Lech, Austria February 2003Lech 03 Photo Album
A busload of weary skiers arrived at the 3-star Felsenhof Hotel in Lech, Austria on Saturday evening, February 22, 2003 after a six hour bus trip from the airport in Zurich, Switzerland, which was usually only a 2 ½ to 3 hour ride away from Lech. The school holiday and weekend traffic contributed to the snarls on the autobahn, plus the snowy weather and slick roads. Of course, liquid amenities were passed around in the bus to lighten up the mood until we arrived at the beautiful resort town of Lech, nestled in the Arlberg region of the Austrian Alps.
Except for one lovely couple from Australia, 34 TRW Ski Club members filled the entire hotel. We practically had the whole place to ourselves! This was a first! The room accommodations were wonderful, too, many with balconies and great views of the valley and mountains. And fluffy quilts, soft as clouds, were on the beds. There was a fitness center with exercise equipment and a sauna where one could steam away those après-ski aches and pains or burn off those extra calories from the full buffet breakfasts each morning or 2 hour 5-course dinners served every night. We felt cozy in the dining room and the staff was friendly and helpful. It was like being part of one big, happy family. Many of the same skiers have accompanied each other on previous TRW Ski Club trips to Europe over the past 8 –9 years, and have developed a familial camaraderie.
Sunday, February 23rd was a beautiful sunny day, and various ski groups fanned out to different locations, mostly in the Lech area. It had last snowed about ten days earlier and the slopes were well groomed but hard packed, though some skiers managed to find a few soft snow snakes which whipped them to the ground.
Monday was another gorgeous day with sunshine and blue skies. A large group of TRW skiers headed to the Valluga Bahn ski area of St. Anton. To get there, we first had to take a 20-minute bus ride to the Alpe Rauz stop. Fortunately, we only had to step out of our hotel and walk across the street to the bus stop. It was great to not have to lug skis and poles more than a few feet. At Alpe Rauz, we then had to take a cold and windy, (as in gusty) T-bar to a long chair lift up a steep slope that brought us to the St. Anton area. It took several more chairs and a long, long line to board the gondola to the top of the Valluga. The view was spectacular and well worth all the trouble it took to get there. Also, we had a lovely lunch in the restaurant at the top. St. Anton town was farther away than the Valluga Bahn and that ski route was saved for another day, since skiing both ways was a whole day’s trip.
The first day of skiing was not all pleasant for two members of the group. Out of the clear blue sky, an obnoxious skier cruised over the skis of Bob Dunham while he was skiing in the open, lots of room to pass him without incident. This caused a braking action on Bob's skis and he flew head first out of his skis and landed on his face, breaking his nose and suffering cuts and bruises in the process. The rude skier didn't even turn to see what he hit. The next day, Bob Dunham was again knocked over by another sloppy skier out of control. The two hits left Bob with a cracked rib and ruptured tendons in his thumb, which ended his skiing for the rest of the trip. Fortunately, he has since recovered nicely. Another skier, Bob Brooks, was also run over by an errant skier, but Bob didn't seem to suffer any serious damage. Is Bob an unlucky name?
On Tuesday, ski groups fanned out to the surrounding areas of Stuben, Zurs, St. Christoph, St. Anton and Madloch in addition to Lech and Oberlech nearby. Everywhere the snow was plentiful, although it was hard packed and even slick in areas with more wind. But the overall skiing and the weather was great, no complaints. The scenery was fabulous everywhere, with jagged peaks and mounds of marshmallow fields beneath. The lift lines were busy, but they moved quickly. And some lucky TRW skiers met two strangers who were quitting early and who gave them their ski tickets good for the day. Hey! Saved money for the après-ski refreshments!
There was a really neat oasis for refreshments located at the top of the Zug lift. The Palmen Alpen had a bird’s eye view of the surrounding terrain with a nice restaurant, outdoor tables with umbrellas, palm trees blowing in the breeze and music for Happy Hour. Cool!
On Wednesday, many skiers took the day off from skiing to shop and to create their hats and robe costumes for the party in the evening. This year, because the Felsenhof provided each guest with a white terrycloth robe, the Under-the-Robe contest was added to the annual Hat contest. The TRW Ski Club members went all out in both categories. It was a riot! Even the Aussies, Robin and Helen, joined in the fun and wore hats and robes to dinner like the rest of the crazy bunch. In the Ladies Division, first place hat went to Joan Swing and first place robe went to Ronna Couillard. In the Men’s Division, Stan Smith took first place hat and Bob Dunham took first place robe. (The local Metzgerei shops had a run on their sausage products.) Voting was by popular choice. Have a look at the website photos to see some of the zany creations.
On the last day of skiing, there was a light dusting of new snow. The weather stayed fair for another great day of skiing. Some club members were starting to have sore throats or flu like symptoms, the usual bane of air travel. And achy knees were increasing by weeks end, but overall, everyone was having a wonderful time. That afternoon, most of the ski club members met at the Tannenberg Restaurant Bar for après-ski drinks and bogeying on the sidewalk. The music from the live band was mainly disco. Earlier in the week, the Tannenberg had featured a lively pair called the Tschirgant Duo. They played Tyrolean music on accordion, guitar, percussion and small cow bells. It was exquisite to hear the delicate melody on the bells. And fun to stomp out an energetic polka on the tiny dance floor. What a fun place! Every afternoon there was live music somewhere with singing and dancing entertainment for the relaxing après-ski crowds standing around outside.
Throughout the week, ski club members found other activities to do besides downhill skiing. Anneliese went cross country skiing. Reiko, Ronna, Collette and others went on strolls through the town into the picturesque outskirts along tree-lined footpaths. (Ronna found the twigs and branches for her award winning costume on one of those trails!) Others took bus excursions to nearby towns, like St. Anton or Innsbruck, farther away. There were lots of choices for skier and non-skier alike. Lech felt comfortable and cozy, not as big and spread out as St. Anton. And skiing the Arlberg was great everywhere, though the powder hounds might have appreciated some fresh snow.
Saturday, March 1st, time to pack up and leave. We had a wonderful week at the Felsenhof and were appreciative of the hotel staff for making our stay a pleasant one. At 8:30 AM, after a hearty breakfast buffet, everyone boarded the bus for a scenic ride back to Zurich. The roads were clear and the trip only took ~ 3 hours compared to 6 hours it took to get to Lech. We checked into the Hotel Adler in the heart of old town. It was located close to the shopping district and along a scenic, self-guided walking route past historic buildings and cathedrals. The Hotel Adler was also touted for having one of the best restaurants serving fondue and raclette, Swiss specialties featuring melted cheese. More than half the ski club enjoyed dinner in the hotel that night. Around 3:00 or 4:00 in the morning, there was a loud commotion in the corridors somewhere that woke us up. Was it some verry merry TRW group returning from happy hour? Hmmm? Not much later, at 5:15am on Sunday morning, the travelers who were going back to Los Angeles received a wakeup call to get up and head to the airport for the return flight home. Seventeen of us were going straight home, the other half of the group was continuing on to Vienna and Budapest for an additional week of adventure. For the homeward bound, the flight to LAX went smoothly and everyone was happy to land safely back home.
We ski club members want to express much gratitude and appreciation to our trip leaders, Shep and Tara Shepard. It is always a lot of work to organize and coordinate everything. We thank you both for all your time, planning, thoughtfulness and cheerful leadership. And thanks to all the ski club members who made the trip so much fun by being friendly, cooperative and such good sports. You are a great group! The Right Way Ski Club!
See you in Europe, same time next year!