The Tyrolean region of Arlberg is a feast for experienced skiers, with more than 300 kilometres of marked runs stretching alongside 200kms of untouched back-country terrain.
The region’s five villages – St. Anton, St. Christoph, Stuben, Zürs and Lech – make up Austria’s largest inter-linked ski area, and one of the top five largest in the world.
European royalty and pro skiers alike appreciate the range of snowy experiences you can have here - whether taking to the skis for a cutting-edge heli-skiing adventure, or dining at a multi-award-winning restaurant with a view of the peaks.
The first thing to know about winter in Arlberg is that the snow is fresh, thick and reliable – since 1946, an average of nine metres of fresh snow has been measured at the region’s monitoring site. There’s a rich skiing heritage here, too: St Anton is where Austria’s first ski school was founded in 1921, while the country’s first ski lift was brought to Zürs in 1937, as the decade saw this young sport grow and grow.
Today, hardcore snow fans should set their sights on the White Ring circuit in Lech Zürs – the most famous ski circuit in the Alps – or the Run of Fame – the longest ski circuit in the Alps, taking in 85km of pistes. St Anton’s black runs are the stuff of legend for expert skiers.
But Arlberg is perhaps most famous for freeriding – as captured in Warren Miller’s ski film Wintervention - where skiiers let loose on unmarked, thickly-powdered, off-piste terrain rather than following pre-sculpted pistes. As well as the yearly pilgrimage by keen off-pisters, one of the world’s top freeriders, Lorraine Huber, makes Lech Zürs her base for exploring the wild mountainside. Not feeling fearless enough to freeride? You can also explore the backcountry in snowshoes, with or without a guide.
Away from the slopes, there’s plenty of twinkling winter atmosphere here for couples and romantics. Ice skating rinks in St Anton and Zürs allow lovers to skate a swirl under the stars, while horse-carriage rides pad gently through blankets of snow, and evenings are spent in the warm intimacy of high-end cuisine in intimate restaurants. In fact, the five Arlberg villages have Austria’s highest density of award-winning restaurants in proportion to the population.
Dig into hearty Tyrolean fare at celebrity favourite The Hospiz Alm, or peruse a menu of more modern bites at the glassy, light-flooded Rendl – famous for its large sun terrace. Meanwhile, the new Wagner Hut welcomes visitors in the Verwall valley near the village centre of St. Anton am Arlberg. This inviting inn is a popular meeting point for locals and visitors, who can also explore the local area of Verwall on snowshoes or cross-country skis. In addition to two dining rooms, a winter garden and terrace, the Wagner Hut has seminar and conference rooms; open daily from 10am-5pm during the winter season.
Arlberg is also a great place to try a rare thrill: heli-skiing. In fact, Lech Zürs is the only Austrian resort to offer the activity, which involves being whisked to the highest heights of the mountain by helicopter, in order to ski down the virgin slopes without having to hike up first. This is a once in a lifetime burst of adrenaline that you’ll talk about for years to come.
Rock-climbing and bouldering centres, and yoga sessions high in the mountains, add even more opportunity to move and stretch on your winter break.
For cultured types, Arlberg also has a diverse cultural programme, with both a New Orleans-inspired jazz festival and a retro-music festival in April, an annual orchestral extravaganza each New Year’s Eve, and the Arlberg Weinberg food and wine festival held in Lech Zürs each December.
Please check gov.uk before travel for the latest government guidance.
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