Skiing in Lech-Zurs
Lech-Zürs and the snow-sure Arlberg ski area offers excellent skiing for all levels from beginner to expert including marked ski routes, high alpine touring runs, masses of challenging off-piste and even heli-skiing.
Lech-Zurs Ski Area Overview
Lech and Zurs account for about a third of the 305 kms of pistes and 200km of deep powder runs in the whole of the Arlberg ski region. There are over 70 official runs in the Lech, Oberlech, and Zurs sector, most of which are gentle well-groomed blue and red pistes, but there are nearly 30 ungroomed ski routes marked by red diamond signs, five of which are currently classified as Extreme. There is only only one groomed black run, the Sonnenberg piste in Zurs, but there are plenty more in the other Arlberg sectors (most notably above Warth).
The Arlberg’s most obviously tough terrain for challenging off-piste and freeriding is high above St Anton and Stuben, but Lech-Zürs has proportionately fewer advanced skiers and boarders, so its powder does not get tracked so quickly. Lech’s grass meadows also need less snow cover than the rockier slopes around St Anton and so often have better conditions. And Lech gets more snow than St Anton, and Zurs gets more than Lech, so for fresh deep powder in the Arlberg, this is the side of the Flexen Pass to be on. There is also helisking if you want it (and can afford it).
The groomed pistes in Lech-Zurs are maintained immaculately and fan out in all directions, so in good weather you can follow the sun around the mountains. Of the two villages Zürs probably has the edge for beginners while the Lech and Oberlech area are more appealing to intermediates, but beginner skiers and boarders are well catered for by ski schools in Lech, Oberlech and Zürs.
The villages Lech, Oberlech, Zürs, and Zug are connected by an efficient lift system, so queues are rare. There are even heated seats on some chairlifts and most multi-storey lift stations have internal lifts so you don’t have to trudge up and down the stairs carrying your skis. The pistes tend to be uncrowded too, although locals avoid the slopes down to Zurs from the Trittkopfbahn lifts between 10am and 12 noon when they can be overrun with day trippers from St Anton.
The White Ring (“Der Weisse Ring”) route is a deservedly famous 22 km clockwise-only circuit of mostly red and blue runs, that links the entire Lech-Zürs area. It’s well groomed for most of the way with blue and red piste options so within the capabilities of confident near novices as well as seasoned intermediate skiers, however there is one unavoidable (but enjoyable, and not very steep) ungroomed section from Madloch Joch down to Zug. There are not too many ‘flats’ so its snowboarder friendly as well. Experts can take several steeper variants off to the side and still meet their less experienced friends at the bottom of the next lift. The steep couloir and itinerary run off the main Madloch Joch to Zug trail is one example of this; another is the ungroomed trail from Rufikopf to Schuttboden which descends between the main red and blue pistes. There are plenty of places to stop for refreshments along the way, especially between Zug and Lech. The restaurants and sun terraces of Oberlech are another popular venue for lunch.
For those wanting to take full advantage of the Arlberg ski pass, the Auenfeldjet gondola above Oberlech is the essential link into the Warth-Schroecken ski area. Warth is reputed to be Europe’s snowiest village, and has North facing slopes to suit all standards, including groomed black runs (which Lech and Zurs are short of). If instead you turn left, you can ski all the way into Schroecken instead. Note that the road between Warth and Lech is closed all winter so if skiing in Warth-Schroecken be careful not to miss the last lift back.
Even more skiing, and even tougher challenges, are available over the Flexen pass in St Anton. Although a bus service from Lech and Zurs still operates (and can still be the fastest way to get from one end of the Arlberg ski area to the other) most skiers use the impressive new Flexenbahn gondola which takes you from the Trittkopfbahn mid station above Zurs all the way to Alpe Rauz. The Valfagehr chairlift then ascends into the heart of the St Anton ski area.
Alternatively, from Alpe Rauz you can take the Albonabahn II lift, which gives you direct access to the excellent north facing slopes of the Albonagrat (2,400m) above Stuben. This is renowned as a mecca for off-piste skiers and boarders, and is also the starting point for several famous itineraries.
