Nearly everyone flips sooner or later coming down from Valluga, which rises almost 4,800 feet above the valley floor and is reached by a two-stage cable car through the Galzig mid-station. Skiing the powder down the Walfagehr valley deposits the less daring (there are no real cowards on Valluga) directly into St. Christoph via the Ulmer Hut; the more ambitious turn south, circle the Schindlerspitze and find themselves facing the moguls of one of St. Anton's steepest runs. At the Feldherrnh�gel, base station for perhaps the longest T bar in the world, there is a fascinating array of lift-studded alternatives: on down into St. Anton; back up to Gampen and Kapall; up the T bar to Galzig and then down either the original Arlberg- Kandahar racecourse or across to the equally testing Maienwasen run or over to St. Christoph. For those who want to try it all in one day and to heck with the muscles, this is the time to go to St. Christoph and catch a bus for the 15-minute ride to Zurs and Lech.
Zurs and Lech are actually part of the neighboring Vorarlberg and not in the Tyrol at all, but they are too near—and too good—to miss. Lech is social, sophisticated, gay, a hangout for the international set; Zurs is a friendly, sunny, workaday Austrian village with a holiday atmosphere. Four main lift systems serve the two areas, and the runs, while charming and scenic, are never so testing as those above St. Anton—which may account for their popularity.
After-ski life around St. Anton centers on the Hotel Post, where a subterranean three-ring circus called a tea dance takes place every afternoon at 5. Those not crushed on the Post's 15-foot dance floor usually find their way to the Valluga Hotel bar after dinner, where their internment is virtually guaranteed. In the event that other methods of resuscitation fail, St. Anton has a sauna establishment featuring a his and a her masseuse and masseur, respectively, the former a 21-year-old blonde cupcake with a no-nonsense approach to aching muscles.
Kitzb�hel is located 55 miles the other side of Innsbruck from St. Anton on the road to Vienna; spiritually it is halfway around the world. Kitzb�hel is a jewel in an Alpine setting, a fairyland in the snow, a swinging town. There is a medieval atmosphere about its narrow, winding, flag-draped main street, a 21st century atmosphere about everything else. With 5,000 regular inhabitants—7,500 in the high season—Kitzb�hel and the neighboring villages of Kirchberg, Westendorf and St. Johann boast more than 200 pensions, inns and hotels, fine restaurants, nightclubs, bars, even a casino. People go to Kitzb�hel to ski but they also arrive in search of fun. It is a short search.
An area that has produced such racers as Toni Sailer, Anderl Molterer, Christian Pravda and Ernst Hinterseer hardly considers skiing a sideline, however. Almost 2,000 feet lower than the village at the Arlberg Pass, Kitzb�hel is located in a natural snow pocket from which two major ski areas rise abruptly, one on either side of town. The terrain, although less demanding than that surrounding St. Anton, is infinitely more varied; a system of spurs and ridges branches down from Kitzb�heler Horn on the north and from the Hahnenkamm on the south, offering a choice of steep or gentle runs over sunny or shadowed slopes and trails. The upper slopes are generally steep and open; the mid-slopes pass through wooded glades; the lower slopes tilt gently across meadowland to the valley floor. One long, winding run frequently covers all three types of terrain.
Kitzb�hel's pride is the Hahnenkamm ski "circus," a vast and, for the newcomer, often confusing network of ski runs and lifts ranging over, across and between half a dozen peaks and ridges with mispronounceable names: Steinbergkogel, Blaufeldalm, Ehrenbachh�he, Streifalm, etc. But pronunciation is not so important as direction, and even if you happen to arrive in Kirchberg for lunch when you had an engagement in Jochberg it is not really so bad. A small boy will come arunning to help you take off your skis and, for 25�, provide you with a bus ride back into town. Whether the little boys have any official connection with the bus lines no one has ever found out.
For the Olympic visitor with unlimited time and no reason to become involved in the St. Anton- Kitzb�hel- Innsbruck commuting rush, the post-Olympic dates are by far the more desirable for Austrian skiing. For one thing, the high season at both St. Anton and Kitzb�hel begins, conveniently and coincidentally enough, one day after the official closing date of the Games, on February 10. In addition, the new Axams-Lizum area will be open to the public once the races are completed, and skiers who have been to Squaw Valley will immediately notice a striking resemblance between these two widely separated Alpine competition areas: Pleissen and Hoadl, the latter site of the women's downhill race, are in the same shoulder-to-shoulder relationship as Squaw Peak and KT-22; Birgitzkopfl, upon whose lower slopes the two slalom races will be held, is the Austrian equivalent of Little Papoose. Lizum, because of its proximity to Innsbruck, lacks the charming isolation of a Kitzb�hel or St. Anton, but then there is a certain fascination about being able to go over the back side of Birgitzkopfl and ski 18 miles directly into the downtown shopping area of a city of 100,000 people.
Of the thousands of Americans who will visit the Tyrol next year there undoubtedly remains a handful with unlimited time and a yearning for little-known places well off the track. For these there is Obergurgl.
Obergurgl has more to recommend it than isolation or even the name, which alone is quite good enough. Located just 55 miles from Innsbruck by a road that usually requires chains or four-wheel drive, Obergurgl is tucked into the highest extremity of the �tz Valley and at 6,266 feet takes pride in calling itself the highest Kirchdorf (village with a church) in all Europe. Obergurgl not only has a church, it has 22 glaciers surrounding it, and it is so cold that hardly anyone bothers to venture up there until the first of March. After that and on into the summer, the skiing is marvelous, the six lifts never crowded, the powder snow is deep and untracked, and prices remain low. Obergurgl is, in fact, like the rest of Austria: it gets better the farther you go.