola from St. Anton and includes some excellent off-piste ski terrain, but you'll need to be quick here too as Galzig is one of the first areas that gets skied on a powder day, especially when the higher slopes of the Valluga and Schindler are closed due to wind or avalanche risk.

Straight off the cable car, you're faced with numerous options. First off the bat is Zwischen which is sandwiched between the Ostang Einfahrt  blue and the Kandahar black piste. Here you'll find powder slopes and challenging lines between the trees which will bring you out close to Feldherrnhugel lift. Backseite is the Galzig classic: north facing, steep and perfect for developing off-piste technique on steeper terrain dropping into Steissbachtal (Happy Valley). The red ski route (51) from Galzig down to St Anton is a reincarnation of black Ostang and the mogulled section between the trees is usually quite challenging.

Backseite is accessed by riding the Zammermoos chairlift or the Tanzboden T-bar then ski towards red ski route (54) which offers multiple entry points and the chance to pick the steepest terrain or head skiers left at the top of the Kandahar run towards the bottom of Tanzboden then ski off-piste down the steep north facing pitch into Steissbachtal (Happy Valley). The Zammermoos affords easier access to the steepest terrain and on a powder day you can make excellent laps using Zammermoos lifts and heading right at the top.

Easily accessed from below the Galzig cable car Maienwassen is truly world class on a powder day even when the visibility is low, as the trees are never far away to help with the contrast, but utmost care must be taken as left and right side of this descent are deep cutting valleys which can present extreme avalanche danger on fresh snow days.

Kapall Schonegraben Off-Piste

Off the Kapall lift to the east of the resort is Schonegraben, meaning "Beautiful Grave". This descent offers steep trees and open faces and the correct line must be chosen to remain safe from potential avalanche threats. Upon entering the area you must head for the trees and take care on the steeper slopes left of the forest line. From the top of Kapall looking towards Schonegraben is a very inviting bowl, this bowl must never be skied in its entirety as it ends in an ever increasingly convex form to end in a steep narrow gauge called the "The plug hole" which has claimed many avalanche deaths in the area over the years. To avoid this follow the high logical traverse to the right to gain the bottom of the drag lift to access the top of Kapall lift.

Rendl Off-Piste

The Rendl ski area on the opposite side of the valley is easy to reach from the impressive Rendlbahn gondola station in St Anton.  The off-piste skiing at Rendl is often used for guiding due to its variable terrain and predictable snow. There is good off-piste skiing between the pistes left and right of the Maass Bahn, where you'll find gentle slopes meandering through the trees; always a favourite area during stormy days as the trees help with the visibility. Moving higher up the mountain, take the Gampberg six-man chair lift and skiers right, skiing the line under the chair lift, it's long and perfect for getting into that powder rhythm, you can either traverse out left back to the piste or continue further or join the long red run down to St Anton. There are also some chutes and gullies under the Riffel lift. Ride the lift up to assess them from above before tackling them.

St Anton's Rendl ski area, however, really comes into its own when you want to start venturing farther away from the lifts with a number of short side-stepping climbs allowing access excellent hidden off-piste stashes. Rendl's many 'off the back' options include the Hinter Rendl bowl, the challenging North Face and scenic silence in comparatively gentle Rossfall.

Hinter Rendl Off-Piste

Hinter Rendl, a huge north facing bowl, offers steep and wide untracked powder through high alpine ski terrain and open forest lines. It can get tracked early, but its vastness and unlimited lines means that you can almost always find something untracked many days after the last snow fall. Ride the Riffel 1 and 2 chair lifts and you access the bowl passing through a roped off section with a sign warning indicating you're leaving the patrolled area. You will need to have experience in avalanche judgement to ski here. The other entrance point is after riding the Gampberg lift, head right along Schimalegg ridge and where the terrain flattens a line right is taken to access a wonderful open bowl which leads you to trees and the track back to the Rendl Bahn, but be aware this route requires experience in route finding and avalanche judgment. Attention must be paid not to ski in the couloirs directly right as these hold dangerous snow directly after strong wind and or fresh snow and the scene of many an accident.