And if all the connected lifts and slopes in and around Lech, Zurs, Stuben and St Anton weren’t enough, there are still more available just a short bus ride away from Zurs at Klosterle where the relatively quiet and unknown Sonnenkopf ski area is also covered by the Arlberg ski pass.
Beginner Skiing in Lech-Zurs
The Flühen lift in Lech is ideal beginner terrain for skiers and snowboarders.
Best in Lech is the Flühen lift next to the old church where there is T-bar and ideal beginner terrain for skiers and snowboarders. After a couple of days here, beginners in ski school then progress to Oberlech and easy blue runs like Weibermahd. In Zürs the nursery slopes have improved with increased snow-making; beginners can ride the baby lifts near the main car park before accessing blue runs higher up on either side of the valley via Hexenboden and Seekopf chairlifts.
Ski Schools & Ski Lessons in Lech-Zurs
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Intermediate Skiing in Lech Zurs
The ski areas of Lech and Zürs are perfectly suited to intermediates, especially the circuit known as ‘The White Ring’. The Auenfeldjet and Flexenbahn lifts also connect Lech and Zurs to the wider Arlberg ski area with over 300kms of marked runs.
Around 50% of the marked runs in Lech and Zurs are designated intermediate. Their ski areas inter-connect to form a circuit known as ‘The White Ring’, which also attracts day visitors from nearby St Anton. Recommended is the 5km long ski route (170) from the top of Madlochjoch down to Zug. Speed freaks will also find a speed trap skier’s right of the Weibermahd run in Lech; anything above 70 km (43 miles) is an achievement.
There are also about 30 ungroomed but marked trails. Only five or six of these are classified as Extreme – the rest should be well within the capabilities of the best intermediates.
The White Ring Ski Circuit
- From the main car park in Zurs ride the Ubungshang chairlift, exit left at top and follow blue run 123 crossing via the bridge over the road to the other side of the valley to the Zursersee chairlift.
- From the top of Zursersee go straight ahead and ski a short descent to ride the Madloch chairlift to Madloch-Joch.
- From the top of Madloch chair (2,450m) heading away from Zurs, follow the 5km long red 170 ski route to Zug (720m vertical). Alternatively you can turn right and go straight to Lech, but that means missing out Zug and a lot of good skiing.
- Ride the new Zugerberg gondola at the base of red 33a to the Balmalp restaurant with the option to enjoy quick pit stop.
- A handy tow rope leads to blue 200 around Kriegerhorn and into the main Lech ski area or turn left and take the 220 to Steinmahder and ride up to Zuger Hochlift (2377m)_.
- Stay high and explore before skiing into Oberlech which is a favourite place for lunch with numerous good restaurants and sun terraces.
- From Oberlech descend to Lech, cross the road and take the Rufikopf cable car. This will take you back to Zurs via red 181 or blue 180 then Schuttboden lift and blue 185.
- Finally ascend Trittalp then follow the blue run 123 back to the car park in Zurs.
Time permitting, ride the Trittkopfbahn gondola (stages 1 and 2) or the Hexenboden 6-person chair cable to end a great day’s skiing. And if you still want more, cross over to the far side and explore Muggengrat, where there are North and South facing slopes and plenty of off-piste.
The White Ring Race
And next time you’re skiing the White Ring imagine what it would be like to race it and how long it might take you to complete the 21.6km long circuit including time taken to ascend the half a dozen or so ski lifts en route?
In the White Ring Race, hundreds of competitors from all over Europe do exactly that and the fastest ones complete the circuit in under 45 minutes.
The Arlberg beyond Lech and Zurs
If staying in Lech-Zürs, at least one day trip to St. Anton via the Flexenbahn lift is a must. For a really special experience break for lunch at Hospiz Alm in St Christoph – pricey but always memorable, if only for the slide down the stairs to the toilets. And don’t forget the Rendl area on the far side of St Anton. It’s mostly West facing so ideal for afternoon skiing and almost all the slopes are aimed at intermediates. The Valluga, Kapall and Schindler Spitz also have a lot to offer.
Stuben and the Albonagrad is another favourite destination for confident intermediates who can manage red pistes. Often the best snow in the whole region is to be found on these North-facing slopes, but there are a couple of sunny, south-facing ones too.
