Lech. Powder snow and the Discreet Charm of the Bourgeoisie.

I have been skiing in Austrias Arlberg since 1980´s, but never stayed in Lech. When I was younger it was just too “quiet” place for a 20-something student. I didn’t know what happened behind the curtains. Place was and is still known for its royal (even though Prince William has changed to Verbier Switzerland to make his ”dad dancing moves” ) and bourgeois guests, who want to live discreet life on holiday.

Lech is  also a favourite of the well-heeled Finns and if you belong to that society, it means a lot of chit-chat and cheek kissing during your holiday. I don’t have anything against other Finns, but I would rather be the only “Pekka” (nickname for a Finn) in the village. It makes me feel less like a tourist (what an illusion…).

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New Flexenbahn connects St. Anton and Lech skiing areas.

But if you need to travel in week 8, which is the school holiday week of southern Finland, it is pretty difficult to be the only Finn in any good skiing resort, at least in the European Alps.

So here I was with my family in Lech, finally. I must say that I tried to book an apartment in St. Anton, on the cheaper side of the Arlberg, but to my surprise I found a perfect, newly renovated big and stylish place from Airbnb and it was situated in the Lech.  So, what the hell, I thought. Let’s see what the discreet life of the bourgeoisie look like.

 

Haus Tannegg. A hidden gem, until now.

The apartment we got was really a find. A hidden gem. Bang for a buck. Describe it however you like, but 400 euros per night for a two bedroom, 80 sqm flat with highest standards is not what you are used to pay in the upscale places. Especially if the house is just renovated.  The Post Hotel in Lech charges 1000 euros per night for a better double room, which I think is insane. But the one who asks, is not the stupid one and there seems to be lots of people willing to pay it.  But if you are ready to prepare your own breakfast and it is ok for you that the towels are changed only once in the week, check out Haus Tannegg.

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Dining and living room in Tannegg.

I can strongly recommend it. It is owned by a warmhearted Gerda Spanring, who will take care of you during your stay.  Haus Tannegg is very conveniently situated just hundred meters from the Schlosskopf ski lift. Which means that with good snow conditions you can practically ski in and out from Tannegg. It is a place that you would really keep as a secret for just for yourself, but as I am not going to in Lech next  year, I think Anaresor´s readers should be the first ones to know Tannegg.

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A moment before. View from House Tannegg at 7 a.m. The village still sleeps.

 

Too easy slopes? Not true.

The other thing that is often said is that the slopes in Lech are too easy, “wide blue airfields”, not decent pistes. Well, I don’t know what you are looking for, but if one of the steepest prepared pistes in the world is on your menu, you will find it here. It is called Langer Zug and it starts from the Rüfikopf Gondola Station. It has an 80 % descent, which does not mean grades, but 80 % of  the 45 ° angle. So that gives still a respective 36° piste (for comparison Mont Fort in Verbier is 38°).

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And if you are willing to ski off piste or ski routes, you really have places to go. Especially if there is almost four meters of snow, like this year. The new Flexenbahn skilift connection makes also possible direct access to the slopes of St. Anton. That means that if you are a very fast skier, you can ski 18 000 altitude meters and 85 km of pistes in one day doing the Run of Fame, as it is called. On the other hand Flexenbahn means that the young crowds from St. Anton can now come to you hunting areas. Newly fallen snow is pretty fast marked…

Since my last visit in Lech, a new connection has been built to Warth, the other end of the Arlberg ski area. It is called Auenfeldjet. Warth-Schröcken is a compact area with four black runs (one is 70% deep) and few decent red ones. And as it is far away from St. Anton, it is not that crowded.  It is called Hochkrumbach in the map below, that shows my one skiing day´s activities.

 

 

Most infrastructure development is needed in Zürs. Many people ski the “Weisse ring”, a circular route from Lech -Zürs- Zug and back to Lech. Especially the old two-seater lift to Zürser See can draw long queues. And same goes to old lift in the Zug village station. Otherwise the lift systems works pretty well even in the peak season.

 

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Beautiful valley of Muggengrat-Täli. Long long run Flexenpass.

 

Small elegant village

As said, Lech is a place known for its royal and upscale clientele. That is visible in the village. But not as visible as in St. Moritz, where people arrive to after ski in fur coats or men wear tuxedos at dinners.  But the hotels and houses are beautiful, traditional wood buildings and beautifully maintained. Here you won’t find a single Irish pub, which is quite uncommon in any other skiing resort. Instead you have 4 -5 – star hotels, whose guests enjoy mainly half board and party privately or in the night clubs. Just like in Klosters, where the village scene is very quiet in the evenings. Of course there are a few lively bars, but if you like pub crawling you should head to St. Anton, where people start pouring in Jägerbombs in bar Mooserwirt right after breakfast.

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Discreet dining in Hotel Krone.

As we stayed in an apartment and decided not to prepare our meals, we tested the restaurant offering of  Lech every evening. Except one, when we made cheese burgers ourselves. And that was not a bad choice either as Herr Kuno Hagen at the Hagen´s Dorfmetzgerei really served us excellent ingredients for our dinner. Meat, charcuterie, cheeses, desserts. All that you need is available in his compact shop. The Hagen family has also a small restaurant in the back room of the Metzgerei. Open from the morning until 7 p.m. And it was said to be fully booked for every lunch and dinner for the whole week.

 

The Pekka-ratio in restaurant Bergkristall was about 50 %.

