Pacific Northwest Ski blog (and a few other places!)

Lots or reports from skiing around the Pacific Northwest, with some East Coast excursions thrown in for good measure

Annual Arlberg Ski-and-strudel-a-thon

Trip report format from Snowheads. Read on …

Date: February 26 March 5, 2011

Our mob: 8 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 2 days in St Anton, and one day the wind and fog  drove us back to Lech, where it was sunny and calm!  Quite a difference between 2 neighboring valleys. 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 one 40cm+ storms on the Sunday, which set up 3 great powder days. After that, a high pressure moved in, giving sunny and slightly too warm conditions.

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 north facing slopes held snow well, and there was still boot deep turns to be had late in the week if you picked your aspects carefully.

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 14-20€ for a really good dinner.  Haus Nr 8, a previous year favorite, was fully booked, and Schindlers, a perennial staple,  had become a watch shop. Still, the food at  Cafe Olympia, Der Italianer in Rufiplatz and Ilga’s up in Oberlech is good stuff indeed. We also did the annual Fux visit, which remains a very fine restaurant. Expensive, but IMHO worth it.

Hotel: We stayed at our usual haunt, the Laerchenhof, with excellent rooms, killer breakfast, and spacious, super relaxing and well-equipped spa area. Only downside is approx. 500m walk to lifts. You can ski about half of this, and can ski back to the hotel from Zuers on the Madloch run.

Costs: Beer €4-5 for 0.5L wheat beer, €3-4 for a house wine, food €14-whatever you can afford. 8 day lift pass was about €260. 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 😉

Pics : see below

Conclusion: 4th visit, still a real fave.

Skiing stats:

8 days (vertical metres): 10,600, 7800, 8400, 8200, 8300, 10100, 9300, 9100 (total 71800)

Season totals:

42 days, 14 powder days, 346,600m vertical

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