Saalbach Hinterglemm has a multifaceted history and has experienced both good and bad times. Here is a short overview of the local history. Tourism has been our main focus in the last 120 years since the first skiing activities were carried out.
Ski village Saalbach - around 1960
The oldest evidence of settlement in the area is a message about the alpine pasture area building Schwaige Krumpfeichten (today: Eibingbauer), in 1222. Shortly after, other alpine pasture areas (“Schwaige”) were established and between 1350 and 1500, there were already 82 houses and fiefdoms.
The name „Salpach“ was used for the first time around 1350 and derives from the name of the river that flows through the village that enters the Sale (Saalach) and was initially called Salpach (today Spielbergbach). We still have a document dating back from the year 1350 that contains the following message: "Johann Habichler from Hof Salpach (curia de Salpach) has to pay 300 pieces of cheese and 60 dnr. as taxes." Meierhof, today known as Gasthof Post, is the central place around which Saalbach village developed and which was also considered the economic centre of the whole community. The village of Saalbach has always been the religious centre of the community. Thanks to the Stiftsbrief letter from 1410, a second Sunday Mass was established so that a church has been accepted since 1410.
It is something quite rare in the history of a community that a piece of sports equipment - "sky" - is instrumental in a poor farming village turning into an international tourist resort. This is what happened in 1898 in Saalbach Hinterglemm. Back then, the community was one of the poorest regions in the country. The remarkable economic boom of Salzburg province passed by the Glemmtal valley, the fate of a forgotten side valley. The Glemmtal natives were able to overcome the past harsh centuries thanks to their untiring diligence, hard work and by having a modest lifestyle while remaining optimistic. Their motto was "Our work means cooperation".
In that year Josef Wallner from Saalbach, a former farmhand in Vorderglemm who had moved to Mürzzuschlag some many years before and had become a hunting ground supervisor, brought the first "sky" to Saalbach. He wanted to settle once again in his home area. But because of his large family, the community was not able to accept him. Wallner went back to Mürzzuschlag, but left his skis with his brother-in-law. It was a stroke of luck that the skis landed in the hands of the senior teacher at the time, Peter Höll, who immediately understood the importance of this piece of sports equipment. He knew the book "On snowshoes through Greenland", written by the Norwegian Fritjof Nansen, and knew for sure that people were already skiing in the province of Styria (Mürzzuschlag). He has other skis reproduced and allowed courageous elementary school children to test them. And that was the beginning of skiing in Saalbach.. The children were excited. The older generation didn't take notice of these peculiar activities at "Neuhausroa".
The teacher Ludwig Ramsauer comes to Saalbach and enthusiastically supports the senior teacher’s idea of teaching children skiing; he proves to be a sports-loving teacher.
Saalbach Hinterglemm owes thanks to these two teachers who are considered one of the first skiing pioneers. Teacher Ramsauer’s sister, Klara, was probably the first female skier in Glemmtal.
Others discover Saalbach Hinterglemm as a skiing area. 3 lawyers traversed Spielberg from Kitzbühel and were very excited to discover this skiing area. One of these young lawyers, Dr. Theodor Gemeiner, actually settled in Saalbach, and intensively advertised the area.
A military unit comes with their skis and stays at the Neuhaus Inn. The owner of this inn was actually the only owner at that time who really understood the importance of her guests, given the fact that these guests enjoyed skiing. The landlady was enthusiastic about the kindness of her first guests that winter and the soldiers appreciated the warm hospitality. But the conditions for creating a tourist location in the community were still missing. The people from Hinterglemm were battling other problems; they were still fighting for survival.
The community committee rejected listing the village of Saalbach in the "Illustrierte Reisealbum München" (Illustrated travel album Munich), which was asked for by the teachers, explaining that "because of the widespread poverty among the population, there is no interest for the immigration of strangers".
Ludwig Ramsauer was relocated to Bramberg, and his place is taken by another teacher, Herman Hueter, who was an enthusiastic skier from Tyrol. From the very beginning, he supported the propagation of skiing. The pupils were happy; but Herman Hueter first had to convince the parents, because they were the ones who had to buy the skis! Step by step, he succeeded. Both teachers, Höll and Hueter, also persuaded a few homeowners to furnish a small room for guests.
