Looking for a large and varied downhill bike park and enduro mountain biking area? Then check out this Saalbach mountain biking review. Together, Saalbach, Hinterglemm, Leogang and Fieberbrunn are Austria’s biggest bike park. But does this provide the best Austria MTB holiday?
Saalbach is near Salzburg in the SalzburgerLand region of Austria. During winter it hosts the infamous Ski Circus, one of Austria’s largest and best ski areas. In the summer the modern lift system is used by mountain bikers to access 90km of bike park trails and 400km of enduro/touring routes.
The easiest way to get to Saalbach is to fly to Salzburg from which trains, buses and transfers are available taking around 90 minutes. It can also be reached in just over two hours from Innsbruck or Munich airport.
To check out the mountain biking in Saalbach I spent four days riding there in October 2021. It was at the end of the summer season, and the first snow had fallen, so some lifts and trails were closed. But more than enough of the area was open to get a really good feel for it.
To asses if Saalbach offers the best Austria MTB holiday I was riding with Matt Ray a.k.a. Adventure Fella. Matt kindly took the photos of me – I am in the yellow and green jacket. We were guided for three days by Anselm from Bike ‘n Soul who also gave us plenty of pointers to improve our riding.
We stayed at the lovely four star Saalbacher Hof hotel in the middle of the town. There is more information about the accommodation below, but the delicious food, excellent spa and lovely rooms helped make the visit to Austria’s biggest bike park even better.
The first day of this Saalbach mountain biking review began in trepidation. It had rained, and snowed at altitude, all night long and it was still raining fairly hard. We took a taxi to the bike shop in Hinterglemm as the store in Saalbach had already closed for the season.
There we were kitted out with full armour and full face helmets. Luckily my waterproofs fitted over the top. We were provided with a 2021 Orbea Rallon M20 29″, these are freeride/enduro mountain bikes. It’s a £4,000/€4,500 bike with 170mm front and 160mm rear travel and a lightweight carbon frame.
Our guide Anselm said we should start with the blue flow trail in Saalbach. So we cycled the 4km back, via our hotel to drop off unrequired gear, to take the Kohlmaisbahn gondola. Bikes loaded, and compulsory FFP2 face masks on, we set off up the mountain.
I had not been downhill mountain biking for nearly three years so I was pleased to be starting on something easy. The Panorama trail is 4.1km long dropping 400 metres to the middle station. Below that is joins the Monti trail which is a further 3.2km dropping 380 metres.
The top of the run was still in the snow, and although the trail was clear it was very wet and quite muddy. On a different bike, on different trails and doing a different style of riding it is safe to say even this easy flow trail felt challenging.
I got down the first section without falling but I certainly wasn’t setting any records. A few pointers from Anselm to improve riding berms and I progressively improved on the first trail. By the second run I was much quicker and even got a little air on the jump line. Downhill biking was coming back to me!
We rode the Panomara and Monti trail more than any other during this Saalbach mountain biking review. On the last day we hit it four times and by then I was flying, completing it in 12 minutes rather than nearly 30 on the first day. But top riders do it in less than 7 minutes!
It is an awesome flowing trail, you can carry plenty of speed into the berms and it is rarely steep. There are also plenty of straight(ish) undulating sections. The trail is not very technical with no roots, very few rocks and no drop offs. There are a few jumps but these are flat tops so can easily be rolled.
After a lovely lunch at the Spielberghaus – no ET doesn’t live there – we headed over to Hinterglemm. This required riding 4km back up the valley to the Westgipfelbahn gondola.
Usually you could avoid the ride by take the Schattberg X-Press Gondola from Saalbach. From the top you can ride the Hacklberg or Bergstadl trails into Hinterglemm. Unfortunately, the gondola was closed as was the X-Line – Saalbach’s only black trail – that runs from the top of Schattberg X-Press back into town.
Due to snow at altitude the Westgipfelbahn gondola was only open to the middle station. So we rode the blue Buchegg trail into Hinterglemm. This is 3.3km long and drops 417 metres over a nicely flowing run. It is a little more difficult than Panorama and Monti with some rocky sections and it feels a little steeper and more exposed.
The rain had mostly let off by now, but the trails were still wet. So we took the Kogel Bahn gondola to the top of the red Z-Line.
Dropping 450 meters over 3.4km this is steeper and more technical with rooty sections, more rocks and some small drop offs. There are some bigger features such as a gap jump and a big northshore wall ride, but you can avoid them if you wish.
Finally we crossed Hinterglemm to take the Reiterkogelbahn gondola up the other side of the valley. From the top there are a blue and a red trail. As it was the end of the day we took the Blue Line which drops 430 metres over 2.7km.