The most well known restaurant for the Finnish visitors is in Bergkristall Hotel in Oberlech. And surprise surprise, after landing to Innsbruck we first bumped to our Helsinki neighbors and found out they live in Bergkristall, so we agreed to have a lunch together. In the restaurant to the next table was seated another Finnish family, who also happened to be our friends. In addition to us there were a 15-person group from the Finnish Soldsidan, Kauniainen, so I guess  the Pekka-ratio in the restaurant was about 50 % of the guests.

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Tomahawk steak of 1,4 kg. Cooked medium rare, served with two sauces and herb butter, pommes, vegatables and chipotle dip. Expensive but worth every cent.

 

About the food itself, Bergkristall serves excellent, maybe a bit overpriced food, but it goes in the line of the village price level. And nobody forces you to order a 1,4 kg Tomahawksteak for 135 euros as I did, but I must say it was truly delicious. I split the steak with my 14-year old daughter and we still managed to have chocolate fondue and tiramisu for dessert. Oh, and a dozen of oysters to start with. It is amazing how hungry skiing can make you.

 

 

 

Other fine dining lunch option on the slopes is the restaurant at the Schlegekopf  Lift station. House looks like a gray bunker but inside you find one of the grooviest restaurants of the village. Schlegekopf makes cooperation (as the village of Lech itself) with Sylt island from the west coast of Germany. For those who don’t know Sylt and its most famous (jet-set) village Kampen, it is a beach resort equivalent to most exquisite ski resorts. Read my earlier blog post . Specialities from Sylt like oysters and crab are found on the menu of the Schlegekopf. And also steaks from the charcoal grill and sushi (other co-operative village of Hakuba in Japan).

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Sylt meets Arlberg. Kampen meets Lech. Crab sandwich.

 

Best fast food we had at was at the top of the Zug Lift in restaurant Balmalp. Here you get excellent pizza (parma ham -rucola or Hüttenpizza with salami etc) accomplished with loud lounge music and fancy drinks.

Place reminds a bit of El Paradiso in St.Moritz – not by the food but the ambient. I can imagine being 20 years younger and skiing down from here after too many glasses of good wine.  You are not in the hurry as no more litfs are needed to get back to village. But you need to stand on your feets…

 

 

 

Village dining

There can’t be a trip to Austria without a Wiener Schnitzel. For that we chose Hotel Posts Kutscherstube, an traditionally styled restaurant, where you can with really good imagination think the post coach drivers having their modest meals some two hundred years ago. Today top level schnitzel is served with lingonberry and parsley potatoes. I would rate the schnitzel 5/5. It was delicious and just what you could expect in one of the best hotels of the village. But still lacking the true wow-effect I have experienced eg. in the Zürich Kronenhalle. Or is it the combination with the side dish in Kronenhalle, that makes your taste buds really jodling: the German style vinegar potato salad? I must say, I haven’t really got in to the Austrian lingonberry thing.

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In better restaurants lemon is packed in a yellow cotton bag in order to prevent the seeds end up to your plate or juice to your eyes.

 

If you want to experience alpine modernism  in restaurant settings, you need to walk a bit uphill the Lech village to reach newly renovated hotel Hinterwies. This boutique style ski lodge /hotel would be my other pick for staying in Lech (as long as I can afford paying for the bigger room at  Hotel Post). Hinterwies has a stylish, modern décor in the restaurant and only three choices on the menu per day as a main course. We had lovely Polpo (octopus) salad, Salmon spinach tagliatelle and Chocolate mousse with mango. And did not leave hungry…

 

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There is only one original Italian pizzeria in Lech. It is called Don Enzo and it serves a good crusty bottom pizza. Plus several other Italian foods including home made pasta. The other place serving good pizza in the village is called Schneggerai. It is a ski hut in the end of the slopes, an after ski place that converts to loud eatery in the evening. Fun and ok meals at communal tables. Though here we had the most peculiar service experince. It started overwhelmingly and ended up to total ignorance. I guess the waiter in some point draw conclusion that we are not big spenders – or tippers. But if you pay 35 euros for an average steak, the salary of the waiter should include in that, not in the tips.

 

Shopping

Here, if you need to buy ski boots, is the home of the Strolz. The most famous hand made skiing boots of the world. You can read more about buying these boots in my earlier blog post (sorry only  captions in english). Otherwise shopping in the village doesn’t seem to be the main thing like in Gstaad or St. Moritz where main streets are full of high end design shops like Prada and Louis Vuitton. In Lech you have Strolz that has everything and a few watch and jewellery shops.  If you don’t want bring your own skis, you can rent 6 star skis from the Strolz ( like Stöckli or Kästle, which is by the way from Lech). Local Intersport serves you a bit cheaper, if you are not looking for utmost top skis.

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Freeride Worldchampion Lorraine Huber is from Lech Zürs am Arlberg. As are Kästle skis.

 

The end

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Everything has an end (except the sausage that has two) and we  also had to pack our car and drive to the airport. And here comes the final benefit of Lech. It is only 1,5 hours´s drive to Innsbruck or 2,5 to Zürich. At least to Innsbruck there were no staus (queues) on the road. The Innsbruck  airport itself is small and a bit chaotic, but on the other hand waiting times in the lines were not bad. Of course if the weather is terrible, everything changes. An alpine airport is vulnerable if there is heavy snow fall and even the village of Lech itself could be isolated because of the snow. When we arrived it was snowing quite a lot and I was happy to have a four wheel drive. The road to and from Lech goes through the high altitude (1773 meter above sea)  Flexenpass, which is closed many times every winter. But if you have to stay a few more extra days in Lech, would that really be so bad? If the village just doesn’t run out of beer…

 

 

 

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