Our family loves to ski. This year marked our 10th year anniversary of our annual family ski trip tradition. Our son had just turned five and our daughter was 3 ½ when we started them in ski school. We skied the northeast the early years and then we discovered the Rockies and we never looked back.
When we moved to London we researched European resorts. I had skied St. Moritz in 1986 and my husband and I had skied Cortina (the Italian Alps) in 2001. Our travel agent initially pointed us to Corchevel 1650 located in France. But after we did more research we decided to try the Arlberg region of Austria. The Arlberg region is comprised of five villages: Lech, Oberlech, Zurs, St. Anton, St. Christoph, and Stuben. We loved Lech so much in 2011 that we decided to return this year.
To get to Lech and Oberlech, you fly either into Zürich or Innsbruck airports. From Zürich airport you can rent a car, hire private car service, or take a bus to Lech, which is 2½ hours from Zürich airport. Innsbruck airport is about 1½ hour to Lech however it is a smaller airport with less flight choices and mainly serviced by chartered flights.
There are many choices of places to stay. Many of the hotels offer half-board, breakfast and dinner included. In 2011, we chose to stay at the Brunnenhof Hotel in Lech. The Brunnenhof is a 4-star hotel with 1 Michelin-Star and 2 Toques. Although, it was not ski-in/ski-out hotel, the free shuttle stopped right in front of the hotel and took us to the lift in 5 minutes. Our ski equipment was rented at Strolz located at the base near the main Lech lift. Strolz stored our equipment at the end of the day. This meant we could walk back to the Brunnenhof or hop on the shuttle free of all the ski equipment. We really enjoyed staying at the Brunnenhof. The food and service were excellent.
This year we chose to stay in the village of Oberlech that sits above Lech, is only reachable by gondola in the winter months, and sits right on the ski slopes. The picturesque villages of the Arlberg region are right out of a fairy tale book. The Austrian chalets are charming against the spectacular Austrian Alps backdrop. Just this past weekend, I met a French gentleman who commented to me, that although there is excellent skiing in his native France, none of the resorts are as quaint as those of Austria.
We had researched hotels in Oberlech during our 2011 visit and were keen on staying in one of three hotels located at or above the Petersboden Lift, a mid-mountain lift. What this meant was that we could ski down from our hotel to the Petersboden lift and begin skiing without ever having to go all the way down to the base lift which can generally get more crowded. This year we stayed at the Burgwald Hotel, a 4-star hotel. The facility, rooms, service, and restaurant were outstanding. The food was very imaginative and delicious. The staff was friendly and polite and upon our checkout they handed us a goodbye gift of a small bag filled with delicious bread and cheese for our trip back home. We absolutely loved the Burgwald and if we go back to Lech/Oberlech we will choose to stay there again.
Other places where families from our children’s school stayed included the Sonnenburg, Hotel Montana, and the Panorama Hotel.
Hotels print out the lift tickets for you so no additional lines need to be made. One ski pass allows you to ski all of five resorts. The various mountain resorts are interconnected by: ski trails, lifts, or gondolas. Others can be reached by taking the ski bus. Rental equipment stores are available in all the villages of the area.
The Arlberg region differs from the US ski resorts in that there are is no main lodge or lodges dotted throughout the mountain. There are several privately owned restaurants that serve food and drink. It’s mostly sit-down service vs. cafeteria style. In addition to these restaurants, most of the hotels on the mountain offer delicious lunches and drinks. Reservations are highly recommended in the restaurants that take them. There are also restrooms located at the lifts themselves.
The infrastructure of the region is excellent. There are many 6 – 8 person lifts. Many of the bigger lifts have bubble covers and even heated seats. There are a couple of 2-4 person lifts, towrope, and T-bar lifts throughout the mountain as well.
The region offers all levels of skiing from beginner to advanced skiing to plenty of off-piste skiing. The trails are generally well marked. Heli-skiing, where a helicopter drops you off at the tops of mountains to do the ultimate in off-piste skiing, is also available. There are plenty of ski schools and it is recommended to book these in advance.
There is a plethora of après-ski activities in Lech and Oberlech. There is live entertainment and music playing in many of the hotels. There are numerous bars and restaurants offering both indoor and outdoor seating. The children have a wonderful time taking the toboggan run from Oberlech down to Lech.
There is a lot of shopping available in Lech, from designer clothes, jewelry, ski equipment, to supermarkets for food, snacks, and souvenirs. Most of the hotels offer wonderful spa facilities and some even have indoor pools. And if what you like is to take in the sun, you’ll find plenty of sun decks with comfortable seats awaiting you.
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