This article was written by Amy Rout, Marketing Assistant at Crystal Ski Holidays and ex-Ski Rep in Saalbach, Austria.
Throwback to a Wednesday during winter 15/16. I didn’t make first lifts, but I’m not going to beat myself up about it. It’s lovely and sunny, there’s powder on the slopes and I’m with some of my favourite people. We’re also in one of the most amazing places in the world.
Now, I love a good mountain. Mountains are definitely in my top 5 favourite things ever. The Alps are especially awesome. But if we’re talking ski trip destinations specifically, I don’t think you can beat Saalbach and the rest of the Ski Circus area.
As a big Austria fan I’m slightly biased – I don my dirndl on every occasion, I’ve been known to accidentally order steins down at my local and I consider cows with flowers draped around their necks just the cutest. I hasten to add though that I do have a lot of love for other ski resorts across the globe, too. Having skied in Austria, Canada and China to name a few, I’m what you might call a ‘well-rounded skier’. I just happen to love Saalbach the most. Here’s why.
First off, open up your Ski Circus piste map. I know right – wowowoweewaa! You’ve got 270km of marked runs to play with and four ski areas across two regions. More than enough for a week’s adventuring and the perfect amount of piste for any intermediate skier on holiday. So where to first?
Personally, I’d go for Leogang with its lengthy blues, swooping through the trees. Blue 88 especially is an absolute gem of a run, loved by all abilities, skiers and boarders alike. Blue 92 is also a wonderful experience – running right down into the valley, it’s wide enough that you never have to fight anyone for piste space. Also, really importantly, over that side of the circus you can find the Alte Schmiede restaurant. Big enough for large groups and the food is so yummy. First day on the slopes? Head a bit foggy from the previous night? Make tracks towards Leogang.
Fieberbrunn was new to the Circus last winter, linking the regions of Salzburg and Tirol. It offers a really good variety of runs, including some challenging reds and also some x-runs for the wild ones (safety first though, please). I loved skiing over into the Tirol and being introduced to new mountain ranges – really great if you’ve skied the circus before. Also you get bonus points for saying you’ve explored two regions in one day.
Post-snowfall, Hinterglemm has plenty of off-piste potential and loads of runs to keep you entertained. It gets pretty cold on top of the Zwolferkogel mountain but there’s the 12er-treff café to nip into for a hot drink if you need it, as well as deckchairs for when the sun comes out. Hinterglemm also hosts a secret (sort of) run that I only discovered right at the end of my season which is just pure joy to ride down (red 16, shh, don’t tell anyone…).
Then, of course, there’s Saalbach itself for sunny slopes, desperately beautiful views and authentic après huts, but more on that later.
If you’re after that amazing feeling where your heart is soaring and you can’t help but smile, then the Ski Circus’ ski area doesn’t disappoint. You can plan new routes every day and you don’t have to keep repeating runs – there’s enough out there. Get to know the slopes, get to know your favourites and make them your own.
On a side note, all of the ski areas are interlinked. This mean there’s no faffing around with buses in the Ski Circus or lugging your skis or boards between lifts. I have zero upper body strength so this was a massive bonus for me. But for you all, this is your holiday – be kind to yourself.
Speaking of lifts, taking a gondola or a chairlift becomes a pleasure in the Ski Circus. Saalbach tourist board reinvest thousands every year into rejuvenating their mountain infrastructure, so expect heated seats, short queues and speedy transportation up the mountains. Find drag lifts a drag? The Ski Circus hears you and agrees; over the past few years they’ve been working on replacing t-bars etc. with more agreeable transportation. Good news for boarders and anyone sane. They also take care of their slopes – the piste-bashers work through the night to ensure the snow is in optimum condition for the next morning. The locals genuinely want you to enjoy yourselves and keep coming back.
To address the elephant in the room, the Ski Circus is a bit of a weird one when it comes to snow assurance in that it has its own micro-climate. While other resorts across the Alps might struggle for the white stuff, the Ski Circus just doesn’t – there’s always somewhere to ski, definitely making it a number one place to head to. Thank you Snow Gods for working your magic on Saalbach and thank you, geography.
Another reason that Saalbach is just the best is how ridiculously beautiful it is. We’re told that looks aren’t everything but let’s face it, you want aesthetically pleasing holiday snaps. And there’s no denying that the rest of the Ski Circus is pretty either. As you’d expect of Austria, there’s none of that purpose-built feel to any of the ski areas, and plenty of traditional alpine aura.
Those of you who are already fans of Saalbach will know that I can’t shout about the Ski Circus without mentioning its spectacular après scene. Mostly focused around the slopes of Saalbach and then into the village, this is après in its purest and most authentic state. Start at the Berger Hochalm for happy hour before heading (carefully) down to the Hinterhag for some thigh-slapping fun in your ski-boots.
Mixing drinks is dangerous and I obviously advise you not to do it. To save you the trouble (and risk), I tested some of the ‘fun’ drinks on offer. Flügel is a popular drink with the locals and the schnapps served in Saalbach is super healthy – it always comes served with fruit.
So this is après of the best kind – typical get-on-the-tables-and-break-it-down kind of après. The beer’s under five euros and there’s no pomp or posing, just pure fun. After the official après is over, there are lots of fun Scandinavian-run bars in town so you can keep dancing/ playing nails/ singing your heart out ’til the cows come home. Not literally of course – that actually happens around the end of September.
A huge part of me is genuinely against raving about Saalbach and the Ski Circus – it’s a wonderful, magical place and was my home for a while. I worry a little bit about everyone showing up and stealing the piste space. But life is short and there’s enough snow to go around. Let’s shout about the good things and share the love as and when we can. So accept my bit of ski love, listen to my words and give Saalbach a whirl.
Roll up, roll up, get your tickets ladies and gentleman, the circus is coming to town.