Lech, Austria: Luxury romantic winter getaway. As part of Gentlemans Butler’s ethos to feature luxury experiences this year we started our look at luxury winter getaways to the mountains.
Many winter sports enthusiasts may take two winter vacations so we thought it would be a lovely idea to look at this from the perspective of just enjoying the resort and the local amenities, finding out about what else there is to do apart from skiing. Personally I am a keen skier, learning at a young age to ski in the Austrian mountains, but it had been many years since I had returned to the region in the winter.
You may be interested to read our 2 features we produced last year when we visited Vorarlberg in the summer, centring our interest around the beautiful city of Bregenz on Lake Constance.
Bregenz, Austria – The Cultural Capital of the World
Bregenz, Austria: A love affair with Constance
This time we would be heading south east of Bregenz to the holiday region of Lech Zürs am Arlberg, which also resides in Vorarlberg.
Our winter getaway was for 4 days, flying out of Gatwick on the 0650 flight getting us into Zurich at 0930, which would be arriving in Lech at around midday. You can also fly into Innsbruck, where the transfer to Lech is about half the time. We would be returning on the evening flight from Zurich, which meant we had a full active day in the resort with our pickup not until 1745.
Even if you are getting a low cost carrier, make the trip as comfortable as possible. Book a chauffeur to pick you up from your home. Gentlemans Butler recommends Crown Chauffeur Drive . Make sure you remember to take your cards that allows you access to executive lounges, and equally have someone meet you at the airport to escort you to your resort.
Arriving in a rain soaked Zurich, with very little sleep, my girlfriend Dana and I half snoozed our way to the Swiss/Austrian border and then as we started to climb and see the mountains for the first time the excitement made my eyes open. It is certainly one of those lovely moments, in a way similar to the drive towards the sea on a summer holiday. It often seems to suddenly happen as well, one minute nothing, then one turns a corner and they are there. Beautiful sculptures towering into the sky, all with a sugar coating. Leaving the motorway and starting those typical windy roads into the mountains my heart started to ease as the rain turned to snow, and we were to find out the resort would have no shortage of snow. In fact out of 4 days we have 3 days of snow and 1 day of perfect sun with blue skies.
We drove through Arlberg and then Zurs, which you can ski into from Lech, bringing back heady days of skiing at the age of six and a half (making this February 1974). Fond memories of leather boots, and ski school and a fantastic café which sold amazing hot chocolate and chocolate cake. I do have some pictures and cine reel which I might upload soon.
We soon arrived at the magnificent Hotel Aurelio in Lech (watch out for our review of the hotel next week) which was the first 5 star plus hotel in Austria.
Lech is renowned as being the most exclusive luxury ski resort in Austria with more 5 star hotels to its name than any other resort.
When you think of luxury and skiing you might think luxury shopping, skiing from right outside your hotel, a chauffeur on hand, spas and staff to pamper. The Hotel Aurelio has all of this and more, and is certainly one of the best hotels I have ever stayed at.
You may well know Lech without knowing it as the ski scenes in Bridget Jones: The Edge of Reason were filmed there.
The name Arlberg is a pass. The transformation began in the late nineteenth century, with a railway from Innsbruck to Bludenz “The Arlberg Railway”. After that more and more villages along the way began to add “am Arlberg” to their name. With the opening of the Flexenstrasse and thus the beginning of tourism in the region of Tannberg, Arlberg underwent a geographical extension and became a tourist brand, which steadily grew in size during the 20th century.
When one thinks of the origins of alpine skiing I think many of us will think of Austria, in fact in the early days many of the Austrian ski instructors went off to other countries to promote the sport.
Lech keeps the traditions that we love whilst adding some serious luxury.
Once ensconced in our hotel is was not long after that we decided to venture out, and with our Austrian colleague Katrin we headed for a local institution Hus No 8, a wonderful wooden clad restaurant and bar. Fresh faced is not exactly how I would describe our energy levels, but it was a wonderful start to head out into the snow, the mountain air and then soon after the warmth. Surrounded by traditional Austrian dress the food certainly raised our levels. Dumplings, pork, sauerkraut, strudel, beer…. Ah yes….we were in Austria….
The next morning we woke, looking out onto the Rifikopf Mountain which takes you up to the highest point by cable car to the Panorama Restaurant.