The Blue Line was steeper then the blues from the morning. Plus there are tighter corners, larger berms and bigger smiles at the end!
All that remained was to cycle back to the hotel. By now I was very tired, fortunately I had made a sandwich at breakfast time so I scoffed that to give me the energy to ride back. In total we had covered 61 km and ridden nearly 4,000m of downhill. Not bad for the first day in Austria’s biggest bike park.
On the morning of day two the rain had stopped, it was still overcast and a bit misty but things were looking up. Anselm met us at our hotel and we took the Kohlmaisbahn gondola to the top of the Panorama trail.
After following the top of Panorama for a few minutes we then took the red Wurzel trail. This is a linking route that enables you to MTB from Saalbach to Leogang. It is a technical multi directional trail with many wet roots and rocks to negotiate. Checking the Leogang link was key to assessing if Saalbach offers the best Austria MTB holiday.
The Wurzel is only 3.4km long but it goes up and down quite a few times. I am in good shape, regularly riding more than 500m of climbing at home but here the altitude really got to me.
But I found this trail much tougher than I expected, the main issue being I could not get enough air into my lungs. Living at sea level and the trail being at around 1,700m altitude is probably to blame for my lack of performance.
To be fair when not riding uphill the trail was a lot of fun. The wet roots and rocks made it particularly tricky, but riding through snow and in atmospheric misty woods was a great experience. It is a natural trail, at points single track and at others wider.
I had a couple of funny slow speed crashes. Pretty sure it would be great fun in the dry in either direction, particularly for someone used to riding at altitude. There were a couple of really fun downhill sections with great views.
After a slightly more difficult start to the day than I expected, seriously it wasn’t that bad, we arrived at the top of the Steinbergbahn Gondola in Leogang. Here we took the 8.2km Steinberg Line which drops 918m through the woods.
It is a truly wonderful blue trail with great flow and although more difficult than Panorama there is nothing too technical. There are a few jumps along the way that can easily be rolled and if you want to practice your berms this is the trail for you. There was an endless succession of the banked corners often interspersed with flat sections with undulations and little jumps.
At the bottom the trail links up with Hangman II about a third of the way into it’s 4.2km and 492m descent. There was a nice break from the endless berms, although still a few of them, as we followed the trail all the way to the bottom just outside Leogang.
As my first experience of Epic Bike Park in Leogang during this Saalbach mountain biking review I have to say I was very impressed. The blue trail was more challenging than the blues in Saalbach-Hinterglemm but still fun and flowing. Any rustiness of day one was well and truly gone.
After taking the Steinbergbahn gondola all the way back to the top we took the Hangman I. Anselm had warned us that this red was far more technical than the reds in Saalbach, and would be classed as a black elsewhere. He was not kidding.
Dropping 358m over 2.1km it is steeper and really technical. At the top there were multiple drop offs of around half a meter. To make it worse they were among roots and rocks. I came across someone walking down near the top, I was tempted to join them.
But you can’t review the best Austria MTB holiday without riding the gnarliest lines, so I persevered. I had to get off the bike a couple of times, once I lost the line and had to stop, it was then impossible to start again. The other time I caught up with another rider who was walking a section and had no option but to do the same.
To be honest I was happily surprised not to crash at any point. I think a lot of credit has to go to the bike but also the amazing trail builders. They have created a trail that at points is – and I quote – “shit your pants scary” but which is still very rideable. But it was a big step up in difficulty.
From the middle station we swapped onto the Speedster/Flying Gangster – a black/red trail – for the top section before moving onto the natural single track Schwarleo Trail. This red route through the woods has multiple switchbacks and more natural obstacles with hand built features.
It was tight through the trees and compared to the other trails fairly slow. Often you’d be riding off a drop just before a tight turn. The drop offs were not as large as those in Hangman I but in some ways they felt more technical as you could not take much pace into them.
I thoroughly enjoyed it as it reminded me of a lot of the riding I have done in the UK. It was less about speed and more about technique. That said it does drop 155m over 1.8km so it was still downhill riding. At the bottom we picked up a road that led back Leogang.
After taking the Asitzbagbahn Gondola to the top we stopped for a well earned lunch in Alte Schmiede. Much to my delight they had goulash soup on the menu. This is my favourite Austrian dish and no visit is ever complete without consuming it at least once.
After lunch we took the black line Hot Shots Fired by Gopro. I had somehow missed the briefing that we were doing a black and the sudden steep drop in at the start almost undid me. But this trail was nowhere near as technical as Hangman I.
