Things to do in St Anton in summer, Tirol, Austria
Ski resorts don’t come much more prestigious than St Anton am Arlberg in Austria.
It may not be as flashy as Aspen or as posh as Verbier, but St Anton has an understated elegance where the sport is just as important as the style. There’s a reason it’s considered one of the top ski resorts in the world.
St Anton is said to be the birthplace of alpine skiing. It was on the slopes here that ski instructor Hannes Schneider developed his revolutionary technique that would go on to be taught around the world. It’s something the resort town still takes seriously and is a source of great pride.
So, with all this in mind, it’s no surprise that St Anton am Arlberg is usually associated with winter – when snow covers the slopes, the town is full of skiers, and the apres nightlife is heaving.
But, as it turns out, it is also one of the best areas to make the most of Austria’s mountains in summer. Austria’s Tirol region is full of summer adventure and St Anton has some incredible ways to experience it – in the mountains, by the rivers, around the lakes.
The added benefit of coming here in summer is that you can avoid the crowds. It’s busy enough, don’t get me wrong, but you don’t have the hordes of people that you would find in winter during the ski season.
The town itself is laidback and you shouldn’t have too much trouble finding accommodation. Then, as you use St Anton as your base and explore the green playground surrounding it, you’ll find that sense of peace that makes these mountains so special, high up and far away in the fresh air, surrounded by striking views.
One of the best things to do in St Anton in summer is take a ride on the Galzigbhan, the 2.5-kilometre-long cable car that takes you up Galzig Mountain from the town.
It’s actually an important historical landmark in itself, because the original Galzigbhan opened here in 1937 and was one of the first in Austria. But this new one, with innovative ‘funitel’ technology was opened in 2006.
Looking out from the cable car as I travel up at about 20 km/h, I see the town slowly growing smaller. Around me, the mountains are covered in grassy meadows that will become ski slopes later in the year, and thick green forests that give the region its lush alpine atmosphere.
There are different tracks winding down the mountain and heading off to different areas. The region around St Anton is particularly famous for how large the connected area is, with 240 kilometres of slopes and, in winter, 200 kilometres of off-piste itineraries.
From up here, I can imagine how it must spread out, peaks becoming slopes, linked by ridges, sliding down to valleys and rivers.
Panoramaweg “Mutspuren” am Galzig
The Galzigbahn takes you to a height of 2086 metres and it is worth the trip just for the view alone. But, once you’re up here, I would recommend you head out on an adventure.
There are a few options, and I’ll mention a few of them. But the first thing I would suggest is a hiking trail called the Panoramaweg “Mutspuren” am Galzig.
The route is about 8 kilometres in total and starts from the Galzigbahn station and does a loop around the mountain and back to the station. Along the way, you get stunning views of different parts of the valley and further up to the higher mountains. There are small lakes and patches of snow, even in summer, on the trail.
It’s a particularly good activity for families because the first 2.2 kilometres of the trail has various interactive installations along the way that are designed for kids. With the mountains as the setting, you can learn a bit more about the Arlberg region with this mini adventure world.
The whole walk should take about two hours and is relatively easy, although there are a few inclines along the way. When you get back to the start, I would suggest continuing your exploration by heading further up… as I’ll explain…
In the same building as the Galzigbahn arrival, another cable car begins. The second one is called the Vallugabahn and it leads further up, to the top of the Valluga Mountain.
There are actually two sections to the Vallugabahn. The first is the longest, at about 3 kilometres, and takes you about 600 metres higher up. There are some really dramatic views from this stretch of the cable car.
As we head out, I can see well into the distance, to where the mountains are more jagged and covered in snow. These high, isolated, and vivid peaks are a reminder of how vast and great the mountain ranges are in this park of Austria.
Looking at the large mountains in the distance does not to take anything away from the hulking Valluga Mountain, which is 2800 metres high and feels even more impressive when you get to the top. The second section of the Vallugabahn takes you an extra 200 metres up the mountain to its true peak, but it is a tiny cabin and so there is usually quite a queue.
I think the view is impressive enough from 2650 metres, where the first section stops. Even in the middle of summer, the ground is covered in snow, a cold white blanket stretching out and down the slope, with some rocky sections peeking out from beneath.
I’m wearing just shorts and a shirt – clothes that I had chosen for hiking – and I can feel a chill in the air up here. But it’s interesting that it’s not unbearable. The summer sun compensates for all the ice and snow that surrounds me.
