Two Great Trips to Kick Off Ski Season
While ski resorts are just starting to receive their first snows of the season, nothing’s ski-worthy quite yet—but already we’re daydreaming of wintry cabins, cozy fireplaces, and woolen socks. The good news: ski trips, with all their logistics, are best planned a few months in advance. For some inspiration, we’ve highlighted our favorite spots in two radically different mountain destinations. Austria’s Arlberg region is filled with old-world style and charm, plus all the luxuries required to cater to the glitzy European ski crowd. Meanwhile, Upstate’s Lake Placid (actually much closer to Canada than New York City) has a campy vibe that begs for ‘80s-style pom-pom hats and Fair Isle sweaters. Below, our favorite spots in each place, with the wardrobe to match.
Tucked into the far Eastern corner of Austria (closer to Zürich than Vienna), the Arlberg is made up of a string of small towns that are built for exploring the idyllic surrounding mountains, by foot in the summer or on skis in the winter. Unlike nearby Chamonix, which is a destination for technical climbers, the focus here is on hospitality and enjoyment: The hotels are comfortable and luxurious, the ski terrain dotted with huts for leisurely lunches and après-ski gatherings. In fact, since each tiny town can be accessed via the mountain, it’s common for instructors to schedule the day around lunch, planning a series of runs that leads to a destination restaurant in a different valley.
Dorfstrasse 35, St. Anton | +43.5446.2244
Most places to stay and eat in the Arlberg are über-traditional, but although it’s been around for ages (since 1570), the Schwarzer Adler strikes the perfect balance between old-Austria charm and a more modern vibe. Like many of the hotels in the region, a stay here includes fresh breakfast and nightly dinners in the formal dining room, a practice that makes you feel at home with both the staff and the other guests—and almost everyone lingers around the bar into the late hours. The hotel is also known for its newly-revamped spa, which includes plenty of treatments and scrubs, as well as a rooftop infinity pool with stunning views of the mountains that’s open year-round. Request one of the recently renovated rooms (the revamp is slowly making its way through), which are decked out in the spirit of the region with wood-paneled walls, plaid-covered couches, comfortable built-in closets, and roomy porches.
Kandaharweg 13, St. Anton | +43.5446.2220
Johana Moosbrugger-Lettner, who runs Hotel Berg Schlössl with her husband, Klaus Lettner, comes from a family of hoteliers—her brother actually runs their stunning, long-standing family hotel, the Gasthaf Post, over the hill in Lech. Situated right at the base of the mountain with unparalleled access to the slopes, it’s filled with sweet Austrian touches, like floral-tiled bathrooms, antique painted beds, and wood-paneled, vaulted ceilings. There are ten rooms, so the entire experience is much more personal and intimate than what you’ll find at some of the larger hotels in town. Needless to say, the service is impeccable.
Zug 10 | 43.5583.2755
Alpenblick is located above the city of Lech in the tiny hamlet of Zug (in the winter, you can actually arrange for your party to be transported here by horse-drawn sleigh from lower in the valley). From the outside, it doesn’t look much different than any of the other snow-topped restaurants in the area—it’s actually the owner, an incredibly magnanimous host named Carl Heinz Zimmerman, who makes it so special. Zimmerman spent some of his career traveling with Formula 1 racing teams; he’s notorious for excellent stories, and you can always expect a night here to include a few rounds of schnapps. Food-wise, we recommend a big order of the fondue, and any of the wild game.
St. Christoph 1 | +43.5446.2611
This gorgeous, super-authentic restaurant is located in the itty-bitty town of St. Christoph, in what’s definitely one of the area’s most stunning hotels. The restaurant itself is situated around a huge fireplace, and decorated in the traditional style, with grand wooden chairs, rich dark fabrics, and a carved wooden ceiling. The fireplace makes it a cozy place to tuck into after a long day of skiing, but this is also an excellent place to go for a big formal dinner with a group. As for the menu, it’s a great place to try old-school Tyrolean dishes like tafelspitz and kaesespaetzle (a filling Austrian take on cheesy pasta). Do not skip dessert—we recommend the germknödel (a big, crazy-looking dumpling filled with jam and topped with melted butter, poppy seeds, and powdered sugar), Kaiserschmarnn (an eggy, doughy dessert topped with powdered sugar—kids go crazy for it), or the apple strudel (self-explanatory). If the group is feeling brave, they make a formidable salzburger nockerl.
