You probably know Saalbach Hinterglemm as a ski resort - well, if you know it at all, that is. With fewer than 3,000 inhabitants, the tiny resort is largely unknown to everyone but winter sports enthusiasts, who flock there in their tens of thousands come snow season.
As someone who's never been skiing, Saalbach very nearly didn't make it onto my travel radar. It's the kind of place that I might usually overlook, assuming it would be nothing more than an empty shell of its snow-covered self once the white stuff melts away.
It would have been an easy assumption to make, but I'm super glad I didn't. Because, even though I've never been there in winter, there's so much to do in Saalbach in summer that I'm already sold.
Whether you're a skier or not, here are 7 very good reasons to visit the Austrian Alpine resort town of Saalbach Hinterglemm in summer.
- Saalbach in summer
- Saalbach Joker Card
- Things to do in Saalbach in summer
- Saalbach: A special place
Saalbach in summer
It's a thought that had never really crossed my mind before: what happens to ski resorts during the summer?
If I'd had to hazard a guess, I probably would have assumed they shut down while their clients and residents jet off to sunnier shores. And for some ski resorts, that's probably still the case - but not in Saalbach Hinterglemm.
The summer programme is still relatively new to Saalbach, but it's a concept that's catching on quickly. With its remote location, naturally lush surroundings and close proximity to Salzburg airport, it shouldn't be a surprise. According to the locals I met, Saalbach is become a more popular summer destination every year and, as it does, the number of activities to do during summer in Saalbach grow with it.
In fact, there were so many things to do in Saalbach that I almost want to say it might just be better in summer. If your ideal kind of trip is an active one and you're a sucker for variety, it fits the bill pretty perfectly.
Saalbach Joker Card
The Saalbach Joker Card is a sign of just how popular the Alpine resort is becoming during the warmer months, and it's also your key to making the most of your time there.
The Joker Card is your ticket to a whole heap of free and discounted activities in Saalbach Hinterglemm. From free gondola rides and guided walks, to reduced rates for river rafting and active adventures, the Joker Card is your 100% free ticket to an incredible summer in Saalbach.
To make things easier - and because the list of perks is too long to include here - I've noted where you can use the Joker Card in the list of things to do in Saalbach below.
Using the Joker Card in Saalbach
All you have to do to get a (totally free) Joker Card and enjoy all the benefits is stay in any of the Joker Card partner resorts and accommodation in Saalbach Hinterglemm. Joker Cards cannot be bought, but there are plenty of options for places to stay.
Once you have your Joker Card, make sure you carry it with you at all times. You can even use it for free travel between villages on the Wanderbus.
Things to do in Saalbach in summer
So now you know that Saalbach Hinterglemm is very much alive in the summer months, let's cut to the fun part. Here are some of my favourite things to do in Saalbach, and I think you'll agree that this secluded ski resort is anything but a ghost town when the sun comes out.
Oh, and don't forget that these all take place in those crazily beautiful mountains.
1 - Feel the wind while mountain biking
There's a good chance you'll see at least a handful of bikers before you see a single car in Saalbach Hinterglemm. And with so many bike trails (400km of them in total!) it shouldn't come as a surprise.
The mountainous landscapes and changeable terrains are made for bikers, but you don't have to be a pro to enjoy them. I took a 2-hour beginner training lesson before setting off into the mountains, so rest assured you can enjoy a ride even if you've never used a bike before.
Saalbach Bike Rental
If it's your first time in Saalbach Hinterglemm, I highly recommend joining a guided tour.
And if it's your first time on a mountain bike, I DEFINITELY recommend joining a tour with a training session included. Ask for an e-bike to make those uphill sections easier on the thighs.
If you're a regular mountain biker and want to explore the 400km+ of biking trails solo, there are plenty of places to hire a bike in Hinterglemm.
The best bike hotels in Saalbach Hinterglemm
2 - Hiking in the Austrian Alps
If you prefer exploring on your own two feet and enjoying a slightly slower pace of adventure, you'll be pleased to know Saalbach Hinterglemm has just as many hiking trails as it has biking trails. It's becoming a popular spot for walking holidays in Austria, but it's still as quiet as you want it to be with the occasional friendly face passing by.