In the other direction, the Auenfeldjet 10 person bubble accesses the slopes of Warth Schroecken. The runs down to Warth, and to the base stations of the Jageralp Express and Salober-Jet chairs usually have good snow (they are North facing) and except for a few clearly marked ungroomed trails, they are all regularly piste-bashed, so good intermediates should be able to ski almost all of them, including the blacks. (Groomed black runs are the one thing Lech and Zurs lacks – there is only one of them – so the 10 or so Black runs in Warth Schroeken add some welcome variety.) Take care with the black run 283, however: one section of it is seriously steep.
Lastly if you want to get away from the luxury of Lech and Zurs, there is a much quieter and more rural experience available on the Sonnenkopf slopes at Klosterle. Almost all the pistes are aimed at intermediates and it is easily reached by bus or car/taxi from Zurs,
Advanced & Expert Skiing in Lech-Zurs
Lech and Zürs don’t have the macho reputation of St Anton, but they get a lot more snow and their grassy meadows only require a sprinkling of fresh powder to become an off-piste playground. For those who prefer marked trails, there are nearly 30 ski routes. Several are classified as Extreme, and one, Langerzug, is one of the steepest runs in Austria.
Those wanting a challenge on groomed snow, should head to the Schafalplift drag on Rufikopf on the far side side of Lech where Langerzug awaits. Officially it’s an ‘extreme ski route’ not a piste, but it’s regularly piste-bashed, so usually there are no moguls, just a very steep slope that has been measured at 80% in one section. All the action is in the first four hundred metres; survive this and you’re rewarded with a beautiful gentle glide through the trees in a deserted valley that ends near the Schlosskopfe lift that brings you back to the main ski area above Oberlech. There are also steep unofficial routes into the same valley from blue run 180, and off-piste freeriding on the front-face of Rufikopf under the cable car. Mountain guides can show you these (and tell you whether they are safe to ski or not)
The other official extreme ski routes in Lech are normally left ungroomed, so typically there are moguls in the centre with freeride areas to the side. Liezen and Furkawang both go from the top of the Zugerberg lift above Zug down to the bottom of the Steinmahder lift, but the really steep stuff is in between them, at the start of the Balmengrat rope tow. Or from the same ridge, you can head off in the opposite direction and descend into Zug on another extreme route (178/Zuppert) but you will need good snow conditions as it’s south-facing.
From the top of Kriegerhorn, there are extreme ski routes and unofficial freeride areas in all directions. Of the marked routes, Sudhang (202) is known for its large moguls. Osthang (203) and Nordhang (204) are also classified as Extreme but less bumpier and tend to have better snow. All have off-piste areas to the side. At Zuger Hochlicht, at the top of the Steinmahder lift, and from the top of the Rotschrofen lift on Mohnenfluh, there are lots of freeride routes over to the Auenfeldjet that connects Lech to Warth and Schroecken. Some require minor ascents on the way or walking out at the end. Two of them are now official ski routes (241 and 242): neither is very steep, and neither requires any walking. Guides can also show you the old route over to Schroecken via an off-piste itinerary with some minor ascents.
The area near the Hasensprung lift is a good area to practice freeriding. There are lots of gullies and short slopes that can be spied from the lift and need very little powder to become a playground that is worth a quick detour on the way to bigger challenges.
Zürs is one of the snowiest ski resorts in Europe and so attracts powder-enthusiasts. On the western side of the resort, near the top of both the Zursersee and Seekopf lifts, is Sonnenberg, the only official black piste in Lech and Zurs but it’s a very mild black with a similar gradient to the red pistes that run beside it on its way down to Zurs. Higher up are Muggengrat and Madloch. As you ride these lifts up, you will see traverses on both sides of the official red runs down that open up plenty of freeriding. Or from the top of Madloch, you can proceed onto Zug via a couple of official ski routes – one is normally groomed, effectively turning it into an easy piste, but the other has some challenges. Even greater tests can be had by peeling off to the left which takes you into a different valley before reaching Zug, but it is easy to get into trouble here so a guide is recommended.
