Saalbach Travel Guide
Saalbach and its close neighbour Hinterglemm form the heart of one of Europe's largest ski areas, with access to more than 270km of pistes. Saalbach is a charming Austrian villlage, with traditional wooden chalets and a charming car-free centre with busy cafes, bars and boutiques and some excellent hotels. Hinterglemm is a short distance up the valley, it has a more peaceful atmostphere and is better suited for families. Saalbach is 90 minutes from Salzburg airport and a three hour drive to Munich.
Saalbach has access to a massive network of prepared pistes, which are well connected by an excellent system of modern lifts. The north side of the valley offers a variety of easy skiing for beginners, and there are plenty of ski and snowboarding schools in the area, providing tuition by professional English-speaking instructors. Intermediate skiers are also well catered for with an extensive area beyond the Reiterkogel. Schattberg Ost, Schattberg West, and Zwolferkogel offer some challenging north-facing slopes, with the north face of the Zwolfer providing a notably harsh black run. Nearby Leogang offers a remote, demanding ski area, reached from Vorderglemm by the Schonleitenbahn gondola. There are some spectacular off-piste powder runs on the north side of the valley. Saalbach is also extremely popular with snowboarders, with a massive terrain park reserved for boarding at Hinterglemm, and some half-pipes at Saalbach itself and neighbouring Leogang.
Hinterglemm is the best place to shop in the valley because its stores are frequented more by locals, who are averse to paying tourist prices. Saalbach's pedestrianised High Street has several attractive boutiques and shops where holidaymakers can enjoy a spot of shopping, but prices are higher.
On the mountain, rustic alpine restaurants serve up hearty local fare to skiers, while the valley towns bristle with restaurants, cafes and bars. Local Austrain favourites include wiener schnitzel and tiroler grostl, a Tyrolean hash made with with beef and potatoes.
So hectic is the apres-ski in Saalbach that it is surprising some holidaymakers can muster the strength to hit the ski slopes in the morning! Copious amounts of excellent local beer, schnapps and warming gluhwein flow in the mountainside inns and village bars, along with some loud music and good-natured gemuchtlikheid. Dancing on the tables is expected and drinking anthems with cries of prost! echo everywhere. Most parties get going even before the ski lifts close at 4pm, in the chalets above the villages. One of the most popular mountain bars is the Goasstall on the Hinterglemm side, which features indoor and outdoor bars and live music. Another favourite is the Spielberghaus, which is reached by snowmobile along a four-mile (6km) track through the forest. Revellers are then transported home on high-speed sleds. There are a dozen options for late night fun at hotel bars, beer halls, and clubs. Discos get going at around midnight and keep the pace until the early hours.
Apart from skiing and snowboarding, Saalbach offers all the expected winter sports activities from snowmobiling and sleigh rides, to ice-skating and tobogganing. Kids can try tubing and whizz down the mountain in a huge inflatable ring. The historic Austrian city of Salzburg, birthplace of Mozart, is just an easy hour's journey away and makes for a great excursion. The valley also boasts a host of activities that are on offer all year round, such as fishing, horse riding, paragliding, and golf on a nine-hole course. Folk evenings and brass band concerts are scheduled in the summer months when more than 249 miles (400km) of walking trails open up in and around the valley.
Saalbach can be extremely crowded over the Christmas season and the boisterous evening behaviour doesn't suit everyone. The resort is relativley low and south facing, so the snow is not a reliable as in other well-known resorts.