Interview with Annie Ewing, Away by TTI Travel Advisor
Away: What was the purpose of your trip?
I was invited to experience one of the world’s best skiing destinations – Arlberg, Austria, an area which includes the world-famous resort towns of Lech and St. Anton. Hosting the trip were TTI Travel partners Alpine Adventures and J.MAK Hospitality. We spent just four days there, but it was enough time to fall in love with the Austrian Alps.
A: Tell us about your itinerary.
After a gentle 2-hour drive from the Zurich Airport, I arrived in snowy Lech and checked into the Kristiania Hotel. This cosy property boasts a view overlooking the town and surrounding peaks. Gertrud Schneider, the kind and sophisticated owner, held us a sumptuous welcome dinner. Her father was Olympic gold-medallist Othmar Schneider, who built the hotel as a place to host friends. Their family’s love of Lech, skiing, and hospitality is crafted into each unique room.
We started our day at Strolz, the only (and I mean this literally) place to rent equipment in town. Half ski-rental desk, half luxury winter department store, Strolz is an experience in itself. Here we could buy the latest Arc’teryx jackets, Moncler furs, or even an authentic Austrian dirndl, all the while serenaded by live harp music.
Then we hit the slopes. The snow was impressive and the vista even more so. Led by our guide Christoph Müller, VP of the local ski school, we danced down the vast network of interconnecting runs. Christoph pointed out several stark cliffs that he declared “excellent for off-piste” when there was more snow cover. Backcountry skiing is a religion here. Locals speak reverently of the powder they discover when detouring from marked trails.
For lunch we ate at the softly contemporary Hotel Aurelio, a masterpiece of Austrian architecture for the 21st century with cuisine to write home about. Lech, by the way, is full of excellent restaurants. The food tends to be rich, but what could be more satisfying after a day on the trails?
In the evening we visited the historic Gasthof Post Hotel, owned by Florian Moosbrugger, our gracious and jovial host. He led us through his family’s property, which felt like an aristocratic country home – grand and elegant, but comfortable.
The next day began with a private ski lesson with Christoph, followed by lunch back at the Gasthof Post (renowned for its dining), and an afternoon stroll around Lech. The town is charming, nestled along a riverbank and built around a 14-century gothic church. Our guide was Irmgard of the Lech Tourism Office. She described Arlberg as the “cradle of skiing” – the home of our modern techniques and where the sport’s boundaries are continually pushed.
Dinner that night was hosted by the Goldener Berg, a contemporary hotel with an enviable position on the mountain’s flank. Guests ski in/ski out during the day and at night, go between hotel and town by cable car.
For the rest of my trip, I stayed at the nearby village of St. Christoph at the Arlberg Hospiz Hotel. I visited the hotel’s brand new cultural centre, Arlberg 1800, which is destined to be one of Austria’s foremost contemporary galleries and concert halls. We were treated to a concert by young pianist Moye Kolodin. Two days prior, Art Garfunkel apparently graced guests with a small show.
Before leaving we spent one last morning on the hill, then explored St. Anton, the town that practically invented Après-Ski. Positioned to catch the final rays of sun, its numerous bars attract revellers from throughout the region for a celebratory stein (or several). It was a lively way to end a holiday in the peaks.
A: What was your most memorable moment?
The “ah-ha!” moment when Christoph helped me overcome some bad skiing posture I’d had for years. He let me in on a secret: “Picture yourself in a bar. How would you get up onto a barstool? Show me that motion.” Which, funnily enough, happens to force your hips and knees into the perfect position to carve your skis.
With the simplest analogy he multiplied my confidence on the slopes. A private lesson can make a world of difference.
A: What surprised you the most?
The sheer expanse of ski runs! The Arlberg network is bigger than Park City, Utah. Both on- and off-piste, you can hop from mountain to mountain to mountain using an efficient system of gondolas, lifts (heated!), and buses all on the same 50 EUR/day ski pass. In four days, I don’t think we repeated a single run.
The quality of the hotels was also exceptional. Each property we saw was warm, beautiful, and packed with individual charm. No big hotel chains here! Lech, St. Christoph, and St. Anton were luxurious without the showy “look at me” feel of some other European resort towns. I left with a strong need to spend the rest of my life in those mountains. I can’t recommend it enough.
Photos Courtesy of Annie Ewing