On the other side of Zurs there is also a lot of near the piste freeriding around Hexenboden and Trittalp, and an off-piste descent to the road within walking distance of the Seekopf lift from the Schuttboden-Zurs blue piste. All the exits from the top of the Tritkopfbahn 1 are quite steep and testing at the start. The official ski route that that snakes back under the bubble opens up a lot of freeriding. More risky is climbing up from Trittkopfbahn 2 and dropping off the back into the Pazieltal. Both the ascent and the descent can be dangerous. Other off-piste routes in Zürs that a guide can show you include the medium-steep Gamsroute, the steep and challenging Himmelegg from Trittkopf down to Stuben and the medium Erzburg accessed via Muggengrat and Zurser Tali. You can also ski to Zurs from St Anton via the North face of the Valluga. For this a guide is absolutely essential – otherwise you won’t even be allowed into the Valluga II lift.
Heliskiing in Lech-Zurs
Heliskiing for good ‘expert’ rated skiers is possible Monday – Friday with Wucher heli-flights from Abflugplatz Flexenpass to ski the 5.5 km (3.4 miles) long 1,200 m (3,937 ft) vertical from Mehlsack (2,652 m/8,701 ft). The cost is not cheap but this impressive run includes one of the longest north facing runs in the Arlberg and often provides excellent snow conditions. Advance booking is essential and best done through mountain guides.
Boarding & Freestyle in Lech-Zurs
Lech-Zurs is good for boarders, especially those skilled enough to venture off piste.
Lech-Zurs is good for boarders, especially those skilled enough to venture off piste in Zurs where there is often powder to be found by making a short hike from the top of the Muggengrat chair, or on the Zurs side of the top of Madlochjoch. Over in Lech on Schlegelkopf there is the Swatch Boarderland course with Boardercross, air park, half-pipe, quarter pipe, 360-degree steep-curve, waveride, and funpark with fun boxes, slides, pro-jump, jump, and inverted jump. Advanced boarders should make a day trip to Stuben (watch out for cat tracks mid-station) and the steep slopes of Valluga and Schindler in St Anton.
Go to our Off Piste in the Arlberg section for more information about off-piste possibilities.
Mountain Restaurants in Lech-Zurs
The best mountain restaurants are at Oberlech, complete with sun-terraces for topping up your tan.
The best mountain restaurants are at Oberlech, complete with sun-terraces for topping up your tan. Highly recommended are the sun terraces at Goldenerberg, Burg Hotel and Burg Vital in Oberlech close to the base of the Peterboden chairlift; the Mohenfluh, higher up the mountain is also good. Other options include the traditional Rud Alpe and Kriegeralpe huts, the stylish Schlegelkopf restaurant and the Balmalp bar restaurant at the top of the Zugerberg chairlift. Alternatively when the weather is bad, or for a change of scene, the Rote Wand and the Klösterle (www.almhof.at), both involve a short taxi-ride or a horse drawn carriage from the centre of Lech and are highly recommended. .
