Today on The Journal, we spend some quality time in St Anton and Lech, exploring the luxurious chalets and hotels that line this new route. Enjoyed together, as they can now be for the very first time, St Anton, St Christoph, Stuben, Zürs and Lech manages to cover the full range of ski-joy expectation, both on the slopes and off them. With 11 peaks and 112 miles of off piste trails, the Arlberg region still retains much of its appeal for high-altitude skiers and wealthy winter travellers. Diana, Princess of Wales, was its most famous patron while other visitors include the Dutch royal family and Monaco’s Princess Caroline.
But depending on where you choose step off the new and impressive ski lifts (which happen to offer heated leather seats) the vibe can be quite different. St Anton is very much adrenaline central – the majestic slopes on the Valluga North too rough to patrol and the nightclubs on the main drag too buzzy to leave before late. Lech, on the other hand, is a tranquil refuge of privileged mindfulness.
Regardless of place, in terms of hospitality, providing for people who can pay €300,000 for a week’s accommodation (which quite a few of the regulars here can) has become somewhat of a niche. How about a chalet so splendid that owners dare market it as the most expensive in the world? Or a seven-suite hotel the size of a large country house? Whatever you fancy, this and much more (or less – and more reasonable) is available right here in the Arlberg…
In the suites-only category, the obvious Arlberg winner is the Tannenhof. In 2011, Axel Bach and Judith Volker sold their Italian estate to buy a medium-size early-20th-century hotel, raze it to the ground and replace it with a palace containing only seven suites. Each one is a masterpiece of elegance and comfort, using stone and timber from the original Tyrolean building, as well as importing a 400-year-old dining room ceiling from neighbouring Ischgl. British chef James Baron, declared Austrian Chef of the Year by the 2017 Grand Restaurant & Hotel Guide after his first season here, runs the restaurant which is also open to the public – and where guests can retire to the snooker room after dinner.
Andino Bergwelten Hotel
To capitalise on St Anton’s legendary nightlife, there’s the new Andino Bergwelten-Hotel, an Alpine-Andean fusion devised by Alejandra Wasle, the owner’s Peruvian wife. Her warm welcome and vibrant imported wool textiles provide a cheery base that’s handily accessible to the main drag. Guests can spend evenings listening to the singer-guitarist over cocktails in minimalist Murrmel, dining gastronomically at Hazienda and dancing in the Horny Bull – the riotous replacement for the famous Kandahar – all within two minutes of the hotel.
Severin’s – The Alpine Retreat
Originally conceived as the Blumen Haus Lech by its owner Andrew Flowers, Severin’s changed hands (and name) shortly before it opened last year. One could say that the hotel falls into the hybrid category, featuring nine suites as well as a 423 sqm residence with four bedrooms. Guests have their own private pool and gym, plus competing rights for a standout suite with a raised whirlpool on a screened rooftop terrace. Expect ancient and modern blending tastefully: 150-year-old timber harvested from derelict barns frames groupings of slick furnishings from Minotti. Stephan Kreigelstein, winner of a Michelin star at Omnia in Zermatt, heads up the kitchen. Also, art is a major feature with the walls featuring originals selected by two Viennese curators, some of it quietly for sale.
Überhaus, on the same strip, is a British domain run by Verbier-based Bramble Ski and owned by financier Richard Campbell-Breeden, one of Goldman Sachs’ head men in Asia until he resigned last September. Here, you can line up shots at a 125-year-old snooker table and enjoy high-thread-count Egyptian sheets, but there’s also a lot of impressive art. Why? Well, the owner happens to be quite the art collector, adding works from leading galleries one by one and forming a fine collection. The fitness room just happens to feature a glass ceiling directly below the hot tub, meaning guests breaking a sweat can enjoy an intimate view of friends at play.
Severin’s closest competitor in Lech is eight-room and two-suite Aurelio, built by oligarch Oleg Deripaska. Married to the daughter of Boris Yeltsin’s former chief of staff, the laid-back entrepreneur is widely liked, but profitable contracts are in his DNA. As the owner of Basic Element and president of the Rusal aluminium company, he is worth around $4.4bn – a smidgen of which has been rewardingly spent on Aurelio, overlooking Lech. The decor is of the timber and antler school, without for that matter including chairs with hearts punched out of their backs. The passion of the Salzburger chef is to gather wild mushrooms and herbs and distil them for aromas to flavour his dishes. Oh, and then there’s the resident alpacas Hiero, Domingo and Yaki who willingly participate in walks through the village.
There’s of course plenty more to mention in the area. When it comes to food, Fux is a standout. This very special steakhouse features contemporary architecture and sense of fun, serving both bison and ostrich and making a nice change from Tiroler wurst and Wiener schnitzel. Plus, smokers love the cigar bar. Another worthy mention is the Hall of Fame, a permanent exhibition celebrating the people who made the Arlberg great. Perhaps foremost is Hannes Schneider, a true racing star in the early 20th century, establishing the elegant Arlberg technique in the Alps. There’s also a longstanding museum in St Anton at a villa that was built for German industrialist Bernhard Trier in 1912 – in fact, it’s restaurant is rather excellent too.