lies in a valley at an altitude of 4,741 feet and was founded in 1400,
exceeds Aspen or Telluride on their best days.
Two features predominate. One is the church with its onion-crowned
spire. The other is the stream that courses through the middle of town.
Lech was the model for the late Ernie Blake in founding Taos Ski Valley
in northern New Mexico.
You can go off-piste anywhere in the Arlberg without fear of falling
into a crevasse because there are no glaciers. You must, however, be
vigilant for the occasional cliff, which, contrary to the practice at
American resorts, will not be marked.
Because the topography varies widely and is almost entirely devoid of
trees, skiing off-piste is not advised on days when visibility is poor.
The average incline of the least difficult runs, marked in blue on
European ski maps, is 20 to 25 degrees. However, some blue runs approach
30 degrees in places, a value that defines slopes considered far more
advanced at many resorts in the U.S.
So Lech, the least demanding of the Arlberg areas, is not without its
Intermediate slopes, marked in red or orange, tend to range in incline
between 30 and 35 degrees. The few black, or expert, runs approach 40
These measurements might seem stiff by U.S. standards, where too many
resorts try to be all things to all skiers. As a class, however,
Austrians, most of whom have skied since childhood, are far better at the
sport than Americans.
If you're not up to their standards, there's some dead-easy terrain
near the mid-mountain community of hotels known as Oberlech.
Don't expect to be coddled by chairlifts there, though. Drags, like
T-bars and pomas, provide the uphill transport.
The rolling nature of the terrain precludes, with only a couple
exceptions, the long runs of consistent pitch common in many parts of the
western U.S. At Lech, although the vertical rise is 3,000 feet, the
descents tend to be comparatively short, with flat spots before the fall
line reasserts itself.
In this characteristic, it bears some resemblance to the Canyons
resort at Park City, Utah.