Lech and linked Zürs - in Vorarlberg, but sharing a lift pass with St Anton over the Arlberg pass in Tirol - are the most fashionable resorts in Austria, each able to pull in Porsche-borne Germans by the thousand. Putting aside their 5-star hotels, though, they don't feel particularly exclusive. Lech has always been the more attractive base (to compete, Zürs needs a tunnel bypass, followed by an imaginative makeover) but the gondola link between Lech and Warth built in 2014 means there is now no contest.
Unless you are counting the pennies, Lech's combination of charm, varied slopes and good snow is difficult to beat. A wider choice of good mountain restaurants would be no bad thing, though.
Lech is an old farming village set in a high valley that spent long periods of winter cut off from the outside world until the Flexen Pass road linked Zürs to Stuben at the end of the 19th century. Seriously heavy snow can close the road for days on end, marooning visitors in Lech and Zürs. There are worse problems to have.
Not far from the centre is the cable car up to Oberlech: a small, traffic-free area of 4-star hotels set on the piste.
Zug is a hamlet 3km from Lech, with a lift into the Lech slopes. It's not ideal for sampling Lech's nightlife, but there is an evening bus service.
Lech is linked by lifts and runs to higher Zürs to the south, and now by gondola (but not by piste) to Warth to the north. Both resorts are described at the end of this chapter, although most of the detail about Warth is in our Bregenzerwald chapter. St Anton, is covered by the lift pass, and gets its own chapter. However, the Arlberg is finally ‘closing the gap’, with the new Flexenbahn now on its way to completion in time for winter 2016/2017. Four new lifts will link Stuben on the St Anton side, to Zürs on the Lech side – all of which are high-tech 10-seat gondolas. This will mean that the Ski Arlberg area won’t only be the largest interconnected ski area in Austria, with 305km of slopes and 87 lifts, but it will also enter the top 10 largest in the world. The new lifts will make all points of the snowy Arlberg region quick and easy to access, and will also cut the number of buses running between the resorts – a significant environmental benefit.
The road to Warth is closed in winter. The other resorts in this area can be reached by bus, but the service is rubbish. There are free and regular ski-buses linking Lech, Zürs and Alpe Rauz for the St Anton lifts. And there are post buses to St Anton via Alpe Rauz and St Christoph. But all get seriously crowded at busy times, leaving people at the roadside at the mercy of the waiting taxi drivers. And the post buses are neither free nor frequent. It's not good enough, for big name resorts like these.
The Sonnenkopf area at Klösterle, reached by free ski-bus from Stuben, is also covered by the Arlberg pass.