In December 2016 I enjoyed an Arlberg ski holiday at Hotel Kristberg in Lech. It was both the season opening weekend, and the launch of the Flexenbahn cable car that lift links the Vorarlberg and Tirol sides of the Arlberg, meaning you can now ski from Lech to St Anton without getting a bus.
In this review of Arlberg ski holiday at Hotel Kristberg, I will talk about the hotel and discuss the new lift linked ski area. But first I will tell you about the early season conditions, as Lech Zurs had done a fantastic job getting the slopes open on the back of one of the warmest Novembers on record.
After substantial amounts of much publicised snow in the Alps in October and early November, it seemed the 16/17 season was going to get off to a great start. Unfortunately an unseasonal warm spell – with temperatures in their teens in Lech – melted most of the snow way before any slopes were open.
As the 2nd of December opening day drew closer the temperature dropped but there was no natural snow forecast. But with nighttime temperatures dropping below freezing they were at least able to begin making snow. In Lech they managed to open around 40% of the slopes.
As you can see from the above video, despite the slopes being limited we still had a great time snowboarding during this review of Arlberg ski holiday at Hotel Kristberg in Lech. The slopes were very quiet and in good condition, which is a huge testament to the Lech snow-making.
So, even if mother nature doesn’t do her bit, a ski holiday at Hotel Kristberg in Lech is still worthwhile. Locally the Vorarlberg resorts of Zurs, Zug, Warth and Schroecken combine with Lech to provide 180km of piste, which is plenty to keep you entertained.
Lech has also long been twinned with St Anton just across the border in Tirol. With 350km of piste and a further 200km of marked off-piste routes in the combined Arlberg ski area. Previously you had to catch a bus between the two areas, which with waiting, queueing, loading and unloading could easily take an hour each way.
Discussions to lift link the two areas has been going on for many years. And in the summer of 2016 they rerouted the Trittkopfbahn from Zurs to meet the new Flexenbahn coming from Alpe Rauz above Stuben. It now takes 14 minutes to go between the two areas.
The new gondolas are lovely, with comfortable heated seats and plenty of room. They are also very quiet which combined with the views makes for a relaxing ride. I have written an in depth review of new Flexenbahn gondola in Arlberg here. Skiing from Lech to St Anton is now so easy we did it two days in a row.
For this review of Arlberg ski holiday we had booked an off-piste guide for two days in the hope we would get some serious early season snow. Unfortunately off-piste was not really happening. We did four or five runs away from the groomers, and although there was the odd stash of powder on the whole it was thin, icy and uneven.
So rather than flogging a dead horse, we instead tried to teach an old dog new tricks. Our guide Chris, from the Lech snowboard school, had noticed that we had both learnt to snowboard the French and North American way – which is freestyle riding – with duck stance and shoulders kept over the board.
Chris said for freeride snowboarding we should be riding alpine style, which is with a forward facing stance, your hips open and shoulders across the board. Using dangling ropes, arms like an airplane, ropes behind back, short turns, a rope attached to bindings, long carves and even swinging a rope, in two days he taught us a different way to ride.
As I mainly freeride, it soon because clear I had been riding incorrectly for 15 years. Alpine style snowboarding improved all aspects of my riding except switch and I could quickly see how charging off-piste terrain would be much easier by twisting your body forward.
When I began snowboarding I didn’t have any lessons, but my early riding was in France and Canada with freestyle snowboarders so I guess I picked up their style. So I am pleased I had the time to learn another way to snowboard more suited to my current riding.
All the time we were learning we were also exploring the Arlberg ski area. Even with only around 40% of the slopes open it is still vast and we only got around a small portion of it. Every time we stopped Chris showed us areas we would normally be able to head off-piste, it was slightly sickening but is good motivation to head back.
Like the Lech side of the ski area in st Anton they had done a great job getting the slopes open. Although it was almost entirely manmade snow, conditions were good and there were more than enough pistes open to have a great time during this review of Arlberg ski holiday at Hotel Kristberg in Lech.
The four star Hotel Kristberg is located a little way up the valley opposite the ski runs into Lech. This means it has fantastic views of the slopes, which can be enjoyed from a lovely sun terrace.
On the downside it means a short walk to the town (5 mins) and slopes (10 mins) down a slightly steep hill. This is okay on the way down, but if your legs are tired after a hard day on the slopes it can be quite a slog back up. However, the local buses to Zurs stop a few minutes away meaning you can avoid the walk if you wish.
On arriving at the Hotel Kristberg the welcome was so friendly we were immediately made to feel at home. This friendliness continued throughout our stay with everyone from reception staff to the owner – Egon Zimmermann former Downhill World Champion and Olympic gold medalist from 1964 – stopping by to have a chat.
It is a family run hotel, with Egon having handed the reigns over to his nephew Michael. We chatted with Egon and Michael most evenings about the snow conditions, Egon’s colourful life, the history of Lech and even politics. The hotel was quiet, but they spent a lot of time talking to us and genuinely seemed interested in what we had to say.
The Hotel Kristberg is richly decorated with a lot of intricate woodwork in the communal areas – make sure you look at the impressive ceiling in the bar. This level of thought extends throughout the hotel, with everywhere feeling plush but welcoming.
My room was a double looking out over the slopes. There was plenty of room for two people and it had a luxurious feel without being ostentatious. The Austrian twin bed was very comfortable and the daily fruit very welcome.
In the bathroom was a very powerful shower in a fairly high sided bath. This was a little tricky to get into with aching legs, however the bath was deep and a wonderful way to relieve aches and pains.
The five or six course dinner was delicious. It was nicely presented, but it had not been made to be ‘posh’ just for the sake of it. My friend is a vegetarian and they catered very well for him although he normally missed one course. Overall the food was a huge plus for this ski holiday at Hotel Kristberg in Lech.
The breakfasts were also very good. There was a buffet with typical continental options of bread, meats cheeses, fruits and cereals. They also have a menu of hot options, I highly recommend the omelettes. There was also a wide range of juices and teas plus freshly made coffee.
With the new Flexenbahn linking the Vorarlberg and Tirol sides of the Arlberg ski area there is even more reason to visit Lech Zurs. The town is pretty, with some good bars and restaurants, and both the local and wider ski area is exceptionally good with comprehensive snow making in case even if mother nature does not do her job.
The Hotel Kristberg is an ideal base for a ski or snowboard holiday. With great food, lovely rooms and friendly staff it is one of the nicest places I have stayed. We didn’t use the spa as the hot tub was out of order, but this would have been the icing on an already delicious cake!
To conclude this review of Arlberg ski holiday at Hotel Kristberg in Lech I have two tips. Firstly, if you get a chance to chat to the owner Egon please do, as he is full of wonderful stories about the ski racing scene and life in the mountains. Secondly, get yourself to Lech for your next ski or snowboard holiday.
For this review of Arlberg ski holiday at Hotel Kristberg in Lech we flew Swiss Air from Heathrow to Zurich, they offer free ski or board carriage which means they cost less than budget airlines. We then hopped on the train to Langen which took 2.5 hours. From Langen there are buses to Lech or you can get a taxi.