Outside magazine, November 1995
A Lesson in the holy land of skiing won't take care of life's unruliest problems--like the mortgage--but don't underestimate the redemptive powers of a few well-carved turns and a stein or two of Austrian beer in the world-famous Arlberg Valley. Of course, be forewarned. There's some truth to the area's reputation as overpriced--you can spend a sheik's ransom. But you don't have to, and what you'll get in return for your money is a skiing experience unlike anything available in the States. To wit, a single lift ticket ($42 per day or $200 for six days) grants you entry to every chairlift, cable car, mogul, and chute at each of the valley's five interconnected resorts: Lech, Zürs, Stuben, St. Anton, and St. Christoph. That's a lot of room, on- and off-piste, in which to find salvation.
Getting there. Lech and Zürs are a two-and-a-half-hour drive from Zurich. Round-trip airfare from New York starts at $650, though charter ski-package flights can be cheaper. Fly nonstop from New York on American (800-433-7300), SwissAir (800-221-4750), or Delta (800-221-1212); from Washington, D.C., on United (800-538-2929); from Chicago on American or SwissAir; and from Atlanta on SwissAir or Delta. In Zurich, you can rent a car for $200-$400 per week from Hertz (800-654-3001), Avis (800-331-1084), National (800-227-3876), or Alamo (800-522-9696), or ride Austrian Rail to the Langen Station ($124 round-trip) and take a bus over the Flexen Pass.
Where to stay. Most of Arlberg's winter guests book hotels as part of a ski package. á la carte, your choices range from Lech's swank Hotel Berghof ($160-$240 in the high season, including breakfast and dinner) to the budget Pension Bergfrieden ($41-$50, with breakfast only). In between, the Hotel Lech Chesa Rosa ($110-$145) serves a mean fondue. In Zürs, you'll pay as much as $215 for a double and all meals at the five-star Hotel Lorünser or as little as $130 for a room with breakfast and dinner at the Hotel Enzian, a three-star inn with a cozy Weinstube.
Ski school. The head of Lech's schischule, Stefan Schneider, was recently appointed vice mayor of the town, so you know how seriously this town takes its ski school. Adult group lessons cost $45 per person for one day in high season, $140 for a week. Private instruction starts at $195 per day for one person, but you can add up to five friends to the group for $15 apiece.
Packages. Arlberg ski deals include round-trip air to Zurich, ground transfers, and seven nights' lodging, with buffet breakfasts (and hearty Austrian suppers, in most cases). Austria Ski (800-333-5533) offers weeklong packages from New York for $1,875-$2,200 for a four-star hotel (with dinners) in Lech or $1,260-$1,365 in Zürs. Alphorn Ski Tours still has a few spots open on trips from Philadelphia to Lech ($1,925; 800-257-4676). If you can't swing the deluxe tour, consider an economy option. Book Alphorn's ski week at Innsbruck for $895 per person and take day trips (two hours each way by bus) to the Arlberg lifts. For a complete list of ski tour operators, call the Austrian national tourism office at 212-944-6880.
Filed To: Snow Sports