Discover the black runs and off-piste that dominate St Anton in Austria
So what do you think?' my chirpy Austrian guide says to me as we stare down the almost vertical black run below. 'Err, is it too late to turn back?' I say nervously, my knees quaking, as we proceed to bomb down the infamous Kandahar sheer drop. It's my perfect introduction to St Anton, the daredevil home of the world's steepest slopes. Having skied a handful of times in the past, I've always wanted the chance to push myself well and truly out of my safety bubble, so St Anton offers the ideal mix of black runs and some more daring off-piste. Luckily, I have with me a fantastic Austrian guide, Pia, to keep me upright on my skis during the spine-tingling challenge and she even tempts me into some off-piste adventures. I put my foot down though when she suggests 'some fun off-piste heli-skiing'. Cripes! Who does she think I am? James Bond? We spend most of the day plunging down three of St Anton's 30 or so black pistes. During our final descent of the Kandahar, I experience such a rush of speed that I can actually feel my contact lenses sliding to the edges of my eyeballs. It's frightening - but quite exhilarating, too. Feeling exhausted at the end of the day, Pia declares that we're heading to the best après-ski in St Anton as we ski into one of the town's most infamous bars, the mighty Mooserwirt! I know we're in for trouble when I see literally hundreds of skis and boards stacked up outside the rammed bar. Dancing on the tables to cheesy Europop blaring from every corner is definitely a requirement in this establishment, so if you're in the mood and have the stamina for an all-nighter, this is the place to come. Then it's back to the Hotel Montjola, a ten-minute walk from the centre of St Anton and set among a cluster of beautiful chalet hotels. For its lazier guests the hotel even provides a shuttle bus service to the town centre and back that runs throughout the day. I decide to keep up the 'healthy skiing holiday' theme and walk it, but, to make getting around easier, do decide to hire a locker for my gear, just seconds from the slopes, to save me having to grapple with heavy boots around town and knocking someone out with my skis back at the hotel. After an adrenaline-packed day out on the slopes, Hotel Montjola is the perfect retreat. I'm relieved that I've burnt off all those calories (at least 300 I'm sure, as a result of fear alone) because, arriving back at the hotel, a staggeringly sumptuous five-course meal awaits me. The friendly Heidi-esque waitresses in traditional Bavarian garb proudly tell me that St Anton played host to the 2001 World Ski Championships - no wonder the skiing is such an almighty challenge! As I enjoy my meal, I mentally pencil in my definite return to St Anton next year to sample more high-speed descents, non-stop après ski - and maybe even some of that heli-skiing.
Seven nights' half-board accommodation at the Hotel Montjola costs from £853 per person, including flights from London Gatwick to Innsbruck and resort transfers. To book, visit www.inghams.co.uk or call Inghams Ski Reservations on 020 8780 4447. For information about the Tirol region of Austria, visit www.tirol.com.
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