Going Euro: St. Anton/Arlberg

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Going Euro, Feb 2005

Top elevation:

9,222 feet

Vertical drop:

4,944 feet

Marked trails:

162 miles

Population:

2,500

Six-day ski pass:

$245

More info:

+43-5446-2269-0; stantonamarlberg.com

The Resort:

Foreign freeskiers are so common in the Arlberg region that locals came up with a nickname for them: die Grass Raucher (the potheads). "We see them walk up these really steep couloirs and stop right in the middle to smoke," says guide Benni Falch. "Then they ski down over rocks." But there's room enough for everyone-from dope-addled hucksters to pasty Brits to fur-wearing Germans. Encompassing St. Anton and the neighboring villages of St. Christoph, Stuben, Zürs, Zug, and Lech, the Arlberg consists of 82 lifts stretching 15 miles through the Lechtaler Alps. Spend a week exploring the cirques and chutes between hard-partying St. Anton and swank Lech, and you'll never ski the same run twice.

On-Piste:

From the Valluga I tram at 8,694 feet, loop east, then south to the Ulmer Hütte trail. Continue on to the Valfagehr, and you'll complete Arlberg's longest fall line run: a six-mile, 4,000-vertical-foot shot all the way down to Stuben.

Off-Piste:

The 8,671-foot Schindler Kar, a couloir-lined spire with 50-degree steeps, can get tracked-out pretty quickly. But don't fret. Benni Falch and his fellow guides at the Skischule Arlberg (skischulearlberg.com) know where the powder lingers-like in the shadowy Stierloch, a hidden canyon that takes you the long way from Zürs to Lech.

Aprés: Choose your poison: At the midmountain Mooserwirt hut, old men with mustaches get drunk and dance on tables. At the Kandahar Bar, young Swedes without mustaches get drunk and dance with other foreigners. Shelter: The most central of St. Anton's budget options, the Tiroler Frieden guesthouse (from $26; st-anton-arlberg.com) is still a seven-minute walk from the lifts. The four-star, 17th-century Hotel Alte Post (from $199; hotel-alte-post.at) is much closer to the action.

The Tip: St. Anton's 21,000-square-foot health spa is an odd but mostly successful attempt at making the town cosmopolitan. (Like a cheesy pro photographer, its official name is its web address: arlberg-well.com.) A $20 ticket gives you access to saunas, hot tubs, a space-age swimming pool, and, during the summer, a manmade river.

Must-Know: The direct line for heli evacs is 140.

Timing: The last train from the Zurich airport to St. Anton ($47; oebb.at) leaves at 9:20 p.m.