Old World Skiing

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Exploring some off-piste terrain away from the slopes of Lech, Austria, my friends Raoul and Sabra and I came across three skiers sunning themselves in front of a high-mountain hut. It was an absurdly gorgeous location, with big, brawny mountains spot-welded to the skyline. The Austrian skiers-a woman and two men-casually asked where we were headed. "To those runs over there," I said, pointing to slopes in the distance. As we continued to chat, the woman asked us how we decide where to ski. Do we just aim our skis at a mountain on the horizon and go there? Well, yeah, I admitted, and they all smiled knowingly. Then we pushed off, heading wherever the best sun and snow took us.

What I love about the Alps is being able to just point at a mountain and then ski there. In the Arlberg region of Austria, you can point and ski forever. My friends and I skied the Arlberg hard for a week and we barely dented the place.

The Arlberg is an alliance of five towns in western Austria clustered around the 5,900-foot Arlberg Pass: St. Anton and St. Christoph to the east, in the state of Tyrol; and Lech, Zürs and Stuben to the west, in the state of Vorarlberg. It takes 30 minutes to drive the six tunnels and two mountain passes separating St. Anton and Lech. Or you can start in St. Anton, with a guide, and ski all the way to Lech in a few hours. The return requires a short bus ride from Zürs to Stuben. Nearly a dozen resorts and mountain villages on either side of Arlberg Pass are connected by the skiing. If you could ski the four Aspen, Colo., resorts and all the terrain in between, it still wouldn't equal the expanse of the Arlberg, with its 85 lifts and 300 miles of maintained runs spread over thousands of acres. The simple elegance of the Arlberg is that one lift ticket is good throughout the region, in what amounts to a skier's ultimate dream.

One of the world's cradles of skiing, the Arlberg has produced some of the sport's greatest names. Hannes Schneider began skiing in Stuben in 1900 and eventually immigrated to America with his famous Arlberg technique, which became nothing less than the foundation of U.S. ski instruction.

World skiing champions Rudi Matt, Gertrud Gabl and Karl Schranz were all born in St. Anton, while Lech is the hometown of world champion Marianne Jahn. Lech, in fact, is the only town in the world to boast four native residents who have won Olympic gold medals in alpine skiing: Patrick Ortlieb (downhill, 1992); Egon Zimmermann (downhill, 1964); Othmar Schneider (slalom, 1952), and Trude Jochum-Beiser (downhill, 1952 and combined, 1948). The fact that these gold-medal winners still live in the region is testament to the skiing, the life and the strong family ties of the Arlberg.

With the lure of the region's history and heritage, plus what are widely viewed as some of the best slopes in the Alps, skiing the Arlberg has become a pilgrimage for Austrians, the most ski-savvy populace in the world.

Our first day we started almost on top of Arlberg Pass in St. Christoph and skied down to St. Anton, then crossed the highway to the Rendl gondola. It was mid-February and peak season, yet the Rendl side was nearly deserted. New high-speed lifts are planned there in the next few years to attract more skiers, but we liked the light traffic and casual pace. A yellow gondola delivered us to a broad mountainside of easy, above-timberline rollers served by T-bars and chairs. Rows of lounge-chair skiers baked in the sun at mid-mountain, sedated by the warm rays and wraparound views. We, instead, rambled around the empty runs for hours before dropping down the backside on a 4,400-vertical-foot off-piste tour to St. Anton.

The off-piste possibilities in the Arlberg are limitless and spectacular, as well as potentially dangerous. In Europe it's common to hire a guide if you want to get to know an area. "In the Arlberg you owe it to yourself," says gold-medalist Schneider. "It would be a shame not to take advantage of me of our best skiing-the couloirs and high routes-but you need someone with good local knowledge to show you the way." Schneider himself was out for the season with an injury, but pledges to return to the couloirs this season at the age of 70.

Luckily, the routes off the back of the Riffel Scharte lift are well-traveled and obvious even without a guide. We began in a cavernous north-facing bowl and followed the long, cascading drainage all the way to the Stanzer Valley floor and St. Anton. This elegant backcountry run, complete with photo stops and time to admire the potent scenery, took more than an hour. During our adventure, on acreage the size of Jackson Hole, Wyo., we saw fewer than a dozen skiers.

