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One of Austria's most fashionable ski resorts and a playground for the rich and famous, Lech in Austria's Arlberg region combines a chocolate-box cute setting with superb intermediate skiing and extensive off-piste in one of the snowiest parts of the Alps.

Overview

Once a humble farming village, Lech ski resort has become the winter hideaway of the wealthy and the famous. However, with its pretty riverside setting, and wide range of hotels from the five-star to the budget, it really can cater for all tastes and pockets - and for intermediates its skiing is second to none.

Ski area

As well as being part of the wider Arlberg ski area that includes the more affordable St Anton, Lech shares its local ski-pass with its higher neighbour Zurs. And from winter 2013 it welcomes a new arrival to the neighbourhood - the even more snow-sure Warth-Schrocken, via a new cable-car link. This will add 50% more pistes and lots of lovely off-piste terrain. This is great news for the expert skier, who has always been slightly short-changed by a resort that wears its intermediate heart firmly on its sleeve.

The Lech piste map pretty much only comes in two colours - blue and red. There is just one black piste shown - a short stretch from Seekopf down to Zurs. Practically all the slopes are above the treeline, the only real exception being the awkwardly steep blue runs just above Lech. The terrain in Oberlech (the smaller traffic-free hamlet overlooking the main town) is nearly all blue - wide, immaculately groomed cruisers.

Further up, at Zuger Hochlicht, adventurous intermediates will find some terrific red runs, including a number of red ski routes. These are a notable feature of Lech-Zurs - mostly ungroomed runs that are ideal for those looking to take their first venture off-piste. The run down to Zug, which starts as a piste and ends as a 'route' is an especially satisfying run.

Lech is also home to the famous White Ring ski circuit, which is the setting for a wonderful ski race every winter, but which can be happily skied anytime by adventurous intermediates. A mix of mostly fast lifts and excellent long red and blue runs, it does include one ski route, from Madloch-Joch down to Zug, which, as it's so popular, can get very cut up and bumpy. And the Kriegerhorn chair up from Zug has to be one of the slowest anywhere.

For experts, the off-piste around Lech-Zurs is the main attraction, with the Langerzug ski route from Rufikopf down to Lech, a particular highlight. The new Auenfeld-Jet gondola link-up with Warth-Schrocken will enhance the freeride dramatically as Warth has a reputation as the snowiest resort in the Alps, receiving an average 11m onto its north-facing slopes.
 

Off the slopes/apres ski

Lech has much to offer the many non-skiers who come here - from the ubiquitous sleigh rides, to ice-skating, curling, a network of winter walks, and much up-market shopping and luxurious spas. Outdoor bars and cafes line the main street, where there's a friendly, buzzy apres-ski atmosphere. Try the ice-bar at the Krone, which also hosts the lively K club, or the Tannbergerhof. Also popular are the Archiv Bar and the Fux Jazzbar.

At Oberlech, the Umbrella bar of the Burg hotel is a popular apres spot, as is the champagne bar at the Hotel Montana. Most eating out is actually eating in - the majority of excellent restaurants are hotel-based. As you might expect the apres is pricey, so if you really want to ski and party, take the bus to St Anton.


Families

Despite its upmarket image, Lech is very family-friendly. The ski schools are uniformly excellent and the instructors speak good English. There are kids clubs in Lech, Oberlech and Zurs. Children and their parents will love the floodlit toboggan run down from Oberlech to Lech, and teens will enjoy the terrain park beside the Schlegelkopf chair.
 
// HIGHLIGHTS //
Apres Ski
9
Families
10
Lift System
8
Off the slopes
8
Off-piste
10
Resort Charm
10
Ski Area
9
Vertical drop
1000m
Altitude range
1450-2450m
Ski area
190
Parks
1
Resort height
1450m
Summit
2450m
Airport
Innsbruck
Train station
Langen
beginner
42%
intermediate
42%
expert
16%