Saalbach is a well know resort and is lift linked to three neighbouring villages, creating a huge ski area, the second largest in Austria, with 270km of pistes to explore, along with a lively après scene. The Saalbach, Hinterglemm, Leogang, Fieberbrunn ski area is known as the “Ski Circus” and is large enough to keep even the keenest skier or boarder happy for a couple of weeks and you can ski around these villages in any direction. It is served by one of the dynamic lift systems in Europe, with gondolas and high-speed chairlifts galore, sending you speedily around the resorts.
The area has expanded since 2019, to include Zell am See and Kaprun, on the same ski pass, making it now the biggest lift linked area in Austria BUT with the caveat, that though its easy enough to get all the way over to Zell am See by lift, from the long run down from Saalbach into Viehofen and then up on the lift there from Zell am See, on the return journey you have to get a shuttle from Viehofen to the next lift into Saalbach, some 2km away. From Zell am See you also need the free shuttle to get you up to the glacier at Kaprun. Still, there is around 420km of skiable terrain on the pass, which should keep you out of mischief for a while!
The slopes suit intermediates best, though there are a couple of excellent steep black runs and a good choice of easy options for beginners too, so really an ideal resort for a mixed ability party, beginners and intermediates. The ski area surrounding Saalbach predominately consists of well-groomed blue and red cruisers, a lot of them long and perfect for meandering, yet with a high proportion of unrelenting high-end intermediate challenges too. A few of the runs on the lowest parts of the valley cut through attractively wooded areas, but the majority of the slopes are open and above the tree line and the pistes are nicely inter-spaced with plenty of powder options, following fresh snowfalls. The area is well-served with lively mountain bars and good restaurants, as is more the norm in Austria.
The ‘ski circus’ circuit can be travelled in either direction – clockwise and anti-clockwise. The clockwise route in the Ski Circus, takes in the most challenging runs, but the anticlockwise route offers the greater mileage thanks to a lovely long solitary blue run round the rear of the Schattberg Ost [East] and all the way down to the satellite valley station of Vorderglemm. From Vorderglemm the two-stage Schonleiten gondola provides uplift to the summit of the Wildenkarkogel, from where this extension of the circuit then sweeps back towards Saalbach. There is however another link from this part that links to the slopes of Leogang, offering an enjoyable additional return excursion away from the busy core ski area.
A high percentage of Saalbach’s slopes are covered by snow cannons, but many of the south-facing and lower slopes do still suffer from periods of patchiness and are prone to be slushy in the afternoons. The nearest snowpark is at Hinterglemm, on floodlit slopes next to the village.
The centres of Saalbach and Hinterglemm are around 4km apart. Saalbach itself is an attractive village with traditional buildings, an onion-domed church and a river running through it. The main street is pedestrianised and very pleasant to wander down. Apres ski tends to kick off in a few places on the slopes, such as the Hinterhagalm from early afternoon, ramping up to DJs, live music and infectious dancing from late afternoon until whenever. Definitely a party type atmosphere and really suits those who really want a very lively resort. Hinterglemm is also built in a traditional style with a traffic-free main street, but is perhaps less homely and is a little quieter on the apres ski front.