Rendl North Face Off-Piste

Long and dominating, Rendl's North Face immediately south of St Anton shadows over the village and offers an outstanding powder run that invites you to its upper open faces and its lower technical trees lines. This route however requires excellent route finding skills as take the wrong line and you will end up surrounded by cliffs and drops with a strenuous if not impossible hike back up the mountain.

You can access this area from the Gampberg lift and ski the itinerary route number R5 to its half way point, traverse right until you reach a radio antenna and ski the fall line to reach the trees, and then taking the obligatory right traverse line to escape the cliffs. There are many convex slopes on this face and they must be avoided during powder days as these are serious potential avalanche areas.

Rossfall Off-Piste

For those not quite up for the challenge of Rendl's north face, Rossfall wide rolling pitches offer delightful powder. A short traverse and a steep side-step climb up right side of the Riffel 1 chair lift allows access to this little paradise, where the stunning views and mountain silence remind you that off-piste skiing is what life's all about! Route finding experience is important here too as you need to avoid certain convex slopes and potential terrain traps in this area.

Schindlerkar Off-Piste

The Schindlerkar (86) and Mattunjoch (90) ski routes can be reached by riding the chairlift to Schindler Spitze (2,660m) or taking the Valluga I cable car to Vallugagrat (2,650m) then ski red 19 and ride the cable car to reach the ski routes. Here you'll see successive lines cut by skiers traversing high and wide in search of good lines back down to the main ski route. But with so many off-piste powder hounds around you need to be quick off the mark to find fresh tracks in these high traffic areas.

If you like skiing steep and narrow couloirs lined either side by rocks then check out the Schindler West experts only chutes dropping down to your left from the top of the Schindlergratbahn top station. A robust wooden fence prevents accidental access to these couloirs and you can be sure there'll be quite an audience when experts climb the fence and perch somewhat perilously before jumping in and disappearing from view after just a few turns or quicker still if they were to fall. And in all but the very best fresh snow conditions when local ski instructors and ski bums will have got there before you in any event, it's moguls all the way.

The Schindler South slopes beneath the Schindlergratbahn triple chair offer excellent deep snow possibilities on a powder day and can be accessed high up from behind the top lift station but you'll need an instructor or guide for safe route finding and to ensure a safe descent through rocky couloirs higher up and on avalanche prone south facing slopes. Easier access at lower level can be gained by skiing down on piste from Schindlergratbahn then not far from the top as you bear left towards Ulmer Hutte traverse skiers left off-piste quite some distance around the shoulder of Schindler then a short boot up and you can drop on to the slopes running down beneath the chairlift.

Stuben Off-Piste

See the Stuben section for a summary of opportunities on the Albonagrat and beyond. In most years Stuben gets more fresh powder than St Anton, so it's worth taking the lift over.

Lech-Zurs Off-Piste

There are approximately 30 marked but ungroomed trails, five of which are classified as Extreme, and plenty of unmarked off-piste in Lech-Zurs that can easily be reached from St Anton. The microclimate around Zurs means it usually receives  more fresh powder than St Anton. The grass meadows above Lech also require less snow cover than St Anton's steeper and rockier slopes to offer enjoyable off-piste skiing.


Beyond Lech, there are further off-piste opportunities in Warth-Schroecken, and it's a famously snowy area.

Sonnenkopf - Neningastal Off-Piste

Sonnenkopf is primarily a family resort that joined the Arlberg area some years ago. About thirty minutes by car or bus from St Anton, Sonnenkopf is included in the main Arlberg lift pass and the ski area is similar in character to many a ski mountain in North America with spaced out trees and bowl like skiing possibilities. Hidden over the back of the top lift, however, is the very impressive Nesingastal off-piste run offering 1,500m vertical of exciting steep lines, huge open faces in impressive scenery and to conclude the run there's the obligatory steep exit line through a demanding and gullied steep section studded with bushes leading to the Nesingastal. This spectacular adventure ends close to Langen where you catch the train in time to get you back to St. Anton for a well earned après ski!

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