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Slopes and glory; Spectacular St Anton in the Austrian Alps truly deserves its name as Europe's best ski resort and is also the birthplace of the "Father of Modern Skiing".

Byline: FIONA RUSSELL

Sometimes, I am lucky enough to be in the right place at the right time.

Most recently, it was a skiing trip to St Anton am Arlberg, in Austria.

I arrived the week that the Alps received a huge dump of snow - after a worryingly warm start to the skiing season.

During my short break, the clouds lifted and the snow stopped to offer some of the best blue sky skiing I have enjoyed in Europe in many years.

That week, I also heard the news that St Anton had been named the best ski resort in Europe.

The Austrian Tirol ski centre was ranked No1 by travel search engine Goeuro.co.uk, rated on affordability, quality of skiing experience, accessibility, apres-ski and family activities.

Picture-postcard St Anton is a real gem of a find, especially in times of fickle winter weather.

It's one of Europe's snowiest areas and has a season that lasts an impressive five months.

Located in one of the six largest ski areas in the world, St Anton extends to 350km of groomed slopes served by a highly-efficient lift system running to almost 100 lifts.

An innovative new "ferris wheel" Galzig gondola also now links the ski centre to the extensive Warth-Schrocken ski area.

St Anton extends more 1500m of altitude up to the Valluga peak at 2811m. The longest downhill run of 8.5km has a fantastic vertical drop of 1350m, heading down from the Valluga mountain via the Ulmer mountain lodge to St Anton am Arlberg. As a competent skier, I was delighted with the relatively challenging blue runs and the steeper, high-paced red runs.

And for powder hounds, there are 200km of off-piste slopes offering day after day of fresh exploration.

I recommend you hire a guide from Ski School Arlberg to show you the best places to ski off-piste and where to avoid the early rush-for-the-slopes crowds on-piste.

The attractive town of St Anton also boasts numerous stylish hotels, including the recently refurbished four-star Valluga where I stayed with friends, and a wide range of chalets.

The pedestrian street gives access to numerous top class restaurants and attractive shops.

Easy accessibility makes St Anton a great choice for three or four-day skiing breaks if you can't spare a week. The resort is just an hour's drive from Innsbruck Airport, 90 minutes from Friedrichshafen and two hours from Zurich.

You can also reach St Anton by train and alight at the station at the heart of the historic town.

Despite offering all these modern amenities, the town has not lost its traditional charm.

St Anton is proud of its long history - the village is regarded as the cradle of Alpine skiing - and displays some of this heritage in a dedicated museum found at Arlberg Kandahar House.

While dining in the restaurant here, we took in the fascinating exhibition that revealed St Anton to be the birthplace of the "Father of Modern Skiing", Johann 'Hannes' Schneider.

Hannes conceived the Arlberg technique of downhill skiing and Alpine-style tuition as most of us know it today.

You might also recognise Arlberg Kandahar House from the 2011 British rom-com film Chalet Girl.

St Anton doesn't just sit back and accept its place as one of Europe's most popular resorts, it continues to invest.

As well as Glazig gondola, it was amazing to see modern, state-of-the-art public amenities such as the Arlberg-well.com centre and the Arlberg1800 art and concert hall in nearby St Christoph.

And if you want your apres-ski to be a little more lively, there's the infamous MooserWirt and Krazy Kanguruh bars.

These are popular on-slope stop-offs after a day on the pistes, but remember you will still need to ski back to base after your gluhweins.

Another St Anton attraction for some, although perhaps not for all, is the early season dedicated ladies' month.

In January, Ladies First offers benefits such as free drinks, discounts in restaurants and slopes and many wellness and relaxation offers.

Yet St Anton is not just for the grown-ups. An acclaimed children's ski school and youth centre in Nasserein - a hamlet that has been absorbed into St Anton as the resort has grown - offers plenty of non-skiing activities and many family-friendly hotels, chalets and restaurants.

With snow conditions the best I have experienced in Europe for the past five years, I would have happily stayed all season rather than just a few days.

Travel info | Fiona stayed at four-star Hotel Valluga (with spa), www.vallugahotel.at, with prices starting from [euro]190 (PS137) for half-board. | Direct flights are available to Innsbruck from England with www.EASYJET.com, www.monarch.co.uk or www.ba.com). Use a budget airline to reach these airports from Scotland. | Prepare for your holiday with a new programme, Go Ski Go Board, (www.goskigoboard.org.uk), coming soon to Scotland, offering value for money training sessions.

"Picture-postcard St Anton is a real gem of a find"

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PARTY TIME MooserWirt is great for apres-ski

ICE VIEWS St Anton is a beautiful town

RACE The St Anton am Arlberg White Thrill

ALL WHITE St Anton am Arlberg is one of the best ski resorts in Europe
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Title Annotation:Features
Publication:Sunday Mail (Glasgow, Scotland)
Geographic Code:4EUAU
Date:Feb 14, 2016
Words:865
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