One of Austria’s most fashionable ski resorts and a playground for the rich and famous, picturesque Lech combines a cute chocolate-box setting with superb intermediate and extensive off-piste skiing in one of the snowiest areas of the Alps. Once a farming village, Lech has become the winter bolthole of the rich and the famous but despite this, with its pretty riverside setting and wide range of 5 to 3 star hotels, apartments and chalets, it can pretty much cater for most tastes and budgets.
Lech shares its local ski-pass with its higher neighbour Zurs and the even more snow-sure Warth-Schrocken, via a cable-car link. This adds more pistes and lots of lovely off-piste terrain and helps attract the more expert skier, who had limited options in Lech, with much more in St Anton. Travelling further afield, modern connecting lifts make it easy for Lech visitors to access the whole Arlberg ski area, which is Austria’s largest interconnected ski area and includes St Anton as well as Stuben and St Christoph, all on the one “Arlberg Pass”. The whole Arlberg ski area has 88 lifts and over 300 km of pistes and also boasts 200km of off-piste runs. Many of Lech’s day visitors are beginners and intermediates from St Anton who find St Anton’s terrain a little daunting.
The Lech piste map pretty much consists of blue and red pistes ensuring its legendary status for intermediate skiers and boarders and a pleasurable experience for beginners too. There is just one black piste – a short stretch from Seekopf down to Zurs. Practically all the slopes are above the treeline, the only real exception being the 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. Sold on it yet?
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 the Lech-Zurs area – 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 gratifying run.
For experts, the off-piste around Lech-Zurs is the main attraction, with the Langerzug ski route from Rufikopf down to Lech, of particular mention. The gondola over Warth-Schrocken, enhances the freeride dramatically as Warth has a reputation as the snowiest resort in the Alps, receiving an average 11m onto its north-facing slopes, which holds the snow well.
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. Check out 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 après-ski 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.
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. All in all, a fabulous option for groups especially those made up of mainly intermediates and beginners, who might want to party a little….. and for families.