I originally wanted to post about St. Anton first. When I sat down to write, all I could think about was the highlight of our trip – skiing Valluga. I will share the details of our trip soon, but first, Valluga.
To appreciate how incredible an experience this was for me, let’s take a look at my skiing experience and history.
I learned to ski when I was five years old and spent the winters of my childhood skiing in the Northeast of the U.S. My beloved “home” mountain had 16 trails. Conditions were usually pretty icy and you often felt as though you spent just as much time on the lift as you did the trails!
In my adult life, I’ve explored more of the Northeast’s larger mountains, marveling at the gondolas and the ability to take runs long runs with beautiful views. We even happened to have a few good powder days the past couple years. Though I started skiing bigger resorts, nothing, and I mean nothing, could prepare me for St. Anton and Valluga.
For reference, my home mountain has 45 skiable acres… the St. Anton part of the Arlberg alone has 5,400. King Pine’s vertical is 110m… St. Anton is 1,507m! What! It was truly bigger and better than I could have ever possibly imagined, and Valluga was up above it all.
Most people come to St. Anton with the desire to ski Valluga. This is not always possible, however. Our first day skiing there was incredibly low visibility, with snow, fog, and mist concealing the landscape and oftentimes the people 50 yards ahead. The lifts up to Valluga were closed for obvious reasons that day.
We learned during our stay that the lifts closed regularly due to weather-related reasons, like wind (especially in the afternoons). If you are traveling to St. Anton, make your way to Valluga early and spend more than one day skiing there to up your chances of good weather.
Our second day in St. Anton, luckily, was sunny, blue-skied, and perfect for skiing. It was time to ski Valluga!
We were up, out and in line for the Nessereinbahn when it opened, ready to make our great ascent. A quick ski to the Zammermoosbahn, we soon arrived at the Vallugabahn. By the time we got there, the line was already out the door!
The Vallugabahn features two gondolas can hold 41 people each. There is time in between as the gondolas make their way up and down, which adds to the queuing. Once you get to the top, this becomes awesome because at most there are 40-ish people skiing down. Take your time and you’ve got the trails to yourself.
The views from the Vallugabahn are stunning. You get to watch the skiers twisting and turning below as you drift along towards the peak. At each pole throughout the gondola journey, people would shout “Valluuuuga!” as the gondola gained momentum. It was pretty funny!
The Vallugabahn stops just short of the mountain peak. There is a second, smaller gondola up to the top of Valluga, where there is an observation deck. From the top, you can only ski down with a guide (and once you’re up there you wonder why anyone would chance skiing there at all!). It was amazing to watch groups hiking around the top to start their off-piste adventures from the gondola. So brave!
Do not skip the second gondola.
You would miss these incredible views!
All around us were snowcapped mountains. Below us were those crazy hikers! It was so beautiful.
There was a sense of camaraderie among those of us who took the gondola up to the very top, a shared awe where everyone was happy to help take photos of everyone else.
This camaraderie promoted a goodwill among all us skiing strangers that even extended to being very patient when my fear of heights held everyone else up…
It is definitely worth going up there even if you don’t ski, though skiing was absolutely the best part! The trail wasn’t too difficult up there and there was no one around. We took our time with the run, taking in the views as we went.
From the top, you ski to a T bar, which brings you up to another peak. From there, you rejoin the rest of the mountain crowds. The skiing is still great, but the peace, the views, the exclusivity of Valluga has gone.
Looking back at pictures, it is hard to believe we were there.
It was an experience that was beyond my comprehension – there were truly mountains as far as the eye can see. I was so eager to take it all in, to remember every detail and yet I look at the pictures to find so much more than what is held in my mind.
What I will never forget is sitting on that terrifying T bar, looking up and around at the peaks surrounding me, seeing the sunlight glinting off the ice and illuminating the blowing snow in sparkles against the gorgeous grey rock face. I sat there clinging to the T bar too overwhelmed with gratitude for that moment, so surrounded by the beauty and peacefulness of the mountains that I didn’t really feel that much fear being held up a super, super, super steep hill by just a T bar (I did not to dare try to take any photos, so this guy’s video will have to suffice). It was thrilling in so many ways.
It was definitely the best run of my life!