By the time I'd returned to the Arlberg Hospiz, I felt like one of the tattered travelers slogging over the Arlberg Pass for whom the hospice was founded in 1386. Today the pastel pink landmark is a sumptuous five-star hotel in the tiny village of St. Christoph. The handful of buildings in town are all beam-and-stucco creations in an array of sherbet-colored hues: citron, cantaloupe and peach. Tucked under thick down comforters, among people who belong to a 600-year-old brotherhood of the high mountains (die Bruderschaft), we slept like saints.

After two nights in St. Christoph, we drove on to Lech. The road winds through tunnels and porticoed avalanche ramps as it traverses the rugged, 6,000-foot Flexen Pass on its way to Zürs, near the summit, and then down into the isolated Lech valley. Construction of the Flexen Pass road brought tourism at the turn of the century, liberating Lech's residents from 600 years of subsistence farming. Lech's one priest took up skiing in 1895. By 1925 the town had a ski school, and in 1937, a lift.

We dined at Egon Zimmermann's Hotel Kristberg our first night in Lech, where the charming proprietor regaled us with stories. As a young man, Zimmermann often skied the cliffs above his hotel before they were crisscrossed with avalanche fences to protect the town. "It was great skiing, very steep-but it's better to have the town safe," he says with a smile. A photograph of Lech from the early 1900s shows not much more than the St. Nikolas church, the Hotel Krone and the Zimmermann homestead. The deep serenity of that picture is still palpable in the town today-and in Egon Zimmermann's blood. "We try to keep the village like it has been," the downhiller tells us. "When you push too hard, then it's only a business. You have to keep the quiet, the views, the charm."

Among Europe's most fashionable resorts, Lech is also one of its most scenic. Embraced by the Lech River, the resort is an alpine dream of burnished chalets and bottomless snow nuzzled in the sunny confluence of the Zuger and Lech valleys. The name comes from "licca," meaning stone-water, which tumbles through town with the milky texture of glacier melt, carrying the scent of deep forests. No jammed Vail Valley here, Lech and Zürs together number only 1,450 residents (swelling to 5,000 with winter employees) and 8,200 tourist beds.

Strict zoning and building regulations have kept the towns of the Arlberg storybook small and unaffected. There are no super-hotels or retail chains, but there is a healthy balance of modest pensions and world-famous four- and five-star hotels. The architecture varies from town to town but is largely traditional Austrian, with open decks, scrolled wood and elaborately painted stucco. Famous skiers, such as Zimmermann, often have images of themselves as racers painted on their hotels. Many gasthofs and chalets favor ornamented windows, with painted flowers and vines, or faux stonework. Some opt for large murals depicting everything from religious events to mountain sports.

On our first morning skiing Lech, we headed off-piste under the broad cliff bands of Mohnenfluh Mountain, and then explored some steep terrain near the Steinmahder lift while cable-cars passed high overhead. The Kriegerhorn section of the mountain (a favorite of Zimmermann's), offers some fine short riffs and bumps galore. But the skiing in Lech is mainly known for autobahn-style cruisers. That day they were alive with super-carving classes (a big fad in the Alps) and troops of English kids on holiday.

Around noon we set out on the famous Weisse Ring (White Ring), a complete circuit of the Lech/Zürs side of the Arlberg region. We skied down to Lech, crossed the river and the main street and stepped onto a cablecar for an elevator-like, 3,000-vertical-foot ascent up the west side of the breathtaking valley. At the Rufikopf summit and restaurant, we savored delicate local bratwursts and icy draft beers. Most Austrian restaurants have excellent local beer on tap, so it's rare to order a specific brand and always cheaper not to.

After lunch our route continued east toward Zürs where we found some steep, twitchy slots above the Schuttboden and Trittkopf lifts. The marked runs are often yawners and catwalks, so we skied mostly off-piste. Our next stop was Zürs, a precocious assemblage of two dozen four- and five-star glamour hotels that takes its role as a refuge for the rich a tad too seriously. When I photographed the beautiful sundeck at the Hotel Lorunser, the owner vigorously shooed me away, cursing me as a paparazzi. Later we learned the unassuming hotel is the poshest in the region and Princess Caroline of Monaco, a regular, was in residence.