From here, there are also hikes you can do in different directions – but I think you would need to be a bit prepared for them. For the average visitor like me, I recommend heading back down to the bottom of the Vallugabahn and walking from there.
Hiking from the Galzigbahn
Although you can catch the Galzigbahn back down to the town of St Anton – and that may be the best option for many people – there are also some tracks that you can use to walk down to the bottom. If you have the time and the energy, this is what I would recommend.
It’s a lovely walk that takes me about an hour to my first stop. Downhill is not nearly as hard on the heart and the lungs as uphill, but you do feel it in your knees. But it’s worth the effort as you take your time to admire the mountains, watch the cable car glide overhead, and see the town slowly approach.
Before you get back to town, I would suggest stopping at Sennhutte, one of the best traditional Austrian inns in the region. It’s a popular spot for skiers in winter but it really shines in summer. This is when you can sit outside on the wooden balcony, the sun shining, and have a nice cool beer and a meal.
After a busy day of hiking and exploring, it is just what I feel like. I take my time and enjoy the warm afternoon, a couple of drinks, and some delicious Tirolean food.
The natural landscapes around St Anton are not just for hiking. There are also some excellent bike trails and summer is when they are best explored. The snow in winter closes these trails so cyclists make the most of them in the warmer months.
You don’t need to be a hardcore cyclist to enjoy the bike trails around St Anton, though. Many of them are quite easy and you can hire a bike in town and head out in whichever direction you like.
I decide to give it a go myself and I hire an ebike in town. On a recommendation from locals, I take the trail to Konstanzer Hut via Lake Verwallsee.
It’s a perfect path – wide and smooth – that’s interesting enough but doesn’t require much technical skill. There are a few steep sections and I’m grateful that I have an ebike.
I switch it to turbo mode and let the engine help me up the tough inclines. I think I would have struggled otherwise and resorted to pushing the bike up… although I’m sure more experienced riders would’ve just found the right gear.
The trail follows the river for much of the way. On the lower parts, it goes through the forest with quite a few spots to rest. Higher up, there are sweeping views across the valley and over to nearby mountains.
The first main destination is lake Verwallsee, which shines turquoise in the sun. It’s a beautiful and bright lake, with a playground and other facilities around it. This is a popular spot for locals to come for a picnic or launch a kayak into the river.
My final destination is the Konstanzer Hut, another excellent traditional inn in the region. It’s nice to have a goal when you’re cycling sometimes and this is a good one. Somewhere you can have a drink and a bite to eat gives you the incentive to continue on at times.
From here, you can continue cycling. There are longer trails that follow the valleys or wind up the mountains. But I think, for an average explore like myself, this is a good spot to turn around and head back.
This is far enough to appreciate the different views and the wonderful picture of the busy river flowing down in front of the pointed green mountains. Certainly, the ride is about the journey and the different sights along the way.
Stanzertal Cycle Trail
If you don’t feel like doing a proper mountain bike trail, but would still like to do some cycling, there’s a great option. It’s called the Stanzertal Cycle Trail, named after the Stanzertal Valley that St Anton lies in.
This bike path follows the Rosanna River and the best part of the trail goes from St Anton, along the river, to Flirsch. The path is signposted well and takes you through smaller villages along the way – St Jakob, Pettneu, and Schann.
It’s an easy path with very few inclines. Most of it is a sealed road and it’s easy to pick up speed as you go along the river, the dappled light coming through the trees. As I cycle along it, I find myself relaxing in a way that I don’t on the harder mountain bike routes, where you need to concentrate on the rough terrain.
You can do as much – or as little – of the Stanzertal Cycle Trail as you like. The path between St Anton and Flirsch as about 13 kilometres, so it would obviously be a 26 kilometre round trip. That’s more than manageable but you may prefer just to do a little expedition, particularly if you have children with you.
St Anton am Arlberg
It doesn’t really matter how long you spend out in the nature, exploring the welcoming green nature – there’s always the town to come back to. And this is what I enjoy the most about St Anton.
Because there is no sense of pretentiousness or snobbery. It feels like a small friendly alpine town, comfortable and easy for a summer break. You wouldn’t even know about its prestigious winter sports history if you didn’t hear about the stories in advance.
Somewhere that doesn’t need to constantly remind you how special it is, is normally the place that is the most special of them all.