Balmalp Restaurant, Lech
Perched on the edge of the mountain at 2,100m at the top of the Zugerberg chairlift, Balmalp is an ideal place to “pause” for a drink and great fun for lunch or après ski and cocktails, especially when owner and showman Rudi Walch gets his trumpet out. Recently refurbished, the modern wooden exterior / interior offer an attractive contemporary design style and the “healthy” menu features Asian wok specialties, a rich selection of fresh salads, pasta specialties and the legendary classic “Balmalp Giant Pizza”. Design features include “luminous” marble, best seen gleaming when the sun begins to set over the Arlberg. Probably, the best après ski bar / restaurant on the mountain, but it’s 650m vertical if skiing back to Lech at the end of the day. Alternatively, you can take the last lift down to Zug then taxi back to Lech. Tel: +43 (0) 5583 3312; Email: [email protected]; Web: www.balmalp.at
Goldener Berg, Oberlech
Hotel Goldenerberg’s awarded restaurant and delightful sun terrace offer an extensive selection of delicious and inspiring light cuisine based on the GLYX principle, adjusted to suit all allergies and using best local ingredients. Garlic lovers will enjoy the Wild Garlic Gourmet lunch with choice of starters such as Carpaccio of Austrian beef fillet with wild garlic pesto or wild garlic pasta with tomato capers and rocket salad. The Goldenerberg toast deluxe with Brie, truffle, ham, wild cranberries and leaf lettuce is highly recommended and main courses include excellent mixed salads with chicken breast or beef stripes, a choice of three spaghetti dishes, pasta Carbonara Classico and numerous beef, pork, lamb and chicken dishes. Still hungry? The Goldenerberg’s desserts – Apfelstrudl, Kasierschmarr’n and homemade Sachertorte chocolate cake are not to be missed and the wine list runs to more than 40 pages featuring a superb selection of over 1,200 fine wines with entry level Austrian wines around €30.00 per bottle. Somelier Daniel Wuhrer will be pleased to help where necessary. Definitely among the best mountain restaurants in Lech-Zurs. Tel: +43 (0) 5583 22050; Email: [email protected]; Web: www.goldenerberg.at
Easily reached on skis from the top of the Kriegerhorn chairlift, the Kriegeralpe is an old Walser style Alpine chalet at 2,000m, with a charming rustic interior and an even more appealing sun terrace in good weather. Tasty traditional dishes include home smoked bacon with horseradish, AlperRosti fried grated potatoes with bacon, onion and egg or beef fillet with roast potatoes (pre-order) and curd cheese strudl for dessert. Those concerned about allergies can browse the special menu, which declares 14 of the most common allergies next to each dish. The extensive wine list includes a good selection of champagnes, Austrian, Italian and French wines, of which the most conspicuous by far is La Tache 2006 Domaine de la Romanee-Conti lying in wait for the next Oligarch or yours for just €1,835.00. Tel: +43 664 4422697; Email: info@ kriegeralpe.com; Web: www.kriegeralpe.com/en.
Panorama Restaurant Rufikopf, Lech
Located at 2,350m at the top of the Rufikopf cable car, the Panorama Restaurant Rufikopf offers spectacular views of Lech and the surrounding mountains. The interior is comfortable, but very last century and uninspiring. The menu offers a limited selection of soups, salads and mostly traditional Austrian and pasta dishes – Gulaschsuppe, Bernerwurstel with fries, Tiroler Grostl, Spaghetti Bolognese, Apfelstrudl and an extra 20-minutes wait for Kaiserchmarr’n. Vegetarian and childrens portions are available. Affordable by Lech-Zurs standards, its best feature is the panorama terrace on a sunny day. A convenient meeting point for coffee before skiing from Lech to Zurs. Tel: +43 5583 2336 278 Web: www.ruefikopf.at
A 250-year old rustic chalet, Rud Alpe is among the best mountain restaurants in Lech. The characterful interior with crackling fire has been carefully renovated and the large sun terrace overlooking the village is a major attraction in good weather. Culinary delights include a good selection of soups, salads, a dozen or more traditional Austrian main dishes, a good choice of desserts and an extensive selection of wines from Austria, Europe and the New World. The Beef Tartare as a starter, Tiroler Grostl mit Spieglei, Tafelspitz and Kaiserschmarren are recommended. A children’s menu is also available. Located on blue piste 201 at 1560m, Rud Alpe is also visible from the village – look out for the landmark 3-metre high heart shaped wreath – and non-skiers can easily get there using a winter hiking trail (20-minutes) or via the Oberlech cable car. Tel: +43 (0) 5583 41825; Email: [email protected]; Web: www.rud-alpe.com
Trittkopf BBQ Station
The original Trittkopf cable car station at 2423m (made redundant by the new gondolas) is now home to the highest authentic BBQ restaurant in the Alps! The contemporary interior design by InnenRaumDesign is a stylish combination of leather, felt, wood, stone, black steel and glass with spectacular Alpine views. The moderately priced menu includes BBQ ribs, turkey, pulled pork, burgers with salads and side dishes based on American recipes and home made cookie. Soft drinks, craftbeers and local beer, as well as matching wines complete the menu. Tel: +43 (0) 5583 2283 332; Email: [email protected]; Web: www.trittkopf.at