Indagare member Christiane Deiters recently traveled to Lech, Austria. Here are her impressions from the trip.
I'm just back from a long weekend in Lech, Austria, and I wanted to send a postcard with some impressions. It was my first time in Lech, but I traveled with a group of friends who have been coming here since 2000. We stayed at Schmelzhof, a wonderful family-run four-star that I can highly recommend, especially for cross-country skiers (it’s located directly at the beginning of the cross country loipe, ie ski track).
The Schmelzhof is a place full of surprises. It’s owned by Margit and Robert Strolz, a dedicated couple who run this place with love and care. In charge of breakfast is the grandmother, who dresses each morning in a different kind of dirndl, the dress with an apron worn by women in the Alps. She not only oversees the many delicious things that are served but also has a homemade remedy for every kind of skiing ailment. For our party, she provided an ointment made of a local flower, the Ringelblume, for a woman who had scarred her hand. She told us that these flowers are harvested only when the moon is full and the lotion is made from an ancient recipe. If you are lucky, she will also tell you about her many fascinating journeys. For instance, she traveled to Vietnam and Bhutan long before both places became fancy destinations. I watched her move between the young couples with small children in the breakfast room, asking about how everybody slept and what was on the day’s agenda; she’s one of the main reasons this hotel feels so warm and genuine.
As for the skiing: I loved the five-mile cross country track that runs from the hotel through the woods and along a stream. The track is wonderfully tended by a man who comes every morning with his shovel to assure a smooth run. You ski for 3.7 miles (past the town of Zug) a bit uphill, but nothing too straining. Then you have the option of continuing on for another 1.2 miles (this part is a little more demanding), where you cross the small river Lech and traverse an unspoiled winter wonderland. It was amazing to stop and listen to the quiet—that perfect quiet one rarely finds anymore in the world. I recommend stopping by the cozy Älpele, on your way back for lunch and a sweet treat, like homemade Kaiserschmarrn (a traditional local dessert of sugared pancake with raisins). The Älpele is also a starting point for a horse-drawn sleigh ride, which is popular with children.
At the Schmelzhof, Robert Strolz told us all about the Ski Club Austria (SCA), a members-only organization that was founded in 1901 and today has more than 7,000 members from fifty nations. Apparently, the region of the Arlberg is the so-called cradle of Alpine skiing, a specific technique still seen on the slopes today. A member of the early ski club even traveled as far as Beaver Creek to introduce the “Arlberg technique” to the U.S., and Robert Strolz told us about a trip to Japan in the 1920s, where more than 500 skiers learned this technique. I think the best part of the SCA is that all donations and membership fees go toward making skiing possible for local children.
Lech has no McDonald’s, movie theaters or video stores, so kids spend a lot of time outside and on the slopes. During our stay, my husband and some of his friends were invited to join the SCA, and I made a plan to return to this beautiful and interesting winter spot. Perhaps in a few years time, I, too, will be asked to join the SCA: cross country skiers are welcome, as long as they are serious with what they are doing on the slopes.
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