With perfectly groomed slopes and white mountains against a backdrop of bright sunshine and blue skies, the tranquil region of Lech Zürs awaits winter sports enthusiasts in the heart of Ski Arlberg.
As the largest continuous ski resort in Austria and one of the most extensive in the world, Ski Arlberg is an iconic location for alpine skiing that features more than 300 kilometres (km) of downhill slopes.
Lech Zürs’ diverse terrain offers everything a winter sports enthusiast could wish for, from wide, family-friendly slopes to speedy racetracks for those seeking a challenge.
The White Ring has been an integral part of the skiing experience in Lech Zürs for more than 60 years, a legendary 22km circuit that leads you along six of the most beautiful, thrilling slopes around the Omeshorn mountain and links the villages of Lech, Zürs, Zug, and Oberlech.
Amid continuous development, Lech has managed to preserve its quintessential mountain village charm to the delight of visitors. It is now one of the most popular holiday regions in the world, attracting guests from all over the globe with its long-established customs, tranquil charms, and warm hospitality that belies Lech’s snowy surroundings.
Zürs, meanwhile, can justifiably be described as a powder snow paradise, where skiers are always at the heart of the action in perfect conditions.
The village is home to elegant hotels, in front of which guests can strap on their skis and head straight out to the slopes and lifts.
As the cradle of alpine skiing, Zürs boasts a storied history as an elite destination for winter sports dating back to the turn of the 20th century.
The time for indulgence, however, begins the moment you unbuckle your ski boots. From outstanding gourmet restaurants and atmospheric parlours serving regional dishes, to elegant wine cellars and trendy cocktail bars, Zürs is all about uniting breathtaking nature with perfect service, comfortable hotels, and top-quality establishments.
TOURISM INSIGHTS : LECH ZÜRS TOURIST BOARD
A winter wonderland surrounded by snow-covered mountains, Lech Zürs is the ideal starting point for adventure, enjoyment, and relaxation. We speak to Hermann Fercher, Tourism Director and CEO of the Lech Zürs Tourist Board, about the region’s unique character.
Q&A WITH HERMANN FERCHER, TOURISM DIRECTOR AND CEO, LECH ZÜRS TOURISM BOARD
Firstly, can you talk us through the evolution of Lech Zürs as a destination?
Hermann Fercher, Tourism Director and CEO (HF): Within a few decades, Lech Zürs has managed to evolve from a mountainside farming village into an international tourist hotspot, without losing any of its essential cultural values or village character. The naturally grown destination owns a maximum of 10,000 beds and is characterised by a variety of accommodation establishments – from 5-star hotels to fine, small guesthouses. Lech Zürs also benefits from the brand image of the Arlberg, which became world-famous through its skiing history and pioneering achievements. The sporting successes of the likes of Trude Jochum Beiser, Egon Zimmermann, and Patrick Ortlieb have generated notoriety, both in the past and now. Lech Zürs has been the backdrop for world-famous movies and a popular retreat for celebrities from the film and music business. Public figures help to shape the international brand image of Lech Zürs and attract media representatives from around the world.
What are your organisation’s current goals and how do you plan to achieve them?
HF: The Lech Zürs Tourist Board focuses on internationalisation and the “Refuge for Private Luxury Moments” brand positioning, which stands for a place of retreat where you can find real privacy and spend high-quality time with family and friends. This is noticeable once you visit Lech Zürs, setting the destination apart from other top players in the region.
Why, in your opinion, should someone visit Lech, and what for you defines the village?
HF: Oscar Wilde once said: “I’m a man of simple tastes – I’m always satisfied with the best.” In Lech Zürs, it’s the attention to detail that makes the sweet difference.
Arlberg is considered the birthplace of alpine skiing – an historic meeting place in the heart of the Alps.
Lech Zürs has always been a hub at the intersection of winter sports, art, and culture. A symbol of this is the White Ring, the legendary ski circuit and one of the world’s longest ski races. Other notable pursuits include heli-skiing, where your heart beats faster the higher you climb as the helicopter lifts off. Elsewhere, an underground walk-in installation by world-famous artist James Turrell focuses the perception of light and space. Freedom of thought and a passion for culture are essential components to Arlberg’s white seasons. The calendar of events at Lech Zürs encompasses everything from Arlberg Weinberg to the Tanzcafé Arlberg Music Festival. A lot of space and time is dedicated to the region’s cultural history and contemporary creativity. Lech Zürs is its own little world, whose size cannot be measured in square metres.
