Lech and Kitzbühel – Austria

To Ski or Apres-Ski

Some of the choicest downhill skiing (and apres-ski) in the world can be found in the western reaches of the Austrian Alps. When other resorts go bare, Arlberg, a wonderfully picturesque niche well above the tree line, ensures ample amounts of powder. The region encompasses Lech, its most charming village resort, as well as St. Anton, Zurs, St. Cristoph, and Stuben. In Lech-Zurs alone there are thirty-five lifts and cable cars serving a 65-mile ski circuit of groomed pistes and 75 miles of open, ungroomed runs, including the magnificent 12-mile Madloch tour.

The home of modern ski technique, the revolutionary method named for Arlberg, is practiced today around the globe and the area’s schools and instructors are among the world’s best. Sharing Lech’s indisputable air of exclusivity but lack of pretense is the village’s smallest and best five-star hotel, the Gasthof Post. Run by the gracious Moosbrugger clan for three generations, the former post house is known for its impeccable yet homey ambience and excellent restaurant.

Where Lech is sought out for its unspoiled character, Kitzbühel is beloved for its fashion­able, glamorous atmosphere. The smoothed but mighty crags behind the medieval walled town provide mostly intermediate ski cir­cuits (except for the difficult, world-famous Hahnenkamm downhill race), heart-stopping cable car rides, and 120 miles of awesome summertime hiking possibilities that set it apart from all those Kitzbühel wannabes.

Those looking for a vibrant apres-ski scene will be drawn to the town’s historic center of cobbled streets and pastel-painted medieval houses. There are trendy boutiques for shop­ping, lively casinos, and sophisticated clubs. Visitors can also relax with hot chocolate and pastries at the well-known Cafe Praxmair. Set high on the sunny side of the Kitzbühler Horn is the elegant but friendly Tennerhof Hotel, a quaint converted 17th-century farm­house and a joy any time of the year. The eating is some of the best in town, so dine here even if you’re lodging elsewhere.

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