8 reasons to choose Lech am Arlberg
I discovered Lech as a destination for my ski-holidays some years ago, and it’s the resort where I keep coming back. Lech perfectly blends tradition and modernity. I have documented Lech’s changes in the past and his fascinating character has remained reassuringly constant; rigid planning laws that meant that expansion and development are virtually non-existent (in the 1980s the local council decreed that only the locals could own land in the village), but at the same time, the resort embraced modernity without beating edge: the first heated chairlift in the world was installed in Lech in 2004. But this said I wanted to collect the eight reasons why I keep coming back:
#1 Snow certainty
The village of Lech has an altitude of 1450 meters, and most of the skiing is between 1500 and 2000 meters, which means that it is unlikely that there is lack of snow in the winter months. In January 2014, Lech was one of the few Austrian resorts with sufficient snowfall. While the virtual guarantee of abundant snow is virtually a blessing in every respect, pure volume can cause logistical problems. One year, as we were traveling from Zurich airport by car with my family, the Arlberg and Flexen passes were closed and we were forced to stay in Feldkirch for one night. In 2012, while we were in St Christoph, two meters of snow fell in just 24 hours. Our friends (visiting Lech for dinner) were stuck for two days because the road was closed on Friday evening, and then reopened on Sunday afternoons. Such road closures are rare, however, they typically occur only a handful of times in a decade.
The downside of the snow volume is undoubtedly the many off-piste possibilities in Lech. Over the years I came here, I constantly discovered a new and unexplored territory. Hiring a guide is highly recommended, since most of them are local and know the area intimately. What’s more, the type of guest Lech tends to attract is not, in general, interested in waking up at dawn to line up for the first pass, so fresh tracks on the snow are easy to find if you’re passionate.
#3 Huge Ski area
Lech is just one of the villages in the Arlberg region (the others are Oberlech, Zuers, St Christoph, St Anton, Zug, Stubenbach and, since 2013, the addition of the Weibermahd eight-seater chairlift, Warth). The purchase of an ‘Arlberg Pass’, therefore, provides access to over 260 acres of skiable terrain, which means that a week is barely sufficient to cover the whole territory. Zuers and Warth are both accessible by lift; St Christoph and St Anton with buses (free). The journey takes about 20 minutes, and if you are a good skier, you can ski from St Anton to Lech through the Valluga II lift (note that even the best skiers must be accompanied by a guide to access the Valluga II cable car, and terrain is subject to avalanches and occasionally sketchy, often the snow at the top is insufficient, in which case the Valluga is closed).
#4 Ski school
The Lech ski school is one of the best in the world. Children up to 12 years old meet at 9.30 in the Lech Kinderland every day. From the age of 12, children can attend the adult version, which is classified, based on skill and confidence, from beginner to professional.
#5 Celebrities spot
Of course, even the most devoted fans would struggle to recognize their idol under coveralls, hats, scarves, goggles and ski boots, but for those who care, Lech attracts a wide range of noteworthy guests. Fans include royalty (Lech was Princess Diana’s favorite ski resort), moviestars (Arnold Schwarzenegger is a regular visitor), and Pippa Middleton was in Lech recently. The scene on skis in the second film by Bridget Jones, in which Darcy brings Bridget in a romantic Valentine’s holiday, was filmed in the picturesque Lech.
#6 Luxury Accommodation
Lech is undoubtedly the unmissable Austrian ski resort, but at the same time it is wonderfully sober. There is very little of the splendor of St Moritz or the showiness of Gstaad. There are a number of excellent five-star hotels, all still family-run. A big advantage is that in many cases it is possible to ski directly to the door (a rarity in most Swiss and French locations). However, whatever type of accommodation you choose, from the cozy family pension to the exclusive hotel, such as the Kristiania Lech, everywhere you will find warm, friendly and discreet hospitality that will make you feel pampered and surprised throughout your stay.
Speaking of Kristiania Lech, it is much more than a hotel but a fascinating lifestyle focused on hospitality. Its modern design blends perfectly with the iconic style of the Austrian Alps, a mix visible already from its entrance, where you will be enchanted by the various works of art scattered around the hotel, works that include over 200 paintings, sculptures, prints and tapestries, all strictly original.
The 29 rooms and suites are individually decorated with a palette of warm colors, custom fabrics and handmade furniture. Personalized chocolates, free mini bars and free spa services are some of the luxury touches that Kristiania Lech offers to its guests where genuine Austrian hospitality is at spread in every detail.
#7 Refined Après-ski
Lech is not the place to go if you want an gorgeous après-ski experience. Lech’s approach to the party is more refined. This does not mean that it is boring; there are always table dances and a lively atmosphere in the elegant meeting point of the ski slope, the Skihütte Schneggarei, for example, but Lech is not, after all, a party town. For nightlife, the nearby Zurs are a better option (Vernissage and Zuersl are the best clubs, and particularly appreciated by German footballers).
#8 Delicious Food
While Lech cannot pretend to match Zermatt (a paradise for real gourmets) in terms of food, there are however some excellent mountain restaurants serving a mixture of international cuisine alongside traditional Austrian cuisine. Rud-Alpe is the best mountain restaurant in Lech, while Mohnenfluh, in Oberlech, is a medium Kaiserschmarr’n, which you can enjoy outdoors on the sunny terrace. Hüs Nr 8 down in the village is a good choice if you decide to leave the mountain for lunch. No trip to Lech is complete without a gastronomic pilgrimage to St Christoph, where the Hospiz Alpe has some of the best food (and the best wine cellar) in the Alps. The fact that there is a slide down the stairs to the toilet to help inebriated customers say everything.