East of Zurich and west of Innsbruck near Klosterle, the Sonnenkopf ski area is considered the forgotten step-child of the Arlberg Ski arena. This area is popular with day-tripping families from the greater Zurich region, and it has about 20 pistes served by eight lifts accessing a maximum vertical descent of 1,200m. Located well west of the village of Klosterle, it doesn’t really have much of a base area. Most of the action is up at the Gondola top station.
Sonnenkopf is part of the larger Ski Arlberg region that interconnects by lifts/buses several resort areas including Stuben, St. Anton, Lech, Zurs, Warth and Schrocken forming the fifth largest ski region in the world. Overall, there are 340km of groomed pistes spread across 12,000 acres that served by 85 lifts with a maximum vertical descent of 1,700m. Sonnenkopf is not directly accessible to the greater Ski Arlberg lift system and requires a ski bus from Stuben.
At the Gondola top station, there are several t-bar lifts and a tow-rope lift that you need to use to get anywhere, which makes it an ackward way to start (it seems like the gondola should have gone up another 100m). The pistes to the west are very crowded and not particularly steep. The best bet is to immediately work your way to the steeper, less-crowded eastern pistes. There are plenty of side-country off-piste lines to explore, but they definitely require about 2m of snow base to open up. With only two long and winding forested pistes heading back down to the gondola base station, it is unlikely that you’ll do many top to bottom runs, and probably only at the end of the day. Therefore, the effective vertical descent is more like 600m. Keep in mind that much of the gladed zones below the gondola top station are within protected forest so know where you are going to stay out of trouble with the local polizei.
There are several fun ski routes to explore if the snow it right. The best is Ski Route #14 off the Glattingrat lift top station, and also the Route #13 off the Reidkopf lift top station. A little more off the beaten path is Route #15, which is accessed from midway down the scenic, rolling blue #5.
Most international travelers fly into Zurich, which is only 2.5 hours away by the direct ski bus service from Arlberg Express (0043-05582-226).
Note: a seven-night stay (Saturday arrival) is typically required at most hotels, but luckily the six-day Arlberg region lift pass is not expensive. Typically, February and early March are peak season with tons of Europeans on vacation. There is a free ski bus interconnecting the gondola base and the village of Klosterle with the village of Stuben am Arlberg, which is on the main Arlberg Ski arena lift system. The nearest train station is east of Klosterle in Langen am Arlberg and is on the bus route, too.
Overall, Sonnenkopf is the 49th most popular snowboard & freeride destination of all 52 snowboarding resorts in Austria.