Sometimes some famous people are hiding behind the ski goggles as they head up towards the mountain top on the heated chair lifts. Lech-Zürs plays in the premier league of winter sports – as do Warth, Schröcken and Stuben along with St. Christoph and St. Anton in neighbouring Tyrol. As the largest ski resort in Austria and one of the five largest in the world, it genuinely constitutes a superlative in white.
But it’s not only the slopes, the culinary peak performances are also record-breaking. Lech-Zürs can call itself the ‘village of world-class gourmets’ because nowhere else is able to boast such a conglomeration of award-winning chefs in such a small area. The conference hotels are hot spots for foodies, too, and it’s immediately obvious that the programmes accompanying the conferences, meetings, workshops and congresses are ‘first class’ as well. Wine enthusiasts get to taste great wines at dizzying heights when the Auenfeld-Jet decides to transform its cabins into ‘wine gondolas’. And the ‘Fantastic Gondolas’ turn Lech-Zürs into a location that’s full of magic because that’s when the snow-capped mountains become the backdrop to room and sound installations and the Rüfikopfbahn’s gondolas become flying discos.
There’s one spectacle in Lech that has long since become cult: the ‘Weiße Ring’ race. The event where, in January, 1,000 ski-mad fans get their skis out to cover the 22 kilometres of slopes and trails with a difference in altitude of 5,500 metres in total as fast as they can. During the rest of the winter season, the ‘Weiße Ring’ is a great way to take in the sights on skis. The ‘Lange Zug’, on the other hand, one of the steepest ski routes in the world, is only for experts and not for the weak of heart. The skiing fun is rounded off at the end of the day in the relaxed and cheerful atmosphere to be found in the bars and on the terraces lining the water course that flows right through the middle of the village – the Lechbach. The Arlberg takes hospitality literally and so guests at the hotels and guest houses are made to feel right at home and wishes are made to come true even before they’ve been said out loud.
Zürs is focused on the essential: mountains, snow and hospitality. The motto in Zürs is, ‘Unter uns, über den Dingen.’ (‘Among ourselves, above all things.’) The base camp comprises almost 20 hotels – some of which boast five stars. The party nights in the ‘Zürserl’ are legendary. When, after Easter, the last of the sun-loving skiers start thinking about putting away their skis for the summer, Zürs pulls its blanket over its head to dream of the first flakes of snow that start to fall in the late autumn. In Stuben, hotels and bed-and-breakfast establishments nestle snugly against each other at the foot of the Albona mountain. Skiing in Stuben enjoys a long tradition – that’s because skiing pioneer Hannes Schneider was born there. Fans of winter sports can enjoy a wide range of thrills both on and off the pistes. The world’s largest snowboard event attracts hundreds of ‘shredders’ to the place in April and the atmosphere is like that at Woodstock when the rookies, professionals and snowboard legends start to head up the mountain.
The Arlberg takes a more leisurely pace in the summer when hikers are able to explore the mountain world on walks and steep tracks and learn fabulous things along themed trails while mountaineers can choose more demanding ways to spend their time. The Arlberg in summer is also a paradise for kids: treasure hunts, forest camps, canyoning and lots of exciting things to do will tire out the little visitors and make them fall asleep even before they’ve hit the pillow. Mountain bikers are also very welcome, and the golf course in the idyllic Zugertal perfectly rounds off the activities that are on offer. But if it’s relaxation that the heart desires, visitors can spend their time doing nothing in the hotels’ wellness oases that are just waiting to be discovered. Renowned thinkers plumb the depths of human existence at the Philosophicum in Lech – which demonstrates that the Arlberg is also a great place in summer to stage congresses and conferences, meetings and workshops as well as incentive and other events. The mountain experiences golden moments in autumn when the view is best. That’s when people are already starting to look forward to the winter’s white.