Summer in Lech Zürs is a voyage of discovery juxtaposed between high mountains and high culture, adventure and gourmet food, thrills and spills, and peace and quiet. Majestic alpine peaks tower over everything with jagged rocks and green forests, lending an air of magic that fascinates and inspires. Lech Zürs is a perfect setting for intellectual exchange between creatives, philosophers, and medical experts, a powerhouse for musicians, painters, and writers, and a place of longing. Summer here has so much to offer. Balls fly at golf tournaments and on the tennis courts, tyres squeal at the vintage car rallies, and feet dance at village festivals and concerts. Sometimes, just the cool water of the mountain lakes or forest swimming pools are enough for a happy summer day under the Arlberg sun. More time and more space – that is what Lech Zürs promises its guests year-round. Here, all the colours and fragrances really come into their own in spring and summer.
As a culturally vibrant destination, the area attracts people from all over the world who appreciate the quality of the ski resort, in addition to the hospitality and service quality in its restaurants and hotels.
What does Lech Zürs offer in terms of sustainable or eco-friendly travel experiences? Do you have any goals in place regarding this?
HF: For decades, Lech Zürs has been a pioneer of sustainable development, benefitting both mankind and nature.
Our aim is, and remains, the preservation of the unique character of the locality, and the protection of its environment in the long term. To this end, strict building regulations and thorough planning carry this vision forward. One thing remains true: less is more. By limiting ourselves to just 10,000 guest beds, Lech Zürs is committed to consciously promoting quality tourism. In doing so, we conserve resources, maintain the natural landscape, and promote agriculture. It’s nice to know that miracles still happen in the lofty heights of the Arlberg.
Renewable energy sources fuel biomass heating plants in Lech, Zürs, Oberlech, and Zug, producing enough energy to supply almost 100 percent of all households and businesses with warm, cosy heat. The root of this concept, which is admired nationwide, dates back to the 20th century.
Lech Zürs’ public transport system has been future-ready since the 1990s; the local bus system kicked off in the summer of 1997, with four buses servicing two lines. Within just two-and-a-half years, the “Blue Fleet”, which is now part of the fabric of the town, had already transported more than one million passengers. To this day, this comfort-oriented service continues to shape the village’s mobility. As a result, more and more locals and guests are leaving their cars at home and instead opting for the free ski bus.
Lech Zürs has also been at the cutting edge of electromobility. E-bikes and e-scooters have been available to rent since the summer of 2011. One year later, the first e-filling station opened its doors. The 2018/19 winter season was a groundbreaking milestone: In cooperation with BMW and Vorarlberger Kraftwerke AG, Europe’s first fully electric “Green Garage” was constructed. One year later, electromobility came full circle as the Blue Fleet tested an electric bus for public transport. All aboard! Notably, the future of mobility in Lech Zürs is emissions-free.
Since the spring of 2020, Ski-Zürs-AG has operated all cable cars, chairlifts, mountain restaurants, and snow-making facilities with 100 percent TÜV-certified green electricity. With this clean energy solution, Ski-Zürs-AG eliminates around 1,265 tonnes (t) of CO2 emissions and radioactive waste and makes an important contribution to protecting the environment, whilst fulfilling Vorarlberg’s aspirations for energy autonomy.
In Oberlech, this vision has been a reality since 1997 thanks to a concept unique in Europe. While winter guests float emission-free from Lech to Oberlech via cable car, a green tunnel system whisks guests to their hotels. From December to April, this sustainable transport system ensures that the entire district is free from emissions, traffic, and noise. Moreover, goods heading to and from the hotels are transported exclusively by electric cars.
Lech’s ski lifts are also innovative as they provide a useful agricultural link. Since 2008, Scottish Highland cattle have been bred to graze on steep slopes to prevent avalanches. The Schottenhof farm in Oberlech, built at an altitude of 1,760 metres (m) above sea level, is regarded as an ultra-modern alpine farm, showcasing future-oriented methods. In the mountains, the cycle of sustainability comes full circle as meat produce from of highland cattle is used in local gastronomy.
The local restaurants and their guests appreciate milk sourced from Lech. The same goes for yoghurt, cream cheese, or the hay milk ice cream made by the local baker. Whether as producers of regional delicacies or managers of the region’s characteristic cultural landscape, Lech’s farmers are potentially the most impressive representatives of sustainability in action.
The recipes of award-winning chefs feature regional ingredients, butchers and bakers know their local suppliers by name, and alpine huts cater to individual guests instead of attempting to satisfy the masses. In Lech Zürs, sustainability is less about energy figures and emission values, and more about how people meaningfully do business and meet each other.
