Saalbach and Hinterglemm are almost joined at the hip, and with Leogang and Fieberbrunn they form the Skicircus, a huge low-lying ski area in the Austrian Alps. But skiing is only part of Saalbach's appeal: it's an attractive village with lively apres-ski that continues long into the night.
The neighbouring Salzburgerland villages of Saalbach and Hinterglemm are only two miles (3km) apart, but the ski area they form with Leogang and Fieberbrunn is one of Austria’s largest lift-linked areas. Called the Skicircus it has 270 km of ski slopes, split evenly between blue runs (140 km) and slightly tougher red (112 km) and black slopes (18 km), connected by 70 lifts. In good snow conditions that’s more than enough for most skiers who come here for a week, and perfectly suited to those who like cruising on wide runs. For those who like tougher challenges, there are freeride trails through the trees, speed skiing tests and the opportunity to ski on floodlit runs late at night, but very few steep pistes. For beginners there are nursery slopes at Saalbach and Hinterglemm, and a good choice of ski schools.
The caveat about snow conditions is worth noting, though. The Skicircus is almost all below 2,000m. When nature falls short, snow guns and vigorous piste grooming keep the main runs skiable if temperatures are cold enough for artificial snow-making. But in a warm spring, the best you can hope for are slushy ribbons of white snaking down green and brown hills.
But skiing is only part of the reason to come here. With or without snow, Saalbach-Hinterglemm has one of Austria’s liveliest party circuits, complete with tea-dancing in ski boots, mountain bars and restaurants that serve drinks all day and clubs in the resort that stay open all night. And even when it snows, skiing has to take its place alongside toboggan runs, snow tubing and freestyle parks.
And whilst Austria has other all-round mountain resorts with lively nightlife, Saalbach is one of the more appealing. The village is largely traffic-free, the church is typically onion-shaped, the mountainous backdrop can be stunningly picturesque and the accommodation is mostly in low-rise traditional buildings that are pleasing on the eye. If you have to wake up with a hangover on a cold winter’s morning, this is a nice place to do it in.
Saalbach Pros & Cons
+ The Skicircus is a big lift-linked ski area
+ Non-stop party atmosphere
+ Plenty of mountain bars and restaurants
+ A nice, traffic-free village
– Too low to be snowsure
– Few testing runs for good skiers
– Over-rowdy nightlife can be annoying