We continued the tour by skiing across a bridge over the Flexen Pass road and boarding a new high-speed quad at the Seekopf lifts. This season an old neighboring T-bar will be replaced by a high-speed quad, enhancing access to north-facing slopes and memorable chutes. Long routes off the back of the 8,000-foot Madloch-Joch summit lead to the hamlet of Zug, or on to Lech, with countless variations. We dropped straight down to Zug through a series of lyrical bowls and gullies. We were so close to these great peaks that we could smell the wet stone and hear the cracking ice falls that hug the sheer cliffs.

Zug is sequestered in a beautiful side valley 3 miles from Lech. A narrow road, horse-drawn sleighs and buffed cross-country tracks link the two towns. Finishing up the Weisse Ring, Raoul and I boarded Zug's only lift. It crosses the river and ascends to the Kriegerhorn summit where we started the day. Our run down to Lech in the languid alpine gloaming was the finale of an unforgettable grand tour.

It also got us back just in time for Lech's famous hard-rocking après-ski scene, where crowds spill onto the street and music pounds out of Pfefferkorns, the Eisbar and Fred's Hallenbar, all backed by the rumbling base beat of the nearby Lech River. Fueled by Williams schnapps, heavy gluhwein, rich, local beer and the pastries and caffeine of traditional five o'clock alpine teas, downtown Lech is party central until 8 pm or so, when everyone goes to dinner.

Dining is a wondrous experience throughout the Arlberg. We moved to St. Anton for our last few nights and had one of our most memorable meals at the Schwarzer Adler Hotel. We dined in a room richly patined from centuries of use, perhaps the only Americans among prosperous locals in their fine Tyrolean leathers and loden. An amazing appetizer of king prawns and asparagus in a lemon basil sauce was followed by buttery rehfilet (deer) in a puff pastry. The Schwarzer Adler dates from the 1500s and has seen everything from the salt trade, which plied the Arlberg Pass when the hotel was built, to the coming of the railroad in 1884. With the rails came not only the tourists, but also St. Anton's future as one of the best-known resorts in the Alps.

Austrians say: "When you go to Lech you bring your family. When you go to Zürs you bring your girlfriend. When you go to St. Anton you bring your skis." St. Anton (or "Stanton," as locals call it) has the highest, most challenging slopes in the area; it's the home of the Arlberg Ski Club (founded in 1901) and th of the mountain (a favorite of Zimmermann's), offers some fine short riffs and bumps galore. But the skiing in Lech is mainly known for autobahn-style cruisers. That day they were alive with super-carving classes (a big fad in the Alps) and troops of English kids on holiday.

Around noon we set out on the famous Weisse Ring (White Ring), a complete circuit of the Lech/Zürs side of the Arlberg region. We skied down to Lech, crossed the river and the main street and stepped onto a cablecar for an elevator-like, 3,000-vertical-foot ascent up the west side of the breathtaking valley. At the Rufikopf summit and restaurant, we savored delicate local bratwursts and icy draft beers. Most Austrian restaurants have excellent local beer on tap, so it's rare to order a specific brand and always cheaper not to.

After lunch our route continued east toward Zürs where we found some steep, twitchy slots above the Schuttboden and Trittkopf lifts. The marked runs are often yawners and catwalks, so we skied mostly off-piste. Our next stop was Zürs, a precocious assemblage of two dozen four- and five-star glamour hotels that takes its role as a refuge for the rich a tad too seriously. When I photographed the beautiful sundeck at the Hotel Lorunser, the owner vigorously shooed me away, cursing me as a paparazzi. Later we learned the unassuming hotel is the poshest in the region and Princess Caroline of Monaco, a regular, was in residence.

We continued the tour by skiing across a bridge over the Flexen Pass road and boarding a new high-speed quad at the Seekopf lifts. This season an old neighboring T-bar will be replaced by a high-speed quad, enhancing access to north-facing slopes and memorable chutes. Long routes off the back of the 8,000-foot Madloch-Joch summit lead to the hamlet of Zug, or on to Lech, with countless variations. We dropped straight down to Zug through a series of lyrical bowls and gullies. We were so close to these great peaks that we could smell the wet stone and hear the cracking ice falls that hug the sheer cliffs.