St. Anton | +43.5446.2269
There’s something about the vintage architecture of a toboggan that gets you perfectly in the mood for the holidays. St. Anton is outfitted with one of the area’s best courses, a 4km run that descends more than 1,670 feet into the valley. The run itself is free, though you’ll need to rent toboggans from one of the sport shops in town.
Hannes-Schneider-Weg 11, St. Anton | +43.5446.4000
The town of St. Anton recently made a major investment in their center for wellness and communication, and the result is a gorgeous, brand-new center with plenty of meeting space and ample non-skiing recreational activities. It’s home to a centrally located skating rink, which is open late into the evening and a great low-maintenance alternative to skiing. It’s also home to one of the most gorgeous spas in the city, with several pools and soaking tubs, a sauna, and massage therapists available for bookings.
Lech | +43.5583.2361
The European ski scene is notoriously high-fashion, and Strolz has everything you’ll need to blend in, from handmade skis to cashmere long-johns to bright, glossy puffers. The store itself is enormous, with several floors (there’s a small bar downstairs if you need to break for a glass of champagne) and plenty of racks of sweaters, dresses, and heels, plus a few gorgeous shelves of classic Austrian toys for the littles. They’re most famous for their custom ski boots, which are molded specifically to the feet for maximum comfort.
While a few of the Arlberg’s towns have shopping and boutiques, we recommend Lech for both street clothes and ski suits. This outpost of the German boutique stocks a nice balance of established designer brands (Chloé, Céline, Valentino) alongside a healthy buy of smaller German and Austrian designers. You’ll find plenty of things to wear to dinner—including a great selection of bags—along with Moncler and other high-end luxe outerwear for the slopes.
Kandaharweg 13, St. Anton | +43.5446.2220
This bar and restaurant at the base of the mountain often has live music, which encourages everyone to spread out of the bar and onto the snowy lawn at the base of the gondola. The food here stands up to the best restaurants in town, and the menu, which features several handmade pasta dishes, is a godsend after a long day on the hill. Snag one of the tall tables and order the gluvein, a warm, comforting mulled wine served in a mug.
Unterer Mooserweg 2, St. Anton | +43.5446.3588
Admittedly, the scene at Mooserwirt can get a bit intense (in a bright-lights-and-DJs kind of way), but a visit is practically required. The bar itself is actually up on the mountain, so the only way home is to strap your skis back on for the final run home. We recommend visiting in the early afternoon, before the scene gets too loud. It’s particularly fun on a sunny day, when the party spills out onto outdoor picnic tables.
- SOIA & KYO Chanelle Coat goop, $520
Pin / Stud goop, $495
Crossbody Bag goop, $985
- AETHER Luxe Legging Aether, $225
Crepe Top Net-A-Porter, $740
Belle Boots goop, $995
Lake Placid, New York
First things first: The town of Lake Placid is actually located on Mirror Lake (Lake Placid itself is a bit North—and best viewed, on a clear day, from the top of Whiteface, the major ski resort here). The history alone is reason to make the trek North, as there are plenty of opportunities to learn about Native Americans who survived notoriously brutal Adirondack winters, the Gilded Age socialites who summered in lodges on the lake, and the two Olympic games that were held here. And while the town is busy year-round, there’s something about the way it comes alive in the winter, when hockey games are in full swing and every stone fireplace is in daily use, that calls for fair-isle sweaters and a generally infectious coziness. This a great romantic getaway (in fact, the Point is actually an adults-only property), but between the ice skating, skiing, and bobsledding, it’s also a dreamy vacation for littles.
222 Beaverwood Rd., Saranac Lake | 518.891.5674
Perfectly secluded and endlessly hospitable, The Point is a modernized, 5-star throwback to the on-the-low decadence of the 1930’s when William Avery Rockefeller set out to build the stunning 10-acre resort. All amenities (outdoor pool, tennis courts, unlimited libations), activities (ice skating, boating, horseback riding) and meals (served in the Great Hall in the company of other guests) are included in the rate. As far as accommodations go, the beautifully-appointed log cabins, roaring fires, and strict kids-free policy meet all the requirements for a luxe Adirondack retreat.