The teacher Hueter also received 6 pairs of skis for children who had no financial resources from the skimanufacturer Bilgeri-Schiwerkstatt of the 14. Corps in Salzburg. Saalbach Hinterglemm became more and more important as a winter sports location and this fact aroused the interest of the local population for skiing. The teachers emphasised repeatedly that in their opinion "skiing has many practical advantages, especially the fact that it is cheap; but another important advantage is that a visit to the pub or playing cards on Sunday are activities that would be substantially reduced". In Saalbach Hinterglemm, pupils started practicing skiing during sports lessons at school; the problem was that only a few children had skis. The teachers undertook everything to solve this unfortunate situation and they succeeded.
On the 11th of March 1913, an important event took place in Saalbach. The first skiing competition for pupils was held and 17 children took part. Start: Lärchenwald above Wallehen - destination: Wallehen. This competition was a source of excitement for young people, parents and other viewers. Another important success: Skiing was officially introduced into the sports lesson at schools.
Senior teacher Ludwig Ramsauer, who had come back to Saalbach in 1912, established "Wintersportverein (winter sports association) Saalbach" (WSV) together with teacher Hermann Hueter; the association has 44 members. The following members were elected into the committee: Painter Otto Homolatsch, Chairman, vicar Johann Gumpold, Deputy Chairman, teacher Hermann Hueter, Paymaster and first warden, senior teacher Ludwig Ramsauer, Secretary, Dr. Rudolf Rauch, 2nd warden.
This is how all the notable personalities from Saalbach became members of the WSV.
The Winter Sports Association started work right away. Its activities became crucial for Saalbach Hinterglemm's development into a tourist resort. One of the most important people in the development phase was the carpenter Josef Bauer. He is one of the pioneers of skiing, and the young people of the time had plenty of reasons to be thankful to him.
1918 - 1938
Tourism takes root. After the First World War (1914-1918), the food situation in Saalbach Hinterglemm was catastrophic; the place was ravaged by starvation. No one was able to think of tourism at that point; the chiefs of the community actually banned visitors during summer months. The inn keeper at Neuhaus had to send her guests back home, as strangers were not allowed.
Despite misery and deprivation, senior teacher Hermann Hueter and the senior forestry official Fritz Hochleitner re-established the WSV Saalbach. The first chairman was the senior forestry official, Fritz Hochleitner, an enthusiastic person who was popular both among young and old.
The prohibition of visitors was lifted, an important success for WSV. Senior teacher Hueter writes the first promotional letters that were sent to important personalities, schools and offices that he knew. The pupils wrote the addresses. They had no brochures. All tourism initiatives came from the WSV officials.
It was difficult to convince the heads of the community to support these activities and representatives from the WSV won them over step by step. The constant expenses of the community - especially in the social field - couldn't be compared to the very modest income. There was no money for tourism. Of course, this also delayed the development of the tourism industry, but it couldn’t stop it.
After persistent demands coming from the WSV, the municipality joined the state association for tourism. Crucial for this decision is the fact that WSV was able to prove that they had already spent 1 million krones for advertising purposes. It was an amazing initiative by the WSV. The discrepancy between the WSV's demands and the very limited possibilities of the municipality was almost impossible to overcome. The heads of the community were first and foremost responsible for the well-being of the inhabitants. In those years there, was no municipal budget that didn’t show an enormous deficit - and many basic conditions for tourism couldn’t be met. The road to Hinterglemm was closed to vehicle traffic. The maintenance of the main roads in Saalbach was financially supported by the residents. But the WSV officials were not discouraged by this situation. They were determined to remain optimistic. The risky but bold steps taken by many local farmers, especially female farmers, as well as of other homeowners was considerable. People furnished rooms in their homes in order to be able to receive guests. The importance of tourism was gradually recognised.
In the winter of 1924/25, already 800 guests stayed in Saalbach Hinterglemm. The chairman of the WSV already faced difficulties in finding enough guest houses. People started building very simple dormitories. But traffic on the road to Hinterglemm was still not allowed to personal vehicles and trucks without special permission. The German-Austrian Alpine Club built the Akademikerhütte in Hinterglemm with 80 beds; the tenant was Franz Assanek. The construction marks an important event for Hinterglemm. The heads of the community were delighted to receive S 438,37 thanks to the fees applied for the guest rooms. Tourism however demands better facilities for accommodations. The water consumption increased by installing toilets and bath tubs in every house in Saalbach, and the district Water Management Cooperation Saalbach was established. The ski village Saalbach.