Zug is sequestered in a beautiful side valley 3 miles from Lech. A narrow road, horse-drawn sleighs and buffed cross-country tracks link the two towns. Finishing up the Weisse Ring, Raoul and I boarded Zug's only lift. It crosses the river and ascends to the Kriegerhorn summit where we started the day. Our run down to Lech in the languid alpine gloaming was the finale of an unforgettable grand tour.

It also got us back just in time for Lech's famous hard-rocking après-ski scene, where crowds spill onto the street and music pounds out of Pfefferkorns, the Eisbar and Fred's Hallenbar, all backed by the rumbling base beat of the nearby Lech River. Fueled by Williams schnapps, heavy gluhwein, rich, local beer and the pastries and caffeine of traditional five o'clock alpine teas, downtown Lech is party central until 8 pm or so, when everyone goes to dinner.

Dining is a wondrous experience throughout the Arlberg. We moved to St. Anton for our last few nights and had one of our most memorable meals at the Schwarzer Adler Hotel. We dined in a room richly patined from centuries of use, perhaps the only Americans among prosperous locals in their fine Tyrolean leathers and loden. An amazing appetizer of king prawns and asparagus in a lemon basil sauce was followed by buttery rehfilet (deer) in a puff pastry. The Schwarzer Adler dates from the 1500s and has seen everything from the salt trade, which plied the Arlberg Pass when the hotel was built, to the coming of the railroad in 1884. With the rails came not only the tourists, but also St. Anton's future as one of the best-known resorts in the Alps.

Austrians say: "When you go to Lech you bring your family. When you go to Zürs you bring your girlfriend. When you go to St. Anton you bring your skis." St. Anton (or "Stanton," as locals call it) has the highest, most challenging slopes in the area; it's the home of the Arlberg Ski Club (founded in 1901) and the 2001 World Alpine Ski Championships.

St. Anton's 2,300 residents and 8,000 beds are tucked into the narrow Stanzer Valley, a closeness that has created a town full of old-world intimacy. The cobbled main street is a stylized pedestrian-only arcade of hotels and shops that feels like an extended town square and percolates with throngs of international skiers. We watched people in full costume for Lent masquerade balls traipse around town as if it were their living room.

Native son Karl Schranz, the last Austrian man to win an overall World Cup title before Hermann Maier last year, is a local hero. He also is largely responsible for landing the 2001 World Alpine Championships. In the face of local opposition, he believed securing the event was vital to St. Anton's competitiveness as a resort. "Now we can make plans for the future," he told me in the lobby of his deluxe hotel. "With our mountains and our snow, we have so much good skiing. But we must keep improving and setting the standard."

That standard is already high. Gondolas, cablecars, funiculars and high-speed quads whisk you to every corner of St. Anton's skiing. On-slope restaurants, such as the Ulmer Hutte, Gampen and Vernwallstuben, are legendary for both their Tyrolean cuisine and mesmerizing views of impossibly beautiful mountains. More than 10,000 feet high, Patteriol peak looks like huge, carved-rock butterfly wings. The main ski slopes are as consistently groomed as most American resorts. And in the next few years, to make things easier for visitors, they'll be adding two high-speed quads directly above town and relocating their historic downhill course, as well as the busy railroad tracks that cut through the resort's center.

What really defines St. Anton is its world-class challenging skiing. The chutes from the Valluga Grat lift and the 9,276-foot Valluga summit are famously long and demanding, as are the broad, bump-riddled downspouts called Mattun, one of Schranz's favorite sections. For our last day Raoul and I skied with guide Gerald Hammerle. He showed us around the St. Anton side of the Arlberg, focusing on the eye-popping off-piste. "When you tour, it's always beautiful," Hammerle pointed out, "and there aren't any people." In the sometimes crowded Alps, that's a real blessing.

We opened with a big, snaky couloir called Torli that cut through tall, natural stone towers and took us over 3,300 vertical feet from the top of the Kapall lift to the Nasserein base lift. Lunch was at the Galziger Vernwallstuben (at the top of the Galzig cablecar), a white-linen restaurant with a formidable continental menu and dangling views of the Stanzer Valley as it stretches east toward Innsbruck. After lunch we headed west, onto brawny cruisers skirting the spine of the Arlberg Pass all the way to Stuben.

