Review of Saalbach-Hinterglemm

20th May 2017 by J 

We spent 1 day at Saalbach as part of a week staying in Zell Am See, in late March 2017. I only had time to explore a loop around Saalbach, venture halfway towards Leogang and up to a point above Hinterglemm, so this review doesn’t cover most of the Hinterglemm area or any of the link over to Fieberbrunn.

For starters, I’d agree with WTSS’ upsides and downsides for Saalbach.
For the upsides, the Ski Circus has a very large ski area and the lifts are nice and fast. The sense of travel as you work your way from high point to high point is great.

For the downsides, the low altitude does mean poor snow and there isn’t much in the way of steep terrain. I would add my main complaint, that the pistes (especially any on or near the circular Ski Circus route) are extremely crowded and the users have little control and no awareness of each other, let alone the FIS code of conduct. By comparison Zell am See just up the valley was almost empty, and even the Kitzsteinhorn glacier above Kaprun was slightly less crowded (and had the redeeming feature of considerably better snow too).

One last moan, the access gondolas (or possibly just the staff) around Saalbach all seem to follow slightly different rules regarding stowing boards and skis. Some users were being allowed to carry their gear with them inside once the racks on the outsides were full and some weren’t, regardless of how full the cabins were. This was more of a problem for boarders, as each gondola’s racks could only hold 2 boards at a time, potentially less if skis were already in the smaller slots. The staff became quite aggressive about it at times, blocking people from getting in and causing the already long queues to back up further.. Some cabins were going up half empty. Crazy. Additionally, on the Bernkogelbahn in particular, the staff insist on covers similar to beanie hats being put over the top of boards before they are brought inside (possibly to prevent scratching on the windows?). Not a problem as such once you’re aware of it, but the other gondolas don’t use these covers so you may not see it coming.

As at April 2017, WTSS’ piste map is not quite up to date. Aside from one or two minor piste grade changes (the black down from Zw√∂lferkogel by the Nordbahn is now a red) the main difference is the addition of the link to Fieberbrunn. This has added a nice web of reds and blues to the top right corner of the map, accessible by a long red down from Reiterkogel or Bernkogel and a gondola back.

In terms of runs, I’d recommend trying Black 1 from Schattberg Ost back down to Saalbach, one of the few blacks. This is pleasant, has nice views and the black grading seems to deter the crowds (compared to the other reds and blues from Schattberg). Blue 2 is a very long, winding and gentle blue from almost the same starting point, which winds its way further down the valley and comes out near Vorderglemm. Unfortunately, it was let down for us by the slushy moguls and crowds. Unless you are specifically attempting the full Ski Circus loop route (which people said could comfortably be done in 5-6 hours) I’d recommend steering clear of the pistes it involves; these, along with any key home runs (like Blue 46 and the other nearby blues and reds that all empty out into Saalbach), are the most crowded. As a result the quieter (still fairly busy!) spots tend to be anywhere more than 1 lift/run away from a town, such as the collections of blues and reds served by the Polten, Schonleiten and Magic lifts. The Ski Circus loop is clearly signposted, but not marked on the piste maps.

Views over Saalbach, Hinterglemm and the surrounding valleys are beautiful from pretty much any of the accessible peaks. The town looked lively (in a pleasant jolly kind of way, rather than annoyingly rowdy) but we didn’t have time to look around.

Overall I’m glad I explored here for the day as I’d heard good things about Saalbach, but am glad I spent the rest of my week in Zell/Kaprun instead. The larger ski area and sense of travel around the Ski Circus were nice, but the dangerous crowds and poor snow meant there weren’t many opportunities to safely let go and really make the most of the area.

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