Photo: Copyright © Stuben am Arlberg Tourismusbüro | Alex Kaiser
Ski and boarding on the Albona
Stuben’s own area is the Albona. It's reached by taking the Albona I lift from the village and skiing down a blue or red run to Alpe Rauz. This is the gateway to the whole of the Arlberg with lifts heading off in all directions, but if you want to explore Stuben's own area first, select the Albona II lift which takes you to the ridge line at the top of the Albona, although it's not quite the highest point. You can ski on both the North and South faces of the Albona. The North face has a couple of long red runs (105 and 106) that join up half way down, near the Mittestation restaurant. If you don't stop and carry on all the way into the village, the total vertical is about 1000m - a real test of stamina. At the Mittelstation you can also switch over to a blue run for an easier descent into Stuben (103). This also gives you the option of peeling off towards Alpe Rauz.
The South-face is much the same - a couple of red runs (both numbered as 107), serviced by the Albonagrat chair which goes all the way to the Albona summit. The South-facing pistes are not as long as the North-facing ones, but they tend to be sunnier, and that can be a welcome change on what is otherwise a rather austere mountain. Generally, the North-facing pistes have the better snow, though. In fact their, height, orientation and lack of crowds, plus Stuben's famously cold and snowy micro-climate, means that they often have the best snow in the whole of the Arlberg.
Stuben only other pistes are its nursery slopes, serviced by two drag lifts. These are on the other side of the village and are often deserted. And whilst Stuben is not really a beginners resort, it has an excellent ski school, so if you want to learn in a quite spot, it could be an option.
Stuben might not be a beginners resort but it certainly is an off-piste skiing and freeriding resort. Runs come down from the top of the Allbona in all directions including long itineraries to Langen and back towards St Anton.
Stuben's own slopes are not the only reason for skiers and boarders to stay in Stuben. Alpe Rauz, just one lift and one blue run out from Stuben, is the Arlberg's central crossroads. Whilst the Albona II takes you back to the area above Stuben, the Flexenbahn gondola heads towards Zurs and the Valfagehr chair towards St Christoph and St Anton. This means you are very handily placed to explore the whole of the Arlberg ski area – even the extremities like Warth-Schroecken although if you want to spend time there it's probably worth catching the free ski bus from Stuben to Zurs or Lech as it's much faster than crossing over by lift and piste. And don't forget about the Sonnenkopf area at Klosterle - the only part of the Arlberg that is not lift-linked to the others. It's easy to get to from Stuben, with buses leaving about every 30 minutes from the bus stop near the Apres-Post hotel. Off-piste skiers with a guide can ski to Langen which is half way there and pick up the bus to Sonnenkopf at Langen railway station, or take a taxi to complete the journey.
Ski lifts throughout the Arlberg are almost invariably modern, high- speed and efficient except for a few older lifts, one of which is the Albona I chairlift which goes up the first half of the north face of the Albona from Stuben. Nonetheless, with fewer people around, only rarely do you have to queue and it’s only a short walk from almost any accommodation in Stuben. It may be slower than almost any other lift in the Arlberg and unprotected from the elements, but the scenery is good and you get time to study the lines on mountain which is useful. In cold weather, there are blankets available to keep you warm on the way up. Look out for them on the rail as you approach the chair lift.
The full Arlberg ski lift pass covers over 80 ski lifts, 8 of which are in Stuben including the lifts at Alpe Rauz, the 2 drag lifts on baby slopes for first time beginners, the 2 chairlifts on either side of the Albona and a tiny T bar at Alpe Rauz leading to the 6-person Valfagehr chair.
Special 30-point lift passes are available for novices using the nursery slopes in Stuben. The ski lift ticket office is at the bottom of the road that runs through the village, near the Hotel Apres Post and the Tourist Office.
Stuben's nursery slopes are separate from the other runs and are serviced by two easy lifts. A special ticket is available for beginners using the nursery slopes, which is significantly cheaper than buying a full ski pass.
After two or three days on the nursery slopes, most novices will be competent and confident enough to ski the blue run from the top of the Albona 1 chair at 1,840m down to Stuben at 1,407m, but will need a full Arlberg lift pass in order to do so (and that’s an expensive outlay for a beginner who won’t make as much use of it as a more experienced skier).
