Having experienced skiing in Lech am Arlberg for a day, I made it a goal to be back in Arlberg and managed to find lodging in the village of Lech am Arlberg. With the huge snow storm that passed through and delayed my arrival, I was super excited to be able to finally ski in Lech. And what better way to fully explore Lech by following one of the most famous ski race in Europe, also known as the White Ring.
Starting at the top of Rüfikopf, skiers can take in a breathtaking view of the village of Lech or grab some breakfast at the lodge in the summit. From there the route consists of mainly easy blue pistes with wide open views of the alpine plateau as skiers makes their way towards the Schüttboden T-bar before continuing to another nice long cruiser that will bring them to the base of the Trittalpbahn.
While the White Ring might be a long course, take the time to savour the start of the journey as I find it is rare you find such an open-wide alpine plateau to ski in and the expanse of this area with little skiers around is a sight to just enjoy while cruising in the pristine snow.
At the Trittalpbahn, a 6-seater chairlift will bring skiers to a mix of red and blue piste leading to the base of Zürs. The village of Zürs is a major point for buses and entry into Lech, with plenty of restaurants and lodges at the base. For those who needs a break, this is a nice place to stop and perhaps get a sticker to form part of your collection.
After a sufficient break time, it is time to depart Zürs by taking either the Zürsersee or Seekopf chairlift that reaches the same point at the top. Both of these quad chairlifts will lead to the Seekopf Restaurant and lodge at the top which is another viable venue for lunch. During the winter, the lake is frozen here so do not expect much of a view but the piste here is very nice as it is enclosed in a valley.
From the Seekopf Restaurant, head down towards the Madlochbahn which is a 2-seater chairlift. Due to the crowds funneling from 2 sets of quad chairlifts, there can be a queue for this slow-moving 2-seater chairlift, which is essential for the White Ring and for that reason, I do not recommend staying at Seekopf for lunch. However the lodge at Seekopf is the last major stop before the long and most challenging piste that leads to Zug.
After disembarking from the Madlochbahn, the ski trails are marked as ungroomed backcountry trails. While they are not overly steep, this particular stretch can be tiring with plenty of bumps due to the ungroomed nature of the terrain. The end of this backcountry ski trail leads to the village of Zug, one of the smaller ones in the Arlberg Ski Area. However at the middle of this trail, there is an intersection that would bring skiers back to Lech without completing the White Ring, if they are too tired to continue or pressed for time. And trust me, you need the stamina and energy for this particular stretch.
After arriving in Zug, it is time to ascent the mountain once again. Being a smaller village, there is only the option of the 2-seater Zugerberg chairlift that goes up a long way to the Balmalp. This slow chairlift is a great time to relax your leg muscles and enjoy the view of the Zug valley as well.
Once skiers reach the top at Balmalp, this is another great place to enjoy some food and drinks as there is an outdoor terrace with amazing views. On a sunny day, this lodge is going to be packed with skiers so either one come early or it might take some time before getting a seat.
And the great part about being back in Lech is that aside from Balmalp, there is another 2 choices of lodges from der Wolf or Schlegelkopf, though both of these lodges are in the middle section of the mountain above the Petersboden and Schlegelkopf chairlift respectively. To get there, skiers just need to follow the blue piste from Balmalp.
Athletic skiers would easily complete the whole circuit in about an hour, though the time I was on skis came down to around 50 minutes but this did not include any of the time waiting for the slower 2-seater chairlifts. Neither did it take into account time resting and stopping to take photos of the marvelous scenery. Thus factoring in the time for breaks, photo-taking, waiting for chairlifts and lunch in between skiing, I expect most skiers to complete the whole course in around 2-3 hours.
These long ski circuits harks back to the beginnings of skiing and shows skiers the purpose of using skis to navigate the Alps to get from one village to another. As the route starts from the Rüfikopf summit, winding across alpine scenery into quaint villages and traversing backcountry pistes, the variety of terrain coupled with pristine winter landscape was a nice topping to the great snow I experienced while doing this run. After all, the Arlberg valley does receive some huge snowfalls that makes it easy to enjoy the White Ring as it is aptly named.