Play off:  Val d’Isère and St Anton

23rd October 2009, by Chris Gill



Why does St Anton sound tougher than Val d’Isère?  Or the Steissbachtal home run distinguished from other excessively crowded pistes? These were questions posed recently by an intermediate, used to skiing Val d’Isère but feeling daunted by St Anton’s macho impression when the resorts have a lot in common. So, we’ve pitched the two classics side by side for a quick comparison:

You don’t have to be adventurous to ski Val d’Isère, but it helps. You do need an adventurous spirit to ski St Anton. While both ski areas are among the world’s best resorts, the differences become clearer when you look beyond the attraction for experts.

Like St Anton, Val d’Isère has a reputation for challenging terrain and under-graded pistes too: many of the greens would be blue elsewhere and all the runs to resort level are tricky. But unlike the Austrian resort there are easier cruises and confidence-building runs that will suit most levels. And there are long, moderate runs shared with Tignes – lots of varied intermediate terrain.

St Anton simply doesn’t have any easy, uncrowded runs; even the nursery slopes are steep, and there are no gentle progression runs. A typical blue run in St Anton has steep or narrow pitches, and is often bumpy; most of these runs would be red elsewhere. And that’s the key difference. In fact, most of the terrain is of varying levels of red really – a good skier might be disappointed; a timid skier will struggle.

So what about this infamous St Anton home run? After all, Val d’Isère has busy and tricky runs to resort too. The key difference between the Steissbachtal and resort runs in Val d’Isère, say, is that there are no sensible alternatives. All of the main runs funnel into this valley piste and it is ridiculously busy. You could avoid it by hopping on the Galzig gondola or finishing in St Christoph and taking the bus but ...  In America, there would most likely be a ‘bypass’ of sorts, an easy run or cat-track to facilitate the needs of all levels. Few Alpine resorts do this – why not, we ask?

So for Val d’Isère its quality, quantity and variety. For St Anton, it’s challenge and adventure - but the timid or novice will find it less to their taste.


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