Book on to a sunrise hike for one of the most satisfying 3am starts you'll ever have or simply explore on your own. Because, as I quickly discovered, there's nothing quite like getting lost in the mountains.
Using the Joker Card: The Joker Card gives you access to up to 10 guided walks around Saalbach Hinterglemm per week - all for free. You'll also have free access to both the hiking bus and gondolas so you can venture further afield.
3 - See the mountains from above by paragliding
Whether you've been paragliding before or not, a flight over Saalbach Hinterglemm will be just as magical as it will be unique.
Not only will it give you a better perspective of the vast mountains that stretch around the region, but you'll likely be the only one in the sky. And that in itself is a pretty special experience.Using the Joker Card: Save 10% at Fly 'n Soul paragliding, which usually costs 150 Euros for a tandem flight and photos/video.
4 - Get active at the end of the valleyFeel like playing monkey? Head to the end of the valley and you'll find a trio of activities to enjoy, all located around the impressive Golden Gate Bridge.
Get the adrenaline pumping at the High Rope Park (or Hochseilpark). With over 8km of courses, 30 rope slides and 200 stations, it's the largest of its kind in Europe. Each course comes with its own challenges and surprises, but the staff will happily point you in the direction of the one they think you'll enjoy most.
And if you want to take it even higher, even longer and even faster, the Flying Fox is the longest zip wire in Europe.
Using the Joker Card: After travelling there on the bus for free, you can also use the Joker Card to take the train from the end of the bus line up to the main area for free.
5 - Golden Gate Bridge
If climbing and zipping through the trees isn't your thing - or even if it is - the Golden Gate Bridge is right next to the High Rope Park (and even looms over part of it).
This impressive bridge is probably the last thing you expect to see at the end of an increasingly quiet valley, but its red structure fits the scenery perfectly. Take in the views from the top as you head across to the 1km-long Treetop Trail, a nature-viewing walkway through the trees which is included in the entry price.Using the Joker Card: Adults save 1 Euro on the entry fee and children save 50 cents.
6 - Enjoy a lunch with a viewBut what if every meal could be made up of locally-sourced fresh produce accompanied by a fantastic view? Well, in Saalbach Hinterglemm it can.
The 40 mountain huts aren't just home to apres-ski antics; during the summer months, they turn into peaceful lunchtime retreats with impressive views. Serving up traditional Austrian food and plenty of Schnapps to wash to it down with, they're perfect rest strop for a mid-biking break or post-hike happy hour.Most huts serve up produce from the surrounding farms and manufacturers, so ask the staff for their freshest recommendations!
Using the Joker Card: Use your Joker Card to ride the Reiterkogel gondola for free up to the Sonnalm mountain hut. You'll enjoy beautiful views over both Saalbach and Hinterglemm while sampling some of the best local produce.
7 - Try your arm at archery
In the last couple of months, I've discovered two things I really love and will now do at every opportunity: paragliding and archery. But it's the latter one that surprised me.
I spent my last morning in Saalbach trying my hand at the 28-station 3D archery parcours at the Sonnhof hotel in Hinterglemm. One half of the course is in the bushes and the other in the forest. I'm finding it hard to choose which one I enjoyed the most but it's easily one of my favourite things I did in Saalbach.
The parcours has four different stages at each station, so it's suitable for beginners and pro archers alike. In fact, the Austrian Championship have been held there twice.Using the Joker Card: The 3D archery parcours at the Sonnhof is one of the bonus partners for the Joker Card, meaning you can enjoy a discount on your game. The hotel is also a lovely spot to stop for lunch (just look at the view above!) so don't run off too quickly.
Saalbach: A special place
Aside from the archery, I've done all of the above in other places previously. I went paragliding in Ölüdeniz, Turkey, hiked endlessly in the USA (the hardest of which was definitely the hike to Havasu Falls!) and I've even seen a Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco.But these four days in Saalbach Hinterglemm were still very special. And what made them special was Saalbach itself. Very little can beat the feeling of waking up to these kind of views, breathing in the mountain air and enjoying making the most of what nature has given us. And for that reason alone, I'm incredibly glad I decided to visit Saalbach in summer.
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