Been too busy to blog about this trip as it happened, so thought I’d borrow the trip report format from Snowheads. Read on …
Date: February 18-27, 2010
Our mob: 6 of us
Website : here
Basics : Lech is part of the massive Arlberg ski region, in Western Austria, lift linked with Zuers and a short free bus ride from St Anton and Stuben. It’s an upmarket joint, where you can spend a fortune with the rich and famous if you want. But you don’t have to …
The skiing: Extensive and varied, with much more than you can ever ski in a week. The lift system is absolutely superb, especially in Lech and Zuers where virtually every chair is a covered 4/6/8-pack, many with heated seats! Lift lines are very rare indeed. St Anton is busier, but apart from a couple of avoidable bottlenecks, you rarely wait for more than a couple of minutes.
While St Anton has the deservedly gnarly reputation, it also gets less snow, has more folks and much of the terrain gets plenty of sun. There’s pistes and ski routes to keep all standards happy, but the sun and traffic mean that especially the lower runs get pretty firm. The Rendl area across the valley is comparably quiet and seems to hold better snow. We skied 3 days in St Anton, and apart from the odd short ‘glacial’ pitch above the village, the snow was excellent. It’s a truly great ski area.
While the on-piste skiing is tamer, we stay in Lech for three basic reasons. It gets more snow (especially at Zuers – a lot more snow), crowds are virtually unheard of, and snowy weather means the affluent, well-dressed clientele stay in bed. This leads to some magnificent powder days. On this trip, we had two 30-40cm storms, where I was scoring first tracks down ski routes at 11am, and timed a Madloch run (by sheer chance) perfectly for 2nd chair over the ridge and about 20cm of untracked groomer freshies! It was simply powtastic 😉
Venture a little in between pistes, and there’s so much terrain to choose from, its unreal, meaning there’s still heaps of powder left to be mopped up the next day. At St Anton, pow gets eaten in minutes by the huckster crowd, and the best snow requires a guide and avi gear.
In between the storms that bookended our week, we had unseasonably warm weather, more spring than winter. The sun-drenched areas got firm and scraped later in the day, and a lot of the off-piste was baked, crunchy and loaded with death cookies. A real bonus though was the wind, which on 2 or 3 days transported in light blower pow to refresh areas and create some great off-piste lines.
Off-piste : We didn’t venture too far off piste, but you really don’t have to in order to find really fine skiing. Some of the marked ski routes are fun, ungroomed things especially on a snowy day. But if you look around, there’s ‘just-off-piste’ options everywhere.
The resort : A picture-postcard pretty Austrian village. The après is more restrained and cultured than most Austrian places, but still fun, and with highly amusing people-watching.
Food : We ate in several of the restaurants in town, most of which serve good hearty Austrian fare at not-too-bad prices, ie 12-20€ for a really good dinner. We managed to get a table at Haus Nr 8, which was very good, and enjoyed the food at Schindlers, Cafe Olympia and Ilga’s up in Oberlech. Fux is a very fine restaurant. Expensive, but IMHO worth it. We went twice.
Hotel: Lech is a pretty upmarket joint, with half board hotels that cost an arm and leg. We avoid that scene and stay in reasonable priced B&B 3 star places, at around 130€ a night for two. I’d highly recommend Laerchenhof, excellent rooms, killer breakfast, spacious well-equipped spa area. Only downside is approx. 500m walk to lifts. You can ski some of this, and can ski back to the hotel from Zuers on the Madloch run. On this trip we also stayed in Kristall. A great location 250m from lifts and middle of town, good bedrooms and a pretty decent breakfast. Downside is the cramped spa area – not exactly relaxing. Kristall’s slightly cheaper and more convenient than the Laerchenhof, but I’d lean towards the latter. It’s worth the extra exercise 😉
Costs: Beer €4-5 fro 0.5L wheat beer, €3-4 for a house wine, food €12-whatever you can afford. 9 day lift pass was about €280. Overall, more expensive than your average Austrian resort, but very comparable with Colorado and mainstream North American destination resorts. The rest of Europe, I know not 😉
Video : embedded below, or on YouTube here
Pics : here
Conclusion: 3rd visit, and it only cemented my thoughts that the Arlberg is the best place I’ve ever skied. So far anyway.
9 days (vertical metres): 8100, 8300, 8200, 8700, 7800, 9100, 8200, 9400, 8200 (total 76000)
42 days: 327,900m vert
10 powder days