Yet another take on paradise, small, stonewrought Stuben (a favorite of Princess Diana's), has only 110 residents. Gerald took us straight up 3,300 vertical feet to the Albona Grat summit for rolling groomed slopes on the upper lift and vast panoramas of off-piste possibilities. "The never-ending story," he said, smiling, as he led us down another ivory-white, unwritten page. And so it goes in these cradling mountains, where the history of skiing is etched on every slope, and where the tale is still being added to every day.

Almanac: Arlberg, Austria

When To GoChristmas and New Year's weeks, the end of February and most of March are high season. Late January to early February can be epic, but snow in March is more certain.

Getting There The Arlberg is almost equidistant from Munich and Zurich (3 1/2 hours by car), with regular rail service from their gateway airports to St. Anton and Langen. Swissair offers direct connections to Munich and Zurich from the U.S.

Transportation A lift ticket includes free bus service throughout the Arlberg. Taxis and hotel vans serve the airports and most train stations. Rental cars run $2550-$400 per week.

Lift TicketsA ticket is good for the entire Arlberg region. Many options are available, including hourly rates. Prices range from $22-$37 per day depending on number of days purchased. Guests staying in the Arlberg receive discounts. (Ask your hotel.)

Lodging Rates are for high season, double occupancy, and include breakfast and dinner. Deluxe ($300 and up per night): Arlberg Hospiz (St. Christoph), Schneider Almhof (Lech), Hotel Lorunser (Zürs), St. Antoner Hof (St. Anton); Moderate ($150 per night): Kristiania (Lech), Kristberg (Lech), Hartenfels (Zug), Greishof (St. Anton), Hotel Karl Schranz (St. Anton); Budget ($80-$150 per night): Oberstubenbach (Lech), Fauner Hubert (St. Anton), Friedheim (St. Anton). The best deals are in Zug, Stubenbach and St. Jakob.

Dining Breakfast is traditionally taken at your hotel and includes sideboards of breads, cold meats, cereals and cheeses (finer hotels often include hot buffets). For lunch the mountains have great restaurants: Ulmer Hutte (St. Anton), Rufikopf (Lech), Gampen (St. Anton). Or grab a brat and enjoy the empty slopes when the Euros take their two hour-lunches. Even if dinner at your hotel is included, you should eat out a few times. The many fine options include: the Hospiz Alm (St. Christoph), the Walserstube in the Schneider Almhof (Lech), the Hotel Ulli (Zürs) and fondue at the Montiola (St. Anton).

Other Attractions Othmar and Susanne Schneider's Kristiania Hotel in Lech has an art collection featuring prominent modernists and is free to the public. Strolz Sports in Lech (famed as the best custom ski boot maker in Europe) is one of the world's greatest ski shops. Other activities include ice skating, curling, sleigh rides and cross-country tracks in the Ferwall and Zuger valleys.

Kicking Butt To board St. Anton's Valluga cablecar you need a guide (about $150 per day), who can take you off the backside to Zürs. The off-piste Steinmanle Steilhang area on the Albona Grat is high and handsome. The steeply moguled reaches of St. Anton's Schindlerkar and Mattun are intimidating even from a distance.

Kicking BackThe historic Krone Hotel's restaurant on the river in Lech is gracious, quiet and ideal for an afternoon brettljause (small snack) of schubling sausage and spanli schnapps. Check out the trendy Zürserl bar in Zürs. The sonnenterrasse (sun terrace) at the Hotel Post in St. Anton is perfect for people watching.

DetailsThe Arlberg has 85 lifts, 300 miles of runs, plus nearly unlimited off-piste slopes. For information call St. Anton Tourist Office, 43-5446-22690 or Lech Tourist Office, 43-5583-21610.001 World Alpine Ski Championships.

St. Anton's 2,300 residents and 8,000 beds are tucked into the narrow Stanzer Valley, a closeness that has created a town full of old-world intimacy. The cobbled main street is a stylized pedestrian-only arcade of hotels and shops that feels like an extended town square and percolates with throngs of international skiers. We watched people in full costume for Lent masquerade balls traipse around town as if it were their living room.