However, it was very fast and incredibly flowing with lots of huge jumps. There are some technical rooty and rocky sections, with a few drop offs but on the whole it is a one long jumpline. Fortunately, for riders like me, you do not have to go large. There are barely any gap jumps and everything can be rolled.
Having had some jump training early in the day I was getting small air off many of the hits. But I am a wuss when it comes to airtime on a bike. A confident jump biker would love this line as there is huge airtime to be enjoyed. Whether you go big or not it is still a fun and exceptionally flowing trail.
Time was starting to run out so we only went as far as the Asitzbagbahn midstation. A short up hill ride from the top bought us back to the Wurzel trail. The downhill start was a lot of fun before a long slog up a steep (at points) technical trail. I had to push up a lot of it which is very rare for me.
There was not enough time to ride the entire Wurzel trail back. So instead we took a fire road down towards Saalbach. Another long, but not steep or technical, uphill followed. By now I was running out of energy and should have stopped for a snack.
Instead when it linked up with the Monti Trail I was just happy to be riding downhill again. We arrived in Saalbach just after the lifts had closed and still needed to ride back to Hinterglemm to swap onto electric mountain bikes for the next day.
Again I should have stopped for a snack as I was running on empty. But I pushed on the last 4km up the valley to the Bike n Soul centre in Hinterglemm. Once we arrived I had my emergency ham and cheese roll and quickly went from broken to capable again! Amazing what difference food makes…
For the next day we would be doing more uphill riding so we swapped our freeride bikes for Rotwild R.E750 PRO electric mountain bikes. This is a carbon fibre bike with 170mm of front travel and 160 on the rear costing around £9,000/€9,500. The ride back to our hotel was a breeze!
Day three dawned bright and sunny a great day for exploring the biggest and best Austria MTB area. Anselm again met us at our hotel and we set off on our electric mountain bikes.
For the third day of this Saalbach mountain biking review we planned to explore some areas you could not reach by the gondolas. We started by taking the Kohkbahn gondola and riding the top half of the Panorama trail. From there we rode to the Spielberghaus.
After enjoying the short but excellent red Hollen Trail, which is quite a technical bit of natural single track, we took the fire road uphill towards Reiterkogel. It took quite a while but it was so easy with the motor. There are four levels of assistance and I didn’t need to go higher than the second level.
After passing a little lake we took the Wetterkreuz Trail which is natural single track with a few uphills, but is mainly downhill. It is classed as a blue and is fairly easy with a few rocks and roots as the main challenge.
This linked up with a fire road off which we took an unmarked bit of single track through the trees. I found this more technical with some drop offs and lots of roots. But as the conditions were mostly dry they were far easier to ride than those from the day before.
The trail took us to the top of the Reiterkogelbahn gondola from Hinterglemm so we rode the Blue-Line into town. This trail had felt challenging on the first day. But having ridden far more difficult in Leogang on day two of this Saalbach mountain biking review it was much easier and I was a lot faster.
Having stopped to take a lot of photos it was lunch time already. So we popped into Hotel Salzburg. It is a fairly flash venue with a good range of dishes to choose from. I had a very tasty burger.
After lunch we cycled across town and took the Westgipfelbahn up as far as the middle station. The upper gondola was closed, so to ride the Hacklberg trail from the top we needed to reach it under our own steam. Which the e-bike made much easier!
The first section of the ride was on a fire road and was very easy on an e-bike. But after we passed the Hacklbergeralm the trail became steeper and more technical. I spent most of the time in sport mode which is the third level, and even used the top ‘boost’ level a few times.
The trail quickly became more natural and before long we were riding single track through the snow on stunning mountain tops. In most places the path was snow-free but when you hit a section that wasn’t it added another challenge.
It wasn’t just uphill riding, there were a few downhill sections and a lot of relatively flat trails. On an e-bike these are a lot of fun as you can quickly accelerate to a good speed which makes any riding more enjoyable.
Having stopped for many beautiful photo opportunities along the way it was fairly late in the afternoon by the time we reached the top. From here we could ride the full length of the Hacklberg Trail having the top half all to ourselves as the lift was closed.
The section above the middle station is an epic red trail that drops 600m over 5.4km. At top you are riding in open moorland. It is technical but really fast and flowing and feels very natural. That said there are a few nice jumps to hit if you are that way inclined!
The section of the red Hacklberg trail just above midstation runs through the trees. It is a bit slower and more technical but you can still carry plenty of speed. There are many northshore sections, some built on the side of cliffs making it a truly spectacular trail.
After the middle station the trail joins the Buchegg trail that we rode on the first day. After a day on the e-bike I was really enjoying it on the downhill sections, in some ways the extra weight (compared to the freeride bike) felt reassuring.
