News from the snow
With its three five star hotels and nine four star establishments, the tiny resort of Zürs is the destination that the world's well heeled skiers head for when they want luxury but they don't wish to make a song and dance about it by booking in at St Moritz or Cortina. Apart from the luxury of the accommodation, which is actually what the resort is made up of - giant chalet-style buildings - the resort has several other important advantages for winter sports fans, wealthy or otherwise. It is one of Austria's highest ski centres, up at a very snow sure 1720 metres (5643 feet) and it's lift linked to Lech in the famous Arlberg region with St Anton also on the lift pass. There's history too: a year-round inn was known to have existed here as long ago as 1416, as a refuge for those crossing the Arlberg, centuries before there were ski lifts and Gore Tex. Ski tourism began in 1925, however the first pair of 'Nordic Planks' (Telemark skis) arrived in the Arlberg in 1890. The first courses in the 'Alpine' technique of downhill skiing took place at Zürs in 1906. One of the students was Hannes Schneider, the legendary founder of the world famous Arlberg school of skiing, who became a film star and travelled the world, most notably to Japan, to teach his technique. The first rope tow lift in Austria, possibly the world, was installed in Zürs in 1937. Today the ski school is regarded as one of the best in the world with 140 of the cream of Austria's ski instructors working, usually offering private tuition and off-piste guiding to annual repeat clients. Its not unusual for some of the instructors to be so in demand that they can be fully booked for the entire season! Naturally, the resort which markets itself as 'High Zürs' is proud of its 'quality rather than quantity' approach and markets itself as the 'First ski resort' ...they believe first for snow, skiing, ski school, restaurants and hotels.
A classic, and arguably Austria's most exclusive resort, with a long skiing history and beautiful scenery. This is the sort of place where the rich, famous and royal go when they are so confident that they do not feel a need to make the "I can afford St Moritz/Gstaad" statement. The resort has two Gault Millau rated restaurants. Ski School programme includes Big Foot Carving and Ski Guide.
From above, the resort looks like a few dark specks on a sea of white snow - there are no trees and no features other than the buildings and roads. You can take off in most directions and from a number of different lifts.
Beginners have their nursery slopes right by the village - snowsure throughout the season thanks to its altitude.
The local slopes include the parallel runs from the Trittkopf - served by a cable car and accessing largely intermediate terrain and one extreme black. More intermediate standard runs descend from the Hexenboden. Another local steep is the Zürsertäli from Muggengrat down to Zürs.
There are plenty of great touring routes in the area, most famously what was called 'The White Ring' but is now better known as the 'Madloch Tour' often taken from Lech to Zürs and back but, for the best sunshine, better taken from Zürs to Lech and back!
There is a permanent slalom race course with electronic timer installed by the baby lift. Ski School instructors accompany the regular heliskiing flights to the peaks of the nearby Orgelscharte and Mehlsack mountains. So regular is the service that a 'Heliskiing Pass' is even available for frequent heli-skiers on these repeat routes.
For cross-country skiers the main trail starts behind Trittkopf Valley station and leads for 4km (nearly 3 miles) up to the Flexenpass. A 15km (9 mile) trail over to Lech starts behind the hotel Omesberg and continues through the Zug valley. There is another training trail to Stubenbach (4km/2.3 miles).
Babysitters can be arranged through the tourist office in the evening: you should endeavour to book at least a day before. Children's films are normally shown in the theatre at Lech every Thursday.
For a cosy atmosphere Toni's Einkehr provides excellent fondues and Austrian dishes. Italian is served at the Walsersube in the Hotel Alberghaus.
keeping with Zürs clientele and most are part of the large hotels, such as the Vernissage bar gallery or the piano bar in the Alpenhof.
Having a cocktail in the Rüfilbahn II cable car ascent is an experience not to be missed and if you're on the invitation list there are plenty evening balls and gala dinners to attend. The most popular discothèque is the Zürserl in the Sporthotel Edelweis, locally renowned as THE Arlberg nightspot. It's easy to get down to Lech and its wider range of après ski options and then use either the excellent ski bus service or the shared 'James' taxi service to get back to Zürs throughout the day or evening. Of course there are normal taxis available too.
One popular evening treat, available until 10pm, is to take the Oberlech cable car to the top and then toboggan down to Lech on the floodlit run.
The Arlberg as a whole offers an incredible range of free ride experience with well prepared slopes for carving and steep slopes and cliffs with untouched powder for the more experienced.