Are you optimistic about the future of the tourism industry in Lech Zürs, particularly with regard to bouncing back from the COVID-19 pandemic?
HF: With the development of the Lechwelten Convention Centre, Lech Zürs will be able to offer a well-rounded portfolio from June 2024. Lech is a global village, with guests from all over the world. The events that take place here underscore the cosmopolitan nature of the location and its drive to provide a worthy venue for ideas, discourse, and innovation. With years of experience in catering to guests from all over the world, Lech meets the highest standards.
Are there any particularly unique experiences or underrated activities that Lech has to offer, which are perhaps lesser known? This could be a scenic natural attraction, restaurant or hotel that you would personally recommend.
HF: The Skyspace-Lech, by light artist James Turrell, is a largely underground structure that blends naturally into the landscape. The Oval Main Room has an oval opening in the ceiling, whilst a circular bench, like the floor, is lined with black granite. After dusk falls, the light installation in the room bathes the walls and ceilings in moving, coloured lights, so that the spatial structure, which was previously perceived as clean, seems to dissolve.
Per capita, Lech Zürs boasts the world’s highest density of award-winning restaurants. Though at first glance Arlberg may seem cosy and small, make no mistake – top-class cuisine awaits.
Since the golf course in Zug opened in 2016, the dream of golfing in crystal-clear mountain air on the Arlberg has come reality. Stylishly and harmoniously embedded within the alpine landscape of the Zugertal valley, the sophisticated nine-hole, handicap-friendly course boasts thrilling new vistas of surrounding pristine nature at every tee.
For a mountain hideaway…
Surrounded by an impressive mountain landscape, enjoy a carefree stay at Hotel & Chalet Aurelio. This luxury hotel and chalet in Lech provides a site for precious moments, such as the sun terrace, which offers breathtaking views of the mountains. Accompanied by fine food and drinks, enjoy the warming rays of the sun surrounded by monumental natural beauty.
LECH ZÜRS : SUMMER IN FOCUS
Though Lech Zürs is now firmly established as one of the world’s elite winter sports destinations, a summer holiday in the region is equally as exciting for families, couples, or solo explorers.
There are myriad summer activities on offer in Lech Zürs, such as refreshing yourself with clear, fresh spring water and hiking in the natural paradise of Arlberg. A well-signposted network of trails leads you through the region and offers varied routes at all levels of difficulty in a pristine natural landscape.
The Lech Zürs area features three themed hiking trails, including Lechweg, which extends from Lake Formarinsee for more than 125km through the Alps and one of Europe’s last wild river landscapes.
Der Grüne Ring, meanwhile, showcases the legendary White Ring ski circuit, whilst the Tannberg trail follows in the footsteps of the Walser people past numerous natural, cultural, and historical places of interest.
Lech Zürs boasts a total of 350km of well-marked hiking trails, including hut-to-hut hikes in the Lechquellengebirge range, sunrise hikes to the mountain peaks, or leisurely hikes through alpine pastures and meadows.
Road and mountain bikers can likewise look forward to challenging routes and tours in Lech Zürs such as the Burgwald trail, which is the first official freeride and enduro route in Vorarlberg.
Avid golfers can also tee off at Austria’s highest nine-hole golf course, 1,500m above sea level. The course runs through the authentic charm of the Zugertal valley directly along the Lech, a river which must be crossed several times during play.
Elsewhere, enjoy yoga, fishing, forest swimming, and more at the height of summer in Lech Zürs.
GETTING THERE AND AROUND
With direct rail connections from Vienna, Zurich, and Munich, as well as an extensive public transport network, visitors to Lech Zürs can enjoy stress-free travel with no traffic jams. There are countless interesting destinations around Lech Zürs that you can reach via public transport.
The closest two rail stations are Langen am Arlberg and St. Anton am Arlberg, from which many regional and long-distance trains arrive and depart every day. From the station, you can take a bus to your destination. The regional buses provide transport connections to the neighbouring communities and nearest train stations.
Alternatively, private shuttle services such as the Arlberg Express can take you from the surrounding airports to Lech Zürs at an affordable rate.
The Ski Arlberg ski pass opens the doors to Austria’s largest ski resort. These state-of-the-art buses are free of charge and shuttle back and forth between Lech, Zürs, Oberlech, and Zug in regular, short intervals. This means you can cover the distance between your accommodation and the ski lifts in just a few minutes!
The Lech Card is another attractive travel option for guests staying in Lech Zürs. Free journeys with all open summer cable cars, an excursion into the Zugertal valley, and other interesting services are included.