Review of Saalbach-Hinterglemm

7th March 2013 by RSimpkinuk57 

Twelve years ago the Saalbach-Hinterglemm piste map had a clown logo on the front. Now it has two. If busy slopes all seem like a bit of a circus, fair warning was given.

I did go mid-February, on possibly the peak week. Pistes, lifts, restaurants and buses all had the capacity to cope. I even had some lovely runs almost to myself. (See below.)

I stayed at, and can thoroughly recommend, the Pinzgauerhof that Inghams are running as a club hotel; I am astonished at having got in, that week, on a late booking. This is in Hinterglemm. Saalbach has both a church and a post office, but Hinterglemm has neither, which in my book (not knowing the history of the area) makes it a purpose-built resort, Austrian style.

On the piste map, when it comes to restaurants, X (the crossed knife and fork) does NOT mark the spot. A little orange blob (symbol for a building) marks the spot, the name is written more-or-less nearby, and the X goes at one or other end of the name. I recommend leaving the main piste map in your room (to plan from) and taking with you the miniature version with its stiff covers. In almost the whole area I found just three little side-loops of piste that weren’t on the map.

Skibus stops are marked on the map (both sizes) with numbers that cross-reference to the names on the routes schematic on the back – which gives frequencies but not times (does a once-every-20-mins start on the hour, or at 10 past?). Buses, not being allowed into the pedestrian areas of Saalbach nor Hinterglemm, stop outside only one of the three main gondola stations in each village (Schattberg and Zwolferkogel respectively). Piste signposting is generally OK but street signposting to the other gondolas is poor.

Actually, Saalbach has only two proper gondolas – Schattberg and Bernkogel – plus a peculiar hybrid to Kohlmaiskopf – four trains each of five cars, each smaller than a cable car, running in an endless loop - supported up by a parallel 3-seater chair that can actually carry more people per hour. If you’ve skied over from Hinterglemm via Bernkogel, it is just a couple of minutes walk across the main street before you are back on snow, but you still have as far to go again, past the local-slope 6-seater chair, to the Kohlmais lifts. 

Just two minutes (easy) into village from the Hinterglemm Ost bus stop is a t-bar (lift number 36, Bergfried – the blue beside it is short but worth a play) from the top of which one can ski down to the ski school meeting area and the local U-bahn gondola (serving what becomes the floodlit night piste; the large Schwarzacher apres-ski bar at the bottom is a recent development I believe) thence the Schattberg West gondola. None of this is any help in getting to the other gondola (Reiterkogelbahn) for the opposite slopes.

The “snapshot” stations shown on the map are places where you can have your photo taken for free, by a fixed camera, for anyone to download from resort webpages. Check out the webpages and you’ll see that I for one wouldn’t award any photography prize for camera positioning, though the pictures from Reiterkogel (top of the gondola, mid-mountain) do offer a recognisable background.

The piste numbering system has a few anomalies (mostly to do with what happens when pistes cross) that add character to the area.

Bad weather recommendation: the Magic 6-pack (Prundlkopf) northeast of Saalbach has a good variety (four-and-a-half ways down) of solidly tree-lined runs. And the music selection at the Bergeralm (Magic-66 bar) happened to include a Glen Miller track, one of the things that makes my holiday.

For powder between and off to the sides of pistes, try the open slopes of Speileckkogel beyond Hochalm at the far northwest end.

Many blue runs are scarely distinguishable in their steepest parts from neighbouring reds, but here are some I want to single out and give my opinions on:

·  The top half of 46 on Bernkogel is long and gentle, the easiest blue in the whole area I’d say. (This is the run beside the twin t-bars – not to be confused with the t-bar replaced as planned by the new \Wetterkreuz chair.)  I don’t share the general enthusiasm for the continuation, that ought to be numbered 46a but isn’t, beside the gondola to the bottom – perhaps because I first skied it first thing on a very cold, sunless Monday morning.

·  52, skier’s right into the woods from Kohlmaiskopf past the Maisalm restaurant to Saalbach, is a must-do for early intermediates (as another way onto it, 53 the WM Strecke – World Championships race course – doesn’t start earning its red grade until after the top turn-off). Both this run and the next (68), the afternoons I skied them, were seriously underused compared to the rest of the area.

·  68, at the very bottom of the map, from Seidl-Alm to Viehhofen, starts as a track but turns into a proper wide piste. When you come to the bottom, ignore the little nursery area but go left to the centre of the village for the shuttle bus to Vorderglemm (it only runs when the run is open).

·  From the top of the 8-seater chair above Hinterglemm’s Reiterkogelbahn gondola, 34 down to the Sunliner chair is a fine varied warm-up run, as is longer 28 the other way to Hochalm. (Turning from 28 onto 27a, past the t-bar, ought to be the easiest way back to the village, but 27a was the one run in the whole area where I found patchy snow cover lower down)

·  The link between Saalbach and Leogang is the Seidl-Alm loop off red 81; maybe 81 itself deserves the grade, but the loop doesn’t, so blue run skiers from Saalbach who’ve managed the little bits of steeper involved in getting this far – the start of 56 for example, and near the end of 65 – should not be put off from continuing, certainly as far as the Asitz gondola’s underground(!) middle station. By the way, the Montelino “Wellenbahn” – translated as “Wave-slope” - at Seidl-Alm was a little bumps course, like Skier/Boarder-cross but for single file traffic; expect to see ski-school classes of little kiddies on it.

·  By contrast, I must repeat the warning against “blue” 2b from Schattberg (Limbergalm) to Vorderglemm; the steeper slope and rock-hard snow after it came out from the trees literally reduced a second-week skier to tears.

At Hinterglemm, the toboggan track from the Reiterkogelbahn gondola is reserved for sledges you hire at the bottom station: 6.50Euros per sledge for the day (winter 2012/13 price), last ascent 4pm but reopens 6pm-9.30, still included on ski pass, when the run is floodlit; just in the evening session you’ve time for five or six runs. The run is deservedly popular but not over-crowded, and the sledges have brakes.

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