144 Lodge Way, Lake Placid | 518.523.2700
The Lake Placid Lodge has the distinction of being the only hotel that actually sits on the shores of Lake Placid, and almost every room has gorgeous views of the lake and surrounding woods. The building is actually one of the newest in the area, as the original burned to the ground in a huge fire back in 2005—the new construction is perfectly in the style of the Adirondacks, with stone fireplaces, sweeping porches, and exposed wood elements both in- and outdoors. Inside, the decor can skew a bit campy, but the elements are all famously luxurious, including feather beds, private outdoor lounge spaces, and spacious bathrooms. The Lodge’s restaurants are some of the town’s best, including a main dining room that serves a formal farm-to-table menu, plus a lively pub that’s popular among locals in the evenings. Even in the winter, there are nightly bonfires by the lake’s edge.
77 Mirror Lake Dr., Lake Placid | 518.302.3000
What’s great about The View (besides, obviously, the view) is that it perfectly balances the service and cuisine you’d associate with any formal, white-tablecloth meal without feeling the least bit stuffy. Decor-wise, it’s all Adirondacks, with cozy fireplaces in each room and antler chandeliers hanging from the ceiling. While they do serve breakfast, it’s really more of a dinner place, with an old-school menu that includes an excellent prime beef (meat is from neighboring butchers), free-range chicken breast with shaved black truffle, and rotating fresh vegetables sourced from nearby farms. We hardly need to say it, but the view of Mirror Lake, with mountains in the background, is spectacular.
1936 Saranac Ave., Lake Placid | 518.523.7511
This is the kind of classic Italian joint that every small town should have. They make chewy pizzas in a brick oven in the back, plus plenty of great pasta dishes, including a spicy salsiccia orchiette and a carbonara with wild mushroom ravioli. The pizza is also a nice takeout option for a night in.
Explore Olympic Village
2634 Main St., Lake Placid | 518.523.2445
The 1980 Lake Placid Olympics was the scene of the famous “miracle on ice” game, and the town is nothing if not hockey-obsessed. If scheduling allows, try to catch a local game—the team at Northwood school plays some of the Northeast’s best hockey, and there are often Junior leagues that come through town as well. Of course, you can always arrange to do some skating yourself—there are open hours on the outdoor speed skating arena, which goes in a loop (you can always warm up with hot chocolate at a fire in the middle if your fingers start to get cold).
2634 Main St., Lake Placid | 518.302.5326
To get the trivia straight: Lake Placid hosted two winter Olympics, in 1932 and 1980. Both times, the Olympics played host to victories that the town is supremely proud of, including the American hockey victory over the Russians in 1980 and the Sonia Henie’s figure skating performances in the 1930s, which are largely credited with boosting the sport’s popularity. You can dig into all the fascinating history (and actually ride the bobsled track for yourself) at the Olympic Museum and its associated exhibitions.
The Adirondacks is home to a network of more than 2,000 miles of trekkable terrain, making it prime for snowshoeing. A lot of the hotels in Lake Placid offer snowshoes for their guests, including Lake Placid Lodge and The Point, but it’s also easy enough to rent a pair in town (there is an abundance of options). At Lake Placid Lodge (and many other hotels), you can also snowshoe directly onto trails from your doorstep.
Cross-country skiing is a no-joke workout. But the Adirondacks make a gorgeous backdrop for the exercise. A large number of the trails around Lake Placid are shared by snowshoers and skiers alike. You can do both at Mt. Van Hoevenberg, for one. The JackRabbit is another oft-recommended route.
813 Mirror Lake Dr., Lake Placid | 518.523.3813
Lake Placid has a score of quality local breweries, LPP&B being one of them. The three-story brewery-pub has an old school Irish-inspired bar on the bottom floor, their main restaurant on the second, and an outdoor deck, plus another bar and seating area up above that overlooks the lake. They brew on-site (more than 1500 barrels a year)—there are tours of the brewery every Saturday—and always have several of their beers on tap. Their bold English ale, Ubu, is their signature draft.
144 Lodge Way, Lake Placid | 518.523.2700
The pub at Lake Placid Lodge was designed as hangout spot post-outdoor activities, be it skiing, ice skating, warmer weather adventures, or walking around town. It’s wood-paneled space is outfitted with cozy couches, a pool table, requisite stone fireplace (there’s a second one on the outdoor terrace, too), and all the Upstate decor trappings you’d expect here.