News from the snow
Lech was one of the earliest Alpine ski villages, with the first appearance of Telemarking skiers on 'Nordic Planks' here in the 1890s, 15 years before the Alpine variant of skiing, most commonly used today, was invented. In the century since then Lech has quietly established itself as one of the world's greatest ski resorts, having several of the crowned heads of Europe in its list of repeat clientele. Yet the village has done it without shouting from the roof tops and today it attracts the great and the good to its more than 66 four and five star hotels (that's more than twice as many as there are in St Moritz) without very many people knowing about it. Aside from its synonymity with great skiing - the resort has spawned four Olympic gold medalists, most recently Patrick Ortlieb (also 1992 World Champion). The legendary Hannes Schneider attended the first ski training course here in 1906 (Austria's first ski school). Although a cosmopolitan resort today, Lech has also managed to maintain its character, still being owned by the original families from the last century and before and still centred on the old square towered church with its onion dome. They have ensured that the water in the mountain streams remains pure enough to drink, although you don't need to as "mineral water comes out of the taps". Apart from the main village itself the Lech community takes in Zug, Stubenbach and ultra-exclusive Zürs, as well as the car-free satellite village at Oberlech (1660m), reached by cable car from the village and an excellent example of doorstep skiing: your accommodation can be reached through tunnels from the top cable car station rather than having to stagger fully loaded over the snow as is the case at some other traffic free centres.
A classic resort with a long skiing history, linked to neighbouring, equally exclusive Zürs and sharing the Arlberg Pass with ski hedonists heaven, St Anton. Ski School programme includes Carving Ski Guide Ski Safari Snowboarding Telemarking.
The first decision of the morning is whether to warm up on the Mohnenfluh and test the Steinmähder, Hasensprung, Rotschrofen and Weibermahd slopes or to head straight off on to the tough pistes on the Rüfikopf. Beginners at least have the simple choice of the gentle nursery slopes near to the hotels.
Experts have a vast selection of off piste trails with guided touring, off piste and heli-skiing also available. The Arlberg Card, a high-tech ski pass which fits in your pocket, gives the holder automatic access through all turnstiles at the Arlberg's cable car and lift stations. The Arlberg Ski Club, established in 1901 and today one of the world's most famous and most successful, has weekly meetings throughout the season. New members are accepted so long as they have visited Arlberg for at least three years and are recommended for membership by a Club member.
The Miniclub in Lech takes children that are toilet trained from aged three, cover is available from a day or longer and lunch is available at an additional cost. A similar arrangement is available at the Kindergarten Oberlech for children aged two and a half to three and a half. There is a ski kindergarten which accepts children from age 3.
Special deals at the ski school include free ski school for the second child when a family of four take skiing lessons. Lift pass discounts are available to children up to age 15/16 but in common with other Austrian resorts they are based on your child's age according to a fixed date rather than your child's age on the date you are visiting the resort. Children up to age 6 must still buy a ski pass unfortunately, although it is very cheap at 10 euros.
There are too many good places to name all, but the 300 year old Hus Nr 8 is one deserving a mention. Located in the resort's centre it serves Austrian delicacies and fondues. The Hotels Brunnenhof and Post both offer exclusive gastronomy and Austrian cuisine. The Kristiana Hotel is a rare treat for vegetarian visitors as well as those wishing to partake of traditional Austrian cuisine.