Due to the efforts of the community and the WSV, the train station Maishofen changed its name to Maishofen - Saalbach. An important step in the right direction. Saalbach was now on the Austrian Federal Railway timetable. WSV issued 10,000 brochures about Saalbach that year. The request for licenses gradually increased. Opinions collided in the municipality because the WSV demanded a more generous treatment of the concession applications which were often rejected. There was the need for educational work.
Alpine Ski World Championship 1991
The main road from Unterwirt to the village square was extended and the "Kuchlgaschtl" in front of the Berger department store disappeared.
The community and the WSV worked together more and more. The post connection Zell am See - Saalbach was opened for the winter season and shortly afterwards for the summer as well. The businessmen Josef and Maria Berger opened the first modern sports hotel, called Penhab; this hotel was the first one with central heating and was fully equipped. A major event in Saalbach. Saalbach becomes the famous ski village.
A telephone line was built to Hinterglemm with a public communication station at Auwirt and a private connection at
During the summer, 3,000 overnight stays were already registered; and during the winter months, the numbers of overnight stays increased to 30,000. But the road to Hinterglemm was still not released for vehicle transport. The problem was actually due to the load bearing capacity of the bridge and bad road conditions. But in spite of these difficulties, another guest house, namely the "Frohe Heimat" was built.
The Great Depression "arrived" at Saalbach Hinterglemm; the number of unemployed people increased dramatically.
The 1000 Mark money limit imposed by Hitler in Austria that year had catastrophic financial consequences affecting Saalbach Hinterglemm as well. The guests from Germany stayed away as a result and this loss could not be compensated despite extensive advertising efforts.
Political unrest in Austria chased guests away from holiday resorts. A terrible blow for the whole tourist industry. WSV officials did not give up, they proceeded to receive the authorisation from the forest administration for the construction of the ski run from Schattberg to Saalbach that received the name "Hochleitnerabfahrt" - in honour of the WSV Chairman.
Despite the difficult financial situation, people continued to build tourists housing. In 1936, the 1000 Mark limit was lifted. The municipality built the first official parking space at Unterwirt.
The Glemmer road became important enough that the Governor Dr. Franz Rehrl personally endorsed the expansion and constant clearing of the road during the winter season.
The Minister of Education, Dr. Hans Pernter, visited the "Auwirt" which had been purchased by the federal government and approved the expansion of the property to "Bundesschullandheim".
The initiator of this crucial decision for Saalbach Hinterglemm is the teacher Max Hilber.
The road to Hinterglemm was finally opened for vehicle traffic. A big success for Hinterglemm. In this year, already 40,000 overnight stays were registered, in 400 guest beds and 1200 provisional quarters, an amazing result.
On the 17th of September, some daring men created the "Schiliftgesellschaft (Ski Lift Company) Saalbach" and started constructing the first lift to Kohlmais. An important step for tourism. The first drag lift & the first chair lift were constructed and opened to the public.
On the 1st of April, WSV Saalbach was established anew. They successfully convinced Oskar Külken, the renounced advertising expert, to work with Saalbach. The promotional film "Schidorf Saalbach" was made and delighted many cinema goers in Austria. The film proved to have and enormous appeal. Oskar Külken produced the first "Skiing guide" from Saalbach Hinterglemm. The ski village Saalbach Hinterglemm increasingly became known as a skiing-paradise.
The first chair lift was built, and afterwards a baby lift on Turmwiese, the "Bernkogellift", and the baby lift in Wallehen.
The WSV finally separated the two areas of responsibility, namely sport and tourism. The WSV was responsible for tourism, and the newly established "Ski- und Sportclub Saalbach" for the sport area. WSV also covered Hinterglemm. It was a very wise and future-oriented decision. While the WSV continues the promotion of Saalbach Hinterglemm, the "Ski und Sportclub" dedicates itself to skiing, organises local competitions, national championships as well as the downhill race for "Saalbacher Schneekristall" and the downhill race as part of the Three-Slopes-