Lech am Arlberg, one of Austria’s most fashionable resorts, is at the centre of some of the most extensive skiing in the Alps – the exciting links to St Anton in one direction and Warth and Shröcken in the other make this an area of mouth-watering possibilities. But here are some other suggestions that will help make your visit to this fabulous destination even more memorable. Our Lech insider is Rob Freeman, regular blogger for MadDogSki and long term lover of Lech.
Treat yourself to ski boots that fit like a glove
Maybe the first thing to do in Lech is to visit the Strolz store in the village centre – and be fitted for what they claim is the world’s best ski boot. Strolz have been custom-making boots since 1921 (leather of course in those days) – and delighted customers say a Strolz boot has transformed their skiing. Technicians discuss your skiing ability and style, physical fitness and any issue with your feet and problems you’ve had with ski boots, before selecting the appropriate model and flex. They’ll take imprints of your feet to detect pressure points and decide on the shape of shell and liner – hand-stitched in leather with a huge range of shapes. If a shell needs to be stretched a last (mould) of your feet will be made. Custom foot-beds will be made. Finally, foam will be injected into the liners. It sets in minutes and you can then take off the boots – which are left for 24 hours for the foam to ‘cure’. Then you can hit the slopes with the most perfectly-fitting boots you’ve ever had. Not cheap but mightily impressive.
Ski the wonderful White Ring
The White Ring is the ski circuit embracing Lech, Zurs, Zug and Oberlech and is the signature day out in these parts. Created 60 years ago by Vorarlberg ski pioneer Sepp Bildstein, it is 22-kms of gorgeously scenic, and entertaining but non-intimidating skiing through a variety of majestic terrain. Officially starting from the Rufikopf at 2,131-metres, the route, on reds and blues, runs through Zurs, on to Zug, via an itinerary section, but as well used as a regular piste, on to Oberlech and finally back down to Lech. Take it easy and have lunch at one of the several mountain huts you’ll pass on the way. If you’re in Lech towards the end of January you can register to take part in the White Ring Race (demand is high), which has been held every year since 2006 and is now a cult event. The record is held by former Olympic Downhill gold medallist Patrick Ortlieb, with a time of 44 minutes, 35 seconds, and seven hundredths of a second. He never stops for lunch.
Dance in your boots at the Arlberg Music Festival
A magical musical atmosphere envelops Lech in late season as daylight extends the long mellow afternoons, with top-class musicians descending on the village. During the first two weeks of April, the Arlberg Music Festival sees the bars and terraces of the hotels in Lech and Zürs, as well as the sundecks up on the slopes, packed with singers and bands performing swing, electro-swing, jazz and nu-jazz, rock n‘ roll, boogie, latin, pop and soul sounds. It all goes to create a unique après-ski experience with a laid-back festival feel. Terraces morph into dance floors, bars become jazz clubs, hotel lobbies double as ballrooms – and your ski-boots will transform into dancing shoes!
Experience the thrill of heli-skiing…only in Lech
Lech is the only Austrian resort where you can heli-ski…something to make your stay absolutely unforgettable and not exorbitantly expensive for a group of three. You have the choice of drops at two magnificent peaks – Mehlsack for the more experienced, with Schneetäli-Orgelscharte being suitable even for confident intermediates. Heli-skiing packages are for up to four people including the ski guide and can be booked directly through the ski schools in Lech and Zürs. Groups must be accompanied by a mountain guide – and flights are made on weekdays only and not on certain holidays. Prices per flight and per drop are from €480. A firnschnee (spring snow) excursion into Schneetal (Snow Valley) is a memory to savour.
Book a table with a menu of magnificent memories
Wallow in pure unabashed gemutlichheit at one of Lech’s most historic and atmospheric restaurants, the 300-year-old Hûs Nr. 8, which has been restored to its fabulous original condition. Cosy, warm, heavily-timbered and full of nooks and crannies and with waiters and waitresses in traditional dress of lederhosen and dirndls, it’s a delight. Specialities are traditional dishes from old Walser recipes, with meat, cheese and vegetarian fondues as well as raclettes – with roast duckling a signature dish. It’s open all day except on Monday, when service starts at 5pm. +43 (0)5583 33220, www.hus8.at.
Have breakfast on the mountain – and first tracks
One of the most beautiful runs in the Arlberg is the Zurser Tali, marked as No 10 on the piste map, a red route with a gloriously remote feel – but there is a way to make skiing it even more special! On certain days you can have first tracks by getting up early and meeting at 7.30am at the bottom station of the Seekopf chairlift at Zürs – for a €35 supplement on your ski pass you have breakfast at the Seekopf mountain restaurant before enjoying the fabulously empty freshly-groomed Zurser Tali. It’s weather dependant so you need to check with the tourist office, +43 (0)5583 2161-0, www.lechzuers.com, or book direct with the lift company on +43 (0)5583 2283.