From the cradle of skiing to the trend hotspot in winter: The Arlberg
The Arlberg is rightly called the "cradle of alpine skiing", after all, alpine winter sports had their beginnings here. In the meantime, the region has grown together to become Austria's largest ski area - and a paradise for off-piste skiers in particular.
4 December 2021
There, where at the end of the 19th century the descent on two boards was invented and from 1937 one of the first gondolas in the Alpine region, the Galzigbahn in St. Anton, carried skiers up into the heights, the largest connected ski area in Austria was created with the commissioning of the Flexenbahn a few years ago. The slopes of "Ski Arlberg", as the area is now strictly called, stretch from St. Anton via St. Christoph to Stuben in Vorarlberg and on via Zürs, Lech and Schröcken to Warth. A tip on how to see as much of the ski area as possible is the spectacular "Run of Fame" loop, dedicated to the ski pioneers and stars of sport and film who once glided down the snowy slopes here on skis. Sporty skiers and snowboarders can complete the longest ski circuit in the Alps, which covers three passes, 85 kilometres and 18,000 metres of altitude difference, in a single day, while more adventurous winter sports enthusiasts can complete it in several stages. Speaking of fame: The Arlberg has always been a hotspot for business bosses, film stars and blue bloods. Princess Diana, for example, preferred to spend her luxury holidays at the traditional "Arlberg" hotel in Lech. Tina Turner, Cliff Richards and Claudia Schiffer also liked to holiday here.
Hotspot for deep snow skiers
What used to be called "deep snow skiing" is now mostly called "off-piste skiing". The Arlberg is a paradise for this, because the best thing is that quite a few powder slopes can be reached by lift, i.e. without a tedious climb. Heliskiing, on the other hand, is not allowed on the Tyrolean side of the ski area, but it is in Lech in Vorarlberg. Away from the skiing fun, the Arlberg offers many other adventures: torch-lit hikes, horse-drawn carriage rides, perfectly groomed cross-country trails, ice-skating rinks, museums. What visitors should not miss is the unique view from the highest peak in the area, the Valluga. For those who want to make a culinary stop at altitude: there is a restaurant on the Valluga (on the ridge, not on the summit).
Best of Arlberg: Shopping experiences
If you are looking for an exclusive piece of jewellery or are interested in a fine watch, Huber Lech is the right address. The luxury jeweller sells jewels from Chopard and Cartier as well as timepieces from Patek Philippe, Rolex and Breitling. huber.li
The hottest brand and designer pieces can be found in the exclusive sports and fashion house on the Arlberg. Ski boots are completely handmade at Strolz. In a cosy atmosphere, a competent team advises you on all the must-haves for your winter holiday. strolz.at
The Arlberg has been enriched by a work of art since 2018: the world-famous US artist James Turrell has created a light room at the Tannegg site in Oberlech, in which the meeting of heaven and earth in the mountains can be experienced. skyspace-lech.com
When Guy Ortlieb served Alsatian wine soup, snails and fondue in the 1960s, he entered new culinary territory on the Arlberg. In the meantime, the "Montana" is run by his son, Olympic champion Patrick Ortlieb - and they have remained true to their quality standards. montanaoberlech.at
Guests find themselves at the peak of pleasure in this exquisite restaurant on the Galzig in St. Anton am Arlberg; fantastic views over the Stanzertal valley included. A tip: the weekly candlelight dinner, on Thursdays during the winter season. verwallstube.at
Good to Know
Perfect for ...
Celebrity hunters, off-piste skiers and experienced skiers - especially on the east side of the Arlberg the slopes are quite demanding.
Route network and lifts
With the commissioning of the Flexenbahn in 2016, "Ski Arlberg" became the largest ski area in the country. Since then, 305 kilometres of downhill runs, 200 kilometres of deep snow runs and 88 lifts have been included.
Duration of the ski season
The Arlberg scores with its high snow reliability. Up to eleven meters of snowfall per winter and about 70 percent of the slopes are mechanically covered with snow make "Ski Arlberg" one of the most snow-sure ski resorts until the end of April.
Casual luxury at 1350 metres altitude
Nestled in nature, the "Hotel Tannenhof" offers a view of the vibrant town of St. Anton am Arlberg. Unique in design and individually furnished, the spacious suites of the five-star superior hotel combine alpine style elements with modern materials. Under the direction of chef Gustav Jantscher, awarded four toques by the Gault Millau Guide in 2020, innovative ideas and the best ingredients find their way onto the plates. Dive into the 15-metre-long indoor pool with counter-current system and cool off in the spring water plunge pool. Relaxing moments can also be enjoyed sweating in the outdoor sauna or in the aroma steam bath. Double room at € 1240,-.
Hotel Tannenhof*****s, hoteltannenhof.net
Nassereinerstrasse 98, St. Anton am Arlberg, Austria
T: +43 5446 30311
Pleasurable understatement in the former farmhouse
Housed in a farmhouse dating back to 1451 with a new extension, this five-star superior hotel reflects the owners' passion for art and architecture at every turn, but in an unobtrusive way - if you love understatement, this is the place for you. After the snowy rush, you can come to rest in front of the fireplace or enjoy Austrian cuisine in the restaurant rightly called "Wunderkammer", accompanied by wines recommended by the 2018 Sommelier of the Year, Josef Neulinger. In the fine-dining restaurant, on the other hand, hotel guests have two menus to choose from, one of which is vegetarian. The aperitif is drunk in the day bar or the Smoker's Lounge. Double room at € 1020,-.
Hotel Almhof Schneider*****s, almhof.at
Tannberg 59, 6764 Lech am Arlberg, Austria
T: +43 5583 3500
©Christian Kain, Klaus Vyhnalek
This article appeared in the Falstaff TRAVEL issue Winter 2021/22.