Austria's westernmost province is Vorarlberg, a land of mountain villages, lakes, deep valleys, and meadowlands. In autumn, one of the most beautiful spots on the continent is the plain of the Rhine Valley near Dornbirn. This region is a mini Switzerland, and there are things to do here year-round. The three biggest attractions are the ski slopes that rival Switzerland's, the gorgeous Lake Constance, and the lush forests of the Bregenzerwald. The region's two best-known tourist centers, Lech and Zürs, are very expensive, but prices in the rest of the province are quite reasonable.

Vorarlberg's mountains make for great skiing, and slopes are linked together, offering miles and miles of trails. The Bregenz Forest, on the northern part of the Vorarlberg alpine range, has every bit as much charm and character as the Black Forest.

Two annual special events take place in Vorarlberg during the summer: the Music Festival at Hohenems, in the second half of June, which focuses on the works of Franz Schubert; and the Bregenz operas, presented on a large stage floating in Lake Constance.

From Tyrol, you head west to reach Vorarlberg: The best gateways to the province are Zürs or Lech, which are both on Route 198, north of the Arlberg Tunnel. Parking in the Vorarlberg region is rarely a problem, and, unless otherwise noted, you park for free.

West Side of the Arlberg -- After the east side of Arlberg (Innsbruck and Tyrol), it's time for us to tell you the "west side story" of this massif that separates Vorarlberg from Tyrol. This part of Austria is one of the major winter-sports meccas in Europe. The leading resorts on the Arlberg massif, the highest mountain range in the Lechtal Alps, include Lech and Zürs. With an Arlberg ski pass, you can use the 85 ski tows, chairlifts, and cable cars located in the entire Arlberg region. The Arlberg ski pass costs 46€ ($73) for adults, 27€ ($43) for children under 16, and 42€ ($67) for seniors.

Up through the Flexen Pass, you come to Zürs, a chic, elegant, refined resort with skiing at Trittkopf and Mahdloch. Lech is larger, with easier skiing on the Kriegerhorn and Mohnenfluh.