Top Lift: 2450m
Ski area: 305km
Adult lift pass: €262 for 6 days
In a Nutshell
Lech and Zurs are about as posh as they come. They’re about as snowy as they come, too – much snowier, in fact than their neighbour St Anton, and hidden away above the five-star hotels and easy pistes is some stunning off-piste terrain.
They don’t come much posher than Lech and Zurs. Set beneath the Flexen pass in eastern Austria, they’re about as cute and traditional-looking as modern ski resorts get, and have over the years been colonised by a stellar clientele. Now the new Flexenbahn link with St Anton has given them a central role in the revitalised Arlberg ski area – one of the most exciting mega-resorts in the Alps.
Both enjoy what is, for the Alps, a super-snowy climate: Lech averages a little over seven metres a winter, while Zurs, which is higher, and lies closer to the 2810m Valluga, gets over 10 metres. That’s roughly double what they get in Val d’Isere, although not as much as the snowiest resorts of North America.
So it’s perhaps no surprise that were one of the birthplaces of modern skiing. Victor Sohm, a founding father of the original technique, gave the first lessons in Zurs on the open slopes of the Trittkopf and Hexenboden over 100 years ago. His international clients were mainly wealthy British, Swiss and Germans wanting to learn the new sport and relax in beautiful surroundings. In this respect, not much has changed.
Lech and Zurs have a large number of five-star hotels
Today, the two villages are the most exclusive resorts in Austria with six five-star hotels between them. Both attract a higher age group than nearby St Anton. “A lot of the skiers appear to be slightly older than in other resorts and consequently the slopes are very civilized,” commented a reporter. “Loads of posing and I’ve never seen so many children wearing super-expensive ski gear,” said another. “Quality, exclusivity and service are what counts,” added a third.
Tiny little Warth-Schröcken in the Vorarlberg region is now linked with Lech on piste, creating a total 305km of marked runs and about 200km of off-piste. The terrain on the whole is markedly easier than in St Anton, with plenty of benign cruising runs best suited to intermediates. As a result, large numbers of skiers and riders based in St Anton come here for the day. However, overcrowding is not an issue.
Zurs is no more than a huddle of smart hotels and precious little else. In Lech, hotels, restaurants, and the slopes are set on either side of the little river that meanders through the centre, past a magnificent onion-domed church.
A traffic-free resort and a tiny hamlet
Oberlech on the higher summer pastures, provides a traffic-free environment. “The resort was good, but not quite top of the pile,” says a reporter, “the plus points included convenience – not much walking/bussing around required”. Winter access is only by cable-car and luggage is cunningly transported to your hotel through a network of tunnels beneath the piste.
Zug, a tiny hamlet reached along a narrow lane through the woods from Lech, offers an alternative tranquil base that is linked into the lift system.