Improving beginners will soon want to turn right when half way down this run and follow another blue piste (103) out of the Stuben ski area and into St Anton's. They will soon reach Alpe Rauz where modern new lifts (quite a contrast to the Abona I chair) span out in three directions. Probably the most appealing initial option is to ride the Valfagehr chair up then descend back to Alpe Rauz on the wide and very long blue 100 piste. Alternatively, from the top there is another long all blue route (78, 56, 55 then 50) which goes in the opposite direction and twists and turns all the way into St Anton. Allow plenty of time and go slowly at the start because it’s easy to stray onto red or even black pistes by accident; at the bottom be prepared for either slush or ice. The return ‘all blue’ route from St Anton to Stuben via the Galzig, Osthang and Arlenmahder lifts can also be tricky to navigate at the start.
Another option from Alpe Rauz is to take Flexenbahn lift then descend into Zurs on the Trittkopfbahn I bubble, thus avoiding the narrow and often crowded and icy red run. Once you’re in Zurs there is no shortage of beginner-friendly blue runs on both sides of the valley. If you get tired of these, take the free bus from Zurs to Lech and there are even more. Oberlech which is in the middle of this patchwork of blue runs makes a very tempting lunch spot, but if you want to keep going you can get all the way to Warth and back on blue runs. This is a very long expedition though for a novice.
Lastly, remember the family-friendly ski area at Sonnenkopf is just 5km from Stuben and offers a choice of mostly easy blue and red runs served by T-bars and accessed from the gondola station in the valley at Klosterle. It’s not connected by lift but it's easy to reach by car and taxi, and there are regular scheduled bus services too.
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Compared to nearby St Anton and Lech-Zurs, Stuben is less crowded and often has the best snow conditions. There are only a handful of marked red and blue runs on the Albona, but they're well maintained with a 1,000 meters vertical from top to bottom. You can also choose between North-facing and South-facing slopes - the latter will usually have more give in them but can be icy in the morning and slushy in the late afternoon.
When intermediates have finished exploring the on-piste opportunities in Stuben (the off-piste is almost limitless but can be very challenging), they can ski to Alpe Rauz and ride the Valfagehr chairlift to connect to the St Anton ski area. With so much on offer, it’s almost pointless to highlight any single run, but if you’re returning to Stuben and like long uninterrupted runs, try the descent from the top of the Schlindergrat chair. First take the red piste (85) then the blue (100), then a further blue (102) which snakes under the road and back to Stuben – that’s over 1200m vertical and a real thigh burner if skied top to bottom non-stop. (Lesser mortals can stop off for refreshments at the popular Ulmer Hutte mountain restaurant on the way.)
Lech-Zurs is another vast area to explore and easily accessed from Stuben by taking the Flexenbahn lift from Alpe Rauz. Perhaps the best way to sample its slopes is the popular White Ring ski circuit from Zurs to Lech via Zug then back to Zurs - mostly wide, open, well-groomed red and blue runs which are ideal for intermediates with plenty of restaurants on the mountain and in the resorts themselves (especially Oberlech).
And if both St Anton and Lech-Zurs are not quite enough, beyond Oberlech, and connected to it via the Auenfeldjet, is Warth-Schroecken. This is a smaller area but big enough to justify one or two day-trips from Stuben, particularly as there is so much enjoyable skiing at Lech and Zurs along the way, It’s almost entirely composed of runs suitable for intermediates – mostly blue and red runs although there are a few blacks and ungroomed routes for those wanting tougher challenges. Intermediates from Stuben should have no trouble getting to it and back before the lifts close, provided they don’t start too late or linger too long over lunch.
Finally the Sonnenkopf ski area (covered by the Arlberg lift pass) at Klosterle is just 5km down the road from Stuben and worth visiting, although few people do, which is part of its appeal. Almost all the slopes suit intermediates You can get to it by bus, car or taxi.
Photo: Copyright © Stuben am Arlberg Tourismusbüro | Alex Kaiser
A cursory glance at Stuben's piste map warns you of what to expect. Compared to the much busier ski areas of St Anton and Lech-Zurs, which are criss-crossed with pistes and official ski routes, the 1000m vertical Albona mountain above Stuben has only a few marked runs, leaving most of it as a powder heaven for off-piste skiers, ski tourers and freeriders to explore.
