Pros: Big layout, nice and lively resort village, great Austrian atmosphere.
Cons: Lower elevation terrain topping out at about 7000' with slightly less reliable natural snow than higher Alpine resorts.
I skied Saalbach-Hinterglemm-Leogang for one day in February 2003. My experience is from ten years ago and therefore dated, but I'm entering this review because it had none and is a major Austrian ski area not far from Kitzbuhel. I really enjoyed my lone day there, but do not have intimate knowledge of the resort so take this superficial impression with a grain of SALT, especially since Saalbach is located in SalzburgerLand:-)
I was transported to Saalbach-Hinterglemm-Leogang via the Snow Shuttle bus from the beautiful city of Salzburg (drive time 70 minutes). We were dropped off at the lift facilities at Leogang, a significant ski area in its own right, but also with trails connecting to the enormous ski layout of neighboring Saalbach-Hinterglemm valley. The combined terrain of the three areas constitutes a lift linked network of approximately 60 lifts (including seven major gondolas), 40 mountain Huttes/restaurants, and hundreds of miles of ski runs.
At Leogang we boarded the two-phase Asitzbahn gondola (3024ft/922m vertical). At the top of this lift my ski companion decided to try a paragliding ride. This was done tandem style with a licensed, professional pilot. They were harnessed to the paraglider and then skied off a cliff to get airborne. A few minutes after he and his pilot floated off towards the valley floor I skied quickly down under the gondola the same 3000ft vertical descent for a rendezvous. When I got to the bottom my buddy was already standing at the base of the slopes exchanging high fives with his pilot.
With that impromptu aerial adventure over, we headed back up the mountain to explore the rest of the ski area. As we made our way out of the Leogang area the Saalbach-Hinterglemm valley came into view. The terrain stretched out for a half dozen miles along each side of the valley with about ten different peaks facing every sort of exposure. This was truly skiing-as-exploring. Though I'm told an aggressive skier/boarder can ski the whole circus in one long day using about 35 lifts, we didn't come close.
I shared a t-bar with a German gentleman while cruising towards the head of the valley in a sunny section below Kohlmaishof Peak (5884ft/1794m). We quickly found that we had a few US ski areas in common, including Vail, CO. I asked him which he thought was bigger, Vail or Saalbach-Hinterglemm? He thought for a moment and said Vail, but believe me the comparison is not too far off.
After a delightful alfresco lunch accompanied by a live pianist playing kitschy favorites for a deck full of diners, we skied a run underneath the signature red Kohlmaisgipfelbahn gondola (2500ft/765m vertical) toward the village of Saalbach. As we descended the soft, south facing slopes of this side of the valley I noticed more snowboarders than at any other resort we had visited during one week exploring the region. Both Leogang and Saalbach-Hinterglemm catered strongly to boarders and between them had four half pipes/terrain parks. Earlier I had heard that Saalbach was known for a young and lively après ski crowd, perhaps also corroborating its snowboarder friendliness. I strongly desired to ski from at least one summit on the north facing side of the valley, so at the base of the Kohlmaiskopf area we took a short hoof through the town of Saalbach. Not to make too much of the Vail comparison, but I thought the look of the two towns bore some resemblance as well.
We embarked on the brand new (in 2003) eight passenger Schattbergbahn gondola (3335ft/1017m vertical) out of Saalbach for the ride to the summit of Schattberg Ost (6626ft/2020m). From there we took the Jausernabfahrt trail, a 4.5mile/7km intermediate cruiser reminiscent of a little tougher version of Great Eastern at Killington, VT. Long alpine runs like this caused us to take occasional trail side breathers, not so much because of steepness, but because of their sheer length. Reaching the bottom of the Saalbach-Hinterglemm valley, we utilized the Schonleitenbahn gondola (1800ft/550m vertical), and a series of express chairs to head back to our starting point in Leogang.
As we returned through the treeless upper reaches of the Leogang terrain I noticed some buildings that were much larger than the typical restaurant Huttes that dot the Alps. They were on-slope hotels and private chalets. Even after a week of heavy-duty skiing, the idea of staying mid-mountain for more runs in a huge Austrian ski circus was very appealing. The spirit might have been willing, but the flesh was weak, or at least in need of hydration. When we came to the last big 3000ft/900m descent to Leogang we stopped for a drink near the Asitzbahn gondola upper terminal, savored our final moments atop the Alps, and then rode the gondola down free from the press of homeward bound ski hoards.