New lifts and huts in Lech-Zürs-Stuben-St Anton

30th January 2017, by Chris Gill

The Trittkopf run down to Zürs, mid-morning Sunday; kinda crowded

The Trittkopf run down to Zürs, mid-morning Sunday; kinda crowded

One of the big news stories of this season is from Austria: the slopes of St Anton/St Christoph/Stuben are at last linked to Lech/Zürs/Warth by slick lifts rather than very unslick buses, in the process creating Austria’s biggest linked ski area, displacing Saalbach-Hinterglemm/Fieberbrunn. Editor Watts and I sent ourselves off to check out the new link.

The central component is the new Flexenbahn gondola to the slopes of Zürs from Rauz, formerly the key bus stop at the base of St Anton’s interminable Valfagehr piste. This is purely a lift link, with no associated piste – you ride the lift in both directions.

The F-bahn arrives at the mid-station of another new gondola that has replaced the venerable cable car from Zürs up to the peak of Trittkopf. Unfortunately it does not meet the Trittkopf piste – it meets a hilly cat-track that leads to the piste, but most people currently prefer to queue for spaces on the top stage or to ride the lower stage down to Zürs. My advice is to ride down: now that it is served by a powerful and packed gondola, the Trittkopf piste gets unacceptably crowded.

So: the new link has given the Arlberg a huge marketing boost. For skiers, a better solution might have been to buy a huge fleet of extra buses, and devote the left-over millions to funding free gluhwein for everyone riding them.

The final component in this massive investment is a gondola from Rauz to a point close to the top of the Stuben slopes. This makes the neglected shady runs back into the valley much more attractive. We’re told there is no plan to develop the slopes on the back of the hill, which are served by a slow double chair lift and lack snowmaking to combat their sunny orientation – it came as a bit of a shock to have to negotiate bare patches, 20th-century-style.

Having checked out the new lifts, our next mission was to head on to St Anton to check out the restaurant at Gampen, entirely rebuilt in 2015. This of course took us down the infamous Steissbachtal, which delivered a surprisingly enjoyable experience at about midday on Sunday – not bumped, not crowded, not slushy.

The new Gampen restaurant is a long, low chalet with an impressive self-service food-court, a cool bar and a spacious, relaxed table-service section (indoor and terrace) called Himmeleck. It doesn’t rate Editors’ Choice status, but we had a good lunch here with decent service. Reservations are possible, which is a rarity in Austria.

On our second day in the Arlberg, we teamed up with some old chums from Norway to ski bits of Zürs, Lech and Warth. The lovely lift-free Zürser Täli was in excellent shape, and very quiet; in the morning sun, fabulous. As we rode the chairs up to Madloch for the ski-route to Zug and thus Lech, the sun faded and snow started to fall, sadly not enough to cover the stones littering the middle part of the run; happily, the bottom third was in great shape, and great fun.

In Warth, we enjoyed good snow on the north-facing reds and cruisey blacks, before retreating to the cosy Hochalpe hut for efficiently served and very satisfactory gulaschsuppe. The south-facing red back to the linking gondola was fun for slush aficionados.

We then checked out two new restaurants at mid-mountain above Lech. Der Wolff is a noisy wooden box with little to recommend it. The steel-and-glass Schegelkopf has much more style, space and comfort, and its glass-sided little dining room has fabulous views. The food is out of the ordinary – sushi and steaks as well as more routine stuff – but not what we needed: Kaiserschmarren.

So it was off up the mountain to cosy Kriegeralpe for its famous K-s, served direct to the table in the frying pan from 3pm. The six of us shared two pans, and had pancake to spare, even with lubricating gluhwein.

By now snow was falling heavily and the lifts had closed. What’s more, most of the pistes had been swept and closed. We reckoned piste 200 via Oberlech would be a reliable, easily followed route to Lech, and so it proved. The wait for a blue town bus back to Zürs was an unacceptable 20 minutes. Life is hard.

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