Native son Karl Schranz, the last Austrian man to win an overall World Cup title before Hermann Maier last year, is a local hero. He also is largely responsible for landing the 2001 World Alpine Championships. In the face of local opposition, he believed securing the event was vital to St. Anton's competitiveness as a resort. "Now we can make plans for the future," he told me in the lobby of his deluxe hotel. "With our mountains and our snow, we have so much good skiing. But we must keep improving and setting the standard."

That standard is already high. Gondolas, cablecars, funiculars and high-speed quads whisk you to every corner of St. Anton's skiing. On-slope restaurants, such as the Ulmer Hutte, Gampen and Vernwallstuben, are legendary for both their Tyrolean cuisine and mesmerizing views of impossibly beautiful mountains. More than 10,000 feet high, Patteriol peak looks like huge, carved-rock butterfly wings. The main ski slopes are as consistently groomed as most American resorts. And in the next few years, to make things easier for visitors, they'll be adding two high-speed quads directly above town and relocating their historic downhill course, as well as the busy railroad tracks that cut through the resort's center.

What really defines St. Anton is its world-class challenging skiing. The chutes from the Valluga Grat lift and the 9,276-foot Valluga summit are famously long and demanding, as are the broad, bump-riddled downspouts called Mattun, one of Schranz's favorite sections. For our last day Raoul and I skied with guide Gerald Hammerle. He showed us around the St. Anton side of the Arlberg, focusing on the eye-popping off-piste. "When you tour, it's always beautiful," Hammerle pointed out, "and there aren't any people." In the sometimes crowded Alps, that's a real blessing.

We opened with a big, snaky couloir called Torli that cut through tall, natural stone towers and took us over 3,300 vertical feet from the top of the Kapall lift to the Nasserein base lift. Lunch was at the Galziger Vernwallstuben (at the top of the Galzig cablecar), a white-linen restaurant with a formidable continental menu and dangling views of the Stanzer Valley as it stretches east toward Innsbruck. After lunch we headed west, onto brawny cruisers skirting the spine of the Arlberg Pass all the way to Stuben.

Yet another take on paradise, small, stonewrought Stuben (a favorite of Princess Diana's), has only 110 residents. Gerald took us straight up 3,300 vertical feet to the Albona Grat summit for rolling groomed slopes on the upper lift and vast panoramas of off-piste possibilities. "The never-ending story," he said, smiling, as he led us down another ivory-white, unwritten page. And so it goes in these cradling mountains, where the history of skiing is etched on every slope, and where the tale is still being added to every day.

Almanac: Arlberg, Austria

When To GoChristmas and New Year's weeks, the end of February and most of March are high season. Late January to early February can be epic, but snow in March is more certain.

Getting There The Arlberg is almost equidistant from Munich and Zurich (3 1/2 hours by car), with regular rail service from their gateway airports to St. Anton and Langen. Swissair offers direct connections to Munich and Zurich from the U.S.

Transportation A lift ticket includes free bus service throughout the Arlberg. Taxis and hotel vans serve the airports and most train stations. Rental cars run $250-$400 per week.

Lift TicketsA ticket is good for the entire Arlberg region. Many options are available, including hourly rates. Prices range from $22-$37 per day depending on number of days purchased. Guests staying in the Arlberg receive discounts. (Ask your hotel.)

Lodging Rates are for high season, double occupancy, and include breakfast and dinner. Deluxe ($300 and up per night): Arlberg Hospiz (St. Christoph), Schneider Almhof (Lech), Hotel Lorunser (Zürs), St. Antoner Hof (St. Anton); Moderate ($150 per night): Kristiania (Lech), Kristberg (Lech), Hartenfels (Zug), Greishof (St. Anton), Hotel Karl Schranz (St. Anton); Budget ($80-$150 per night): Oberstubenbach (Lech), Fauner Hubert (St. Anton), Friedheim (St. Anton). The best deals are in Zug, Stubenbach and St. Jakob.

Dining Breakfast is traditionally taken at your hotel and includes sideboards of breads, cold meats, cereals and cheeses (finer hotels often include hot buffets). For lunch the mountains have great restaurants: Ulmer Hutte (St. Anton), Rufikopf (Lech), Gampen (St. Anton). Or grab a brat and enjoy the empty slopes when the Euros take their two hour-lunches. Even if dinner at your hotel is included, you should eat out a few times. The many fine options include: the Hospiz Alm (St. Christoph), the Walserstube in the Schneider Almhof (Lech), the Hotel Ulli (Zürs) and fondue at the Montiola (St. Anton).