With blue skies looking out over Lech we were meeting with definitely a local celebrity, wedding and event planner Veronika Walch who was born in Lech and definitely has fingers in many pies (sorry terrible joke) but her family runs the local bakery, amongst other things. Lech has an inhabitants of under 2000 people, with about has 10,000 tourists and about 3,000 seasonal workers.
It was in the 13th century, the Walser came over from Switzerland/Davos to Vorarlberg.
The beautiful church was built in the Gothic style in about 1390.
The Romanesque church is still visible on frescoes. I was intrigued to find out the services here are held in multiple denominations.
Lech is a very popular place for people from all around the world to get married both in the winter and summer months. Do take a moment to wander into their museum as it has really been wonderfully recreated.
Lech Museum – The “Huber-Hus”, built in 1590, invites visitors to discover rustic living and working. Exchange, secondary chamber, kitchen and workshop of the Huber family move in time. The historically oldest part of the house is the kitchen from the 16th century. Interesting is also the cooper’s place of the House with exhibits, some of which date from the 19th century.
In addition to the permanent exhibition, the living and working spaces of the Huber family, a changing special exhibition is held once a year.
Opening times – closed in May / June and October / November.
Museum Huber-Hus – Mag. Thomas Felfer – Tel .: 05583 / 2213-240 gemeinde.lech.at museum (at)
Do drop by to one of the lovely patisserie cafes. Veronika took us around Lech’s Bakery (something I found really encouraging). If you an early bird you can see the outside kiln, stoked with wood which is used every morning.
Do head into Strolz but leave plenty of time and plug a few Euros into your bank account. It’s an institution, a department store for the chic in the chicest of ski resorts. They have developed an alpine setting which combines the old with the new from Prada, Falke, Fendi, Leki and beyond for luxury ski clothing plus maybe some clip on spikes for your boots, which will really ease your travel.
You can pick up ski lift maps from the Lech tourist bureau which will detail which lifts you can travel on by foot.
If you really want a mixture of luxury, romance and relaxation take, as we did a horse drawn carriage to the beautiful village of Zug. This starts from the very old Covered Bridge which dates back from the year 1680 and is the oldest covered bridge in Vorarlberg.
The day we took this literally was perfect, snow everywhere, fresh on the trees and the beauty and peace was quite simply magical.
Once in Zug, a place I felt quite enchanted by we checked into to the Rote Wand Hotel to have a fondue. Inside it has a quite funky bar area and a large modern restaurant with space outside.
Our first port of call up the mountains was to take the cable car up to to Oberlech
Oberlech is as you might imagine is up from Lech, connected by a road, but really is a no car zone with the hotels all connected by an underground walk way. A real piece of engineering genius.
Sitting there in the Hotel Goldener Berg terrace looking down was simply perfect.
Snow shoeing was a first for both of us. Tony our guide met us at our hotel. I was highly impressed not only by his ex British military pedigree but his calm manner and supreme knowledge of a raft of outdoor winter sports. He was as you would say totally at one with the outdoors. Lech Ski School
Once at ZUG you can take a 2 person chairlift to the Balmalp restaurant where you will find not only good food, but excellent service and a young friendly vibe.
On our final morning it was time for tobogganing. Something I do not think I have done probably in at least 25 years.
But do not think large wooden sledges or plastic trays these are extremely clever little plastic contraptions with a joystick that one hangs onto.
As we appeared at reception our lovely receptionists bid us good morning, we mentioned we were off tobogganing. Now I have to mention what a fantastic job Dana has been doing, helping me with my diet and as ex aerobics instructor is keen for me to get out and stretch my legs, so when they said would you like the Bentley to take you to the cable car, on this occasion the luxury took over from the fitness. My smile said it all, and within seconds Daniel our lovely chauffeur had put the sleighs in the Bentley and within minutes we were in the cable car, heading up the mountain.
You have a dedicated run with the options of blue or black runs, so after one Blue, Black it was. Well although I looked like a snowman both of us thought this was great fun, and something I would love to do again.
All I can say is quite simply perfect. Just under 4 days of wonderful top notch relaxation, food, walks, exercise and fresh air, and when you read our review of The Hotel Aurelio you will get an understanding of really how good it was.