There are several highly recommended itineraries from the top of the Albona down to Langen. The starting point is the ridge line to the left of the Albona Bergrestaurant as you ski to it from the top of the Albonagrat chair. Some require only a little side-stepping up the mountain or a brief hike, others are accessible only to ski tourers with skins. All are best skied with a guide. The Stuben ski school mountain guides will know which descents have the best snow, and can select routes with easy ascents for first time ski tourers. When you reach Langen, you can take a train from the station there back to St Anton or a bus back to Stuben, but a taxi back to Stuben is the quickest option - it's a 5 minute journey.
You also don't have to stop at Langen, because instead of returning to Stuben your bus or taxi can take you 10 minutes' further down the road to the Arlberg ski area's most remote outpost, Sonnenkopf. There is great off-piste at Sonnenkopf - both between-the-piste freeriding in the main North-facing bowl around the Glalttingrad and Obermuri lifts, and genuine 'off the back' intineraries which can take you all the way back to Langen railway station via a beautiful descent across an open powder bowl, followed by a steep chute through the woods (there are several to choose) and a winding snow-covered footpath through the forest. The route is not obvious though, and it's easy to get into trouble, so you are advised to hire a guide who knows the area well, such as those from the Stuben ski school.
There is excellent between-the-piste freeriding and off-piste skiing on the Albona North face. The main bowl (or "Mulde") is best accessed from the ridge to the left of the Albona Bergrestaurant. (You can see the top half of the descent from the restaurant's windows.). There are several entry-points: the ones furthest along the ridge point you towards Langen Forest rather than Stuben so remember to swing back to the right if you want to return to Stuben. You can also access most of the Albona North face from slightly lower down, by taking the Albonabahn II lift, skiing down piste 105 for a short way, and when the piste swings around to the right, come off it and traverse left.
Off-piste skiing is always potentially dangerous so hiring a guide is recommended. If you don't hire one, there are three extra hazards to look out for at Stuben: firstly Stuben can be very windy, so look out for unstable wind-affected snowpacks; secondly there is a band of rocks encircling almost the entire North face of the Albona about a quarter of the way down, and whilst there are plenty of ways through, some are much steeper and narrower than others; and thirdly, don't try to descend off-piste all the way to the bottom of the Albona 1 lift in Stuben, because there are some very dangerous precipices and a river that may only be half-frozen close to it. Instead either traverse across to the right and exit onto piste 104 and keep on that as you enter the village; or stay to skiers' left of the village (align yourself with the lower of the two car parks below Stuben) and only swing back towards the village when you're almost level with it and can see the bridge over the river.
Another descent from the top of the Albona, is on the North East shouder of the mountain, to skier’s right of piste 106 and accessed from the Albonabahn II lift. From here you traverse to the right then head towards the strange isolated concrete building in the middle of the mountainside. (It's sometimes nicknamed "Stavros' Lair" because it looks a bit like a James Bond villain’s hideout although it's really just a tunnel access shaft to the railway deep below the Albona.) Once you have passed this, you return onto Piste 103 allowing you to ski down to Alpe Rauz and repeat the experience. Most of the route is visible from the Albona II lift so you can plot your descent as you ride the lift up but there are cliffs and avalanche risks, so check the conditions carefully before proceeding and always take a transceiver, shovel and poles (and preferably a guide as well).
On the South-face of the Albona there is plenty of between-the-piste skiing and freeriding on all sides of the pistes. Because it is South-facing it should be skied as quickly as possible after a fresh dump of snow before it turns to crud. Without a guide you should not ski below the bottom of the Albonagrat chair, because there are no other lifts to return you to the ski area. However with a guide you can make the Milchboden descent towards St Anton, which is largely East facing.
Stuben itself does not have any particularly tough pistes or official marked ungroomed ski routes but there are plenty at St Anton and St Christoph, in Lech and Zurs, and in Warth and Schroecken, which can all be reached from Stuben through the Arlberg lift syetem. About the closest is the Pfannenköpfe ski route (101) which is rated extreme, and is near the Valfagehr chair going up from Alpe Rauz. As you descend, it is bordered on the left by very scary cliffs so don't attempt it in bad visibility or if it is closed.
Apart from Stuben's off-piste, there's plenty more freeriding opportunities in the Arlberg including St. Anton's 'Back of the Valluga' descent to Zürs, Rendl North Face, Hinter Rendl, Malfontal and steep couloir descents from Schindler. Similarly there is some excellent off-piste skiing in Lech and Zurs, including Gams route, Trittkopf, Ertzburg, Rufikopf and the steep Flexenmulde route back from Zurs to Stuben, which is for experts only.
There is also heliskiing at Lech-Zurs which can be accessed via moutain guides based at Stuben.
If you like terrain parks, Fly-In Rendle Fun Park on Rendle (St Anton) includes kicker, roller, rails, boxes and Snowboard Academy. The Schlegelkopf Snowpark in Lech has safe mini-kickers for children, one of the best triple kickers in the Alps for advanced boarders and a six rail-line with large wall ride. There's also a terrain park nearby at Sonnenkopf.
Since 2000 Stuben am Arlberg has hosted the Longboard Classic Event, mid-April each year, beginning with a 'Le Mans' style start - run with your board - then a race down Albonasteilhang, more than 1,000m vertical. The event, which attracts snowboarders mostly from Germany and Austria, includes separate categories for men, women and "legends" (pro riders).
The Albona Mittelstation restaurant is on piste 104 leading down to Stuben from the top of the Albona 1 lift. It's in a slightly inconvenient place - it takes a short uphill trudge or push to get from the restaurant to the pistes going to Alpe Rauz - but it's out of the way location means it's often much less crowded than the mountain restaurants in St Anton or Lech and Zurs. It has nice views and if there is a sheltered sun trap on the Albona's famously cold and windy North-face, this is it.
The Albona Bergrestaurant is right on the ridge at the top of the Albona and can only be accessed from the Albonagrat lift. It has a small open terrace terrace and an even smaller inside restaurant and bar. It's a favoured hangout of freeriders, ski tourers and off-piste skiers - you will often see them peering nervously out of the window of the restaurant or leaning over the bannisters of the terrace to check possible off-piste descents, or downing an energy-giving hot chocolate before setting out on skins to make an ascent. It does simple good value food, but the inside restaurant can be very crowded when it's too cold or windy to sit outside.
The main lunch time spot is not on the mountain but the Apres-Post Hotel in the village, just a short walk from the piste and lift. On a sunny day its sun terrace is thronged with lunchers and drinkers.
The Fuxbau bar is more informal and closer to the lift. It's a popular apres-ski hangout as well.
S'Murmele is further into the village but is another popular lunchtime spots with a sun terrace.
The Hotel Mondschein, a short distance further up the hill, is one of the oldest properties in the village and serves excellent food in the most traditional of settings.
M +43 664 55 21 347
Hotel Apres Post
T +43 5582 761
Ski Hotel Mondschein
T +43 5582 511
T +43 5582 521, Fax: 521 997
T +43 5582 301 88
Photo: Copyright © Stuben am Arlberg Tourismusbüro | Wilfried Graf
The history of Stuben can be traced back to 1218 when the first warming hut (Stube) was built as a refuge for travellers and merchants making the difficult journey over the Arlberg pass. Stuben's first economic boom began with construction of the Arlberg rail tunnel c. 1850, when as many as 800 people lived in the village, but once the tunnel was finished most of them moved away, since which time Stuben am Arlberg has been home to around 100 permanent residents. Tourism has long since replaced the old forgotten trades, thanks especially to Hannes Schneider, Stuben's most famous son.
Born in Stuben in 1890, Hannes Schneider was hugely influential as a ski teacher and pioneer of downhill skiing technique. He moved to St Anton in 1907 where he worked as a ski instructor for the Hotel Post, then Chairman of the Arlberg Ski Club (and arguably the world's most famous skier) from 1929 until 1938. He fled Austria and the National Socialist Party in 1939 to live in North Conway, New Hampshire, USA, where he ran the ski school until he died in 1955 aged 65. The village has not changed much in the past hundred years or more and with no land available for further development it's likely to stay unspoilt.
Around 75% of Stuben's winter guests come from Germany with the remainder coming from Austria, Switzerland, Benelux, Scandinavia and the United Kingdom. Most are experienced skiers and boarders attracted to Stuben as a good value base from which to explore the Arlberg and because of the Albona's off-piste terrain and superior snow record.
There's little to do during the day besides skiing, boarding, eating and drinking, although you can go for a walk or try Nordic skiing on the cross country ski tracks which stretch all the way to Langen forest. Once a week, usually on a Tuesday night, the Stuben ski school organises floodlit tobogganing from Alpe Rauz down to Stuben. There are buses to Lech and Zurs where there are more facilities for activities like ice skating. Apart from ski rental and ski clothing shops, there are very few shops - just one general store for food and other basic provisions.
For a small village there are plenty of bars and restaurants, many attached to the hotels, and some have live music on one or two evenings in a week, but there are no night clubs, so if you want to dance until dawn you have to take a taxi to St Anton.
Because Stuben is so small, all the accommodation is within 5 to 10 minutes' walk of the ski lift and piste.
The Sun Terrace ("Sonnenterrasse") at the Apres Post Hotel is probably the most popular lunch time venue in the village and when the sun is shining, lunch tends to stretch into the early evening, so it becomes an Apres Ski venue as well.
The Fux Bau near the Albona 1 lift and the bottom of the piste is the main hang-out for skiers and boarders coming off the slopes. In good weather the whole area around it becomes part of the bar. There is always music playing but rarely does it turn into the 'dancing in ski boots' scene that you find in the bars in St Anton. As it gets darker and colder, people retreat inside or move onto other places like the Hannes Schneider bar, also part of the Apres Post Hotel, but with a separate entrance onto the street. About once a week this also hosts live music events from about 9pm to 11pm - most are orientated more at the 'sitting-down and listening' crowd rather than the 'getting-up and dancing' crowd. And there are similar events at some of the other hotels.
All the hotels have restaurants, and most are reasonably priced for a ski resort. If you want something cheaper there is a pizzeria on the main street. If on the other hand, you want to splash out, the Hotel Hubertushof offers haute cusiine dining. The restaurant at the Après Post Hotel allegedly has the finest wine cellar, and they sometimes hold tastings in the cellar itself. For something different, try the local goulasch at S’Murmele or other regional specialities like pork knuckles or Arlberger cheese spätzle at the restaurant attached to Willi's bar in the centre of the village.
After dinner, there are plenty of places to carry on drinking, including all the bars and restaurants mentioned above, but the most popular is usually Willi's bar (its official name seems to be 'The Pilsstüble of the Mathies Family' but everyone seems to refer to it as Willi's bar, including its own sign). People sit either at the large horse-shoe shaped bar on the various tables around it, and are served by men in lederhosen and women in dirndls. It sounds corny but it has a great atmosphere and late at night it's usually packed with locals and ski guides as well as visitors.
Once a week, usually on a Tuesday night, the Stuben ski school organises floodlit tobogganing from Alpe Rauz down to Stuben. The price includes taxi from Stuben to Alpe Rauz and a gluwein on arrival at the finish line in Stuben.
There's 3km of cross-country skiing in Stuben, but barely enough to whet your appetite.
Non-skiers can snuggle up with a good book in a cosy hotel or, weather permitting, on a sun terrace at the Hotel Apres-Post, or the S'Murmele bar restaurant.
There is plenty more for non-skiers to see and to do nearby in St Anton (12km) and in Lech (9km) which are easy to get to by car or using the regular day time Post bus service between Stuben, Zurs and Lech. To travel by bus from Stuben to St Anton or St Christoph, take the Stuben - Lech bus as far as Alpe Rauz then change to the Lech - St Anton Post Bus.
The best (and the most expensive) shopping in the Arlberg is in Lech, the best lunch spots are the Hospiz Alm in St Christoph, and the Berg, Goldener Berg and Berg Vital hotel restaurants on the mountain at Oberlech.
For more information contact the tourist office in Stuben
Tourist Office Stuben am Arlberg
Situated beneath the terrace at Hotel Post
Open: 9:00-12:00 and 3:00-6:00 daily in winter season
Tel: +43 5582 399-4
Email: [email protected]