Other Attractions Othmar and Susanne Schneider's Kristiania Hotel in Lech has an art collection featuring prominent modernists and is free to the public. Strolz Sports in Lech (famed as the best custom ski boot maker in Europe) is one of the world's greatest ski shops. Other activities include ice skating, curling, sleigh rides and cross-country tracks in the Ferwall and Zuger valleys.

Kicking Butt To board St. Anton's Valluga cablecar you need a guide (about $150 per day), who can take you off the backside to Zürs. The off-piste Steinmanle Steilhang area on the Albona Grat is high and handsome. The steeply moguled reaches of St. Anton's Schindlerkar and Mattun are intimidating even from a distance.

Kicking BackThe historic Krone Hotel's restaurant on the river in Lech is gracious, quiet and ideal for an afternoon brettljause (small snack) of schubling sausage and spanli schnapps. Check out the trendy Zürserl bar in Zürs. The sonnenterrasse (sun terrace) at the Hotel Post in St. Anton is perfect for people watching.

DetailsThe Arlberg has 85 lifts, 300 miles of runs, plus nearly unlimited off-piste slopes. For information call St. Anton Tourist Office, 43-5446-22690 or Lech Tourist Office, 43-5583-21610. run $250-$400 per week.

Lift TicketsA ticket is good for the entire Arlberg region. Many options are available, including hourly rates. Prices range from $22-$37 per day depending on number of days purchased. Guests staying in the Arlberg receive discounts. (Ask your hotel.)

Lodging Rates are for high season, double occupancy, and include breakfast and dinner. Deluxe ($300 and up per night): Arlberg Hospiz (St. Christoph), Schneider Almhof (Lech), Hotel Lorunser (Zürs), St. Antoner Hof (St. Anton); Moderate ($150 per night): Kristiania (Lech), Kristberg (Lech), Hartenfels (Zug), Greishof (St. Anton), Hotel Karl Schranz (St. Anton); Budget ($80-$150 per night): Oberstubenbach (Lech), Fauner Hubert (St. Anton), Friedheim (St. Anton). The best deals are in Zug, Stubenbach and St. Jakob.

Dining Breakfast is traditionally taken at your hotel and includes sideboards of breads, cold meats, cereals and cheeses (finer hotels often include hot buffets). For lunch the mountains have great restaurants: Ulmer Hutte (St. Anton), Rufikopf (Lech), Gampen (St. Anton). Or grab a brat and enjoy the empty slopes when the Euros take their two hour-lunches. Even if dinner at your hotel is included, you should eat out a few times. The many fine options include: the Hospiz Alm (St. Christoph), the Walserstube in the Schneider Almhof (Lech), the Hotel Ulli (Zürs) and fondue at the Montiola (St. Anton).

Other Attractions Othmar and Susanne Schneider's Kristiania Hotel in Lech has an art collection featuring prominent modernists and is free to the public. Strolz Sports in Lech (famed as the best custom ski boot maker in Europe) is one of the world's greatest ski shops. Other activities include ice skating, curling, sleigh rides and cross-country tracks in the Ferwall and Zuger valleys.

Kicking Butt To board St. Anton's Valluga cablecar you need a guide (about $150 per day), who can take you off the backside to Zürs. The off-piste Steinmanle Steilhang area on the Albona Grat is high and handsome. The steeply moguled reaches of St. Anton's Schindlerkar and Mattun are intimidating even from a distance.

Kicking BackThe historic Krone Hotel's restaurant on the river in Lech is gracious, quiet and ideal for an afternoon brettljause (small snack) of schubling sausage and spanli schnapps. Check out the trendy Zürserl bar in Zürs. The sonnenterrasse (sun terrace) at the Hotel Post in St. Anton is perfect for people watching.

DetailsThe Arlberg has 85 lifts, 300 miles of runs, plus nearly unlimited off-piste slopes. For information call St. Anton Tourist Office, 43-5446-22690 or Lech Tourist Office, 43-5583-21610.