But we popped back into the Bike ‘n Soul store to swap back onto the freeirde/enduro bikes from the first two days. The day ended with a ride back to our hotel in Saalbach.
For our final day we were riding without Anselm who had been a great guide. By now we had ridden nearly all the trails so were perfectly capable of exploring the biggest and best Austria MTB region on our own.
We spent the morning riding the Panorama and Monti Trails. By now knew the lines so confidence was high and I was flying down them. I even got plenty of air – almost clearing the table tops in the jump line.
We rode them four times with minimal stopping between sections. On the final fun I completed it in twelve minutes, which I was pretty pleased with especially as I was slowed down by riders in front of me. Having taken almost 30 minutes on the first day – not including stops – it shows how much you can improve in a short time.
Next up during this Saalbach mountain biking review we took the path back to Hinterglemm and stopped for lunch in the Thomsn Pizza bar. They serve lovely woodfired stone baked pizzas.
After lunch we did the Z-Line a couple of times followed by the bottom half of the Buchegg trail. Then we headed over to the other side of Hinterglemm and mistakenly took the Pro-Line.
It starts with quite a drop and after Matt rode off it I bottled it. I realised I had not ridden this trail before and checking the map realised it was a black. A teenager stopped to talk to me and said that even beginners can ride it as all the big features can be rolled or avoided.
So I followed Matt down the line and had an absolute blast. It was very technical offering plenty of challenge. There were some huge gap jumps, which I avoided, and some crazy northshore through the woods which I also stayed away from.
It drops 430m over 2.3km and while the top is technical the lower section is more fast and flowing. There are some huge berms and lots of fun to be had! I didn’t think it was as tough as the top of the Hangman trail in Leogang, although perhaps that was because I had improved.
To complete the day we had fun riding the Blue-Line a couple of times. Both of us were tired by now so we thought it best not to push our luck on the Pro-Line as that is when accidents happen. But riding a trail we knew well and was within our ability was a fantastic end to exploring the best Austria MTB region.
This Saalbach mountain biking review would not be complete without talking about the wonderful four star Saalbacher Hof hotel. It is located right in the centre of the town within easy reach of the gondolas and all the other amenities Saalbach has to offer.
My room was very comfortable, well decorated and fairly large. The Austrian twin bed was a dream to sleep on. And the bathroom with large walk in shower was excellent.
We were half board with breakfast and dinner included. Riding more than 60km a day in the biggest and best Austria MTB area, we worked up quite an appetite. Breakfast was a buffet with hot options, continental dishes, porridge and cereals. Plus you could order freshly cooked eggs – the omelettes are great.
Dinner was five very tasty courses and plenty of bread. Each night started with salad – there would usually be a salad bar but guest numbers were too low for that. This was followed by a couple of soup options, two starters choices, a selection of three main courses – meat, fish and vegetarian – and at least two desserts to choose from. Everything was delicious and served by super friendly staff.
A review of Saalbacher Hof hotel would not be complete without talking about their spa. They have a lovely pool, hot tub, three saunas, steam room and a cold plunge pool. You can also book massage and beauty services if required. It is a great place to relax after a day in the saddle.
Together, Saalbach, Hinterglemm, Leogang and Fieberbrunn are Austria’s biggest bike park. But do these resorts provide the best Austria MTB holiday?
There are a huge variety of trails for all level of rider. Everything from natural single track to technical trails and fast flowing downhill to epic jump lines. And when you factor in the 400km of touring routes and enduro tracks it’s an enormous bike area.
We didn’t make it over to Fieberbrunn where there is another gondola with a blue and a red run. Plus we didn’t ride everything in Leogang. Finally, the black X-Line and the top half of Bergstadl black trails in Saalbach were both closed. So we had a phenomenal time riding without exploring it all.
The guiding from Anselm from Bike ‘n Soul deserves a note. He judged our levels quickly and knew where he could take us. Anselm also offered tips and advice in a slow drip feed way to steadily improve our mountain biking in Saalbach.
The excellent bikes from Bike ‘n Soul deserve a mention. It was the end of the season and due to global distribution problems they’d struggled to get spare parts. But the bikes pretty much ran perfectly and they were happy to give them a service after each days riding.
To conclude this Saalbach mountain biking review, does it offer the best Austria MTB? Well, in Austria I have only ridden in Ischgl and Brandnertal. But Saalbach is bigger and more varied than both of them. Don’t get me wrong they are both good but in comparison Saalbach is the best Austria MTB area.
I hope you found this Saalbach mountain biking review helpful. If you want to visit the biggest bike park for the best Austria MTB holiday then visit: www.saalbach.com. To find out more about visiting Austria check out the Austrian National Tourist Office: www.austria.info