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The Cradle Of Modern Skiing

Known as the birthplace of modern, alpine skiing, the Arlberg region in Austria has a sense of place that is once magical and exclusive. The region has been attracting the glitterati to the pistes for decades. It is a series of interconnected hospice towns which include Stuben, St. Christoph, and St. Anton. The region receives an average of seven meters of snowfall per season, has over 84 lifts and cable cars (and just expanded to include terrain previously inaccessible), and the Ski Club Arlber

By John Winterman

3 August 2018

Known as the birthplace of modern, alpine skiing, the Arlberg region in Austria has a sense of place that is once magical and exclusive. The region has been attracting the glitterati to the pistes for decades. It is a series of interconnected hospice towns which include Stuben, St. Christoph, and St. Anton. The region receives an average of seven meters of snowfall per season, has over 84 lifts and cable cars (and just expanded to include terrain previously inaccessible), and the Ski Club Arlberg, founded in 1901, which is more than enough reason to go back year after year. The area touches me emotionally. I know in returning every year I will see the same people, the same hotel owners, the same bartenders. I like walking into the Hotel Edelweiss and having the sense of being home. And now, on my most recent trip, after being the 189th American inducted into the Ski Club, I can’t help but wonder: Why would I go anywhere else?

Where To Stay

John Winterman

Zürs am Arlberg

Zürs has about 38 buildings. Total. Decades ago, they started restricting construction for avalanche control, and this limits options and created exclusivity. You'll find a wide range of options and prices, but most hotels have a meal plan included and spa services. There is a wider range of choice in Lech and St. Anton - either way you can be sure you will never see a 500-room chain hotel going up.

Hotel Edelweiss

The bar at Hotel Edelweiss | John Winterman

Old-world elegance. The bar is the place to be and to be seen.

Sporthotel Enzian

Located directly on the slopes. When you hear "ski in, ski out" this hotel takes it literally.

Hotel Zurserhof

An all-inclusive resort at the edge of town with the prices to match. If you want seriously polished charm while relaxing in an extremely comfortable, full-service hotel, this is the place to do it.

It doesn't matter where you stay, because the whole area is well connected and distances between towns are mere kilometers. One ticket gets you access to the whole ski area, and within two lifts and a gondola, you can pretty much go from slope to slope and town to town: Zürs, Lech, Oberlech, Zug, St. Christoph, St. Anton.

Der Weiße Ring ("the white ring") is a 22-kilometer ski run that connects Zürs to Lech, Oberlech, and Zug. It is easily managed in half a day. If your legs get tired, you can hop a free shuttle back home. In summer, the same route becomes Der Grüne Ring (“the green ring”), and people trade skis for high Alpine hiking gear.

Where To Eat

Most hotels are half-board, which means they include breakfast and dinner in their rates, which makes searching for a restaurant and making a reservation almost pointless. On the mountain, there are no cafeteria-style options as in American resorts. Be prepared for personal service.

Goldener Berg, Oberlech

John Winterman

The best burger in the area, best enjoyed on the sonnenterrasse (sun terrace) with a cold pilsner. This is among my planned stops for lunch while skiing every year.

Bergrestaurant Seekopf, Zürs

John Winterman

Embrace tradition from a perch of more than 2,000 meters. There is no better Käsespätzle anywhere.

Thurnher's Milchbar, Zürs

A trendy cafe where vibrant pastel shades contrast with cute servers wearing dirndls.

Arlberg Hospiz Hotel, St. Christoph

The legendary restaurant where disgraced wine collector Hardy Rodenstock held some of his over-the-top tastings.

Where To Drink

Refreshingly, sports bars do not seem to exist in this area of the world, nor do many televisions. Social interaction seems to be the après ski activity of choice. Here 's where to get the best of it.

Frozen ice bar, Lech

A concept bar where everything is made of ice and Swarovski crystals close to the Schlegelkopf summit station.

Archiv Bar, Lech

Right in the center of town, near the Rufipassage, where the party goes late into the night.

Vernissage, Zürs

I have been told numerous times that this place does not get going until late, so I finally stopped going before 2 a.m. This is the place from 3 - 7 a.m. And they just underwent a hefty remodeling which makes it all the more attractive.

Hotel Krone, Lech

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Wintertime outdoor drinking at Hotel Krone

A fun outdoor apres-ski bar (with lots of heat lamps) on the river that bisects Lech. Excellent people-watching. You will see lots of fur and lots of moon boots.

Get Your Gear

Intersport (multiple locations) - Ubiquitous and easy for rentals. Plus they send emails to wish you a happy birthday.

STROLZ SPORTHAUS IN ZURS - Another good, though expensive, rental spot. The also have a great department store in Lech.

Friendly Brandle - They'll deliver to your hotel and pick up, saving you an extra trip. They save your information from year-to-year. They rule.

Lech Zürs am Arlberg - General info and area resources.

La Loupe - A lifestyle blog about Lech and Zürs: food, shopping, sports, bars, and more.

Voralberg Travel - General info and resources for the Voralberg.

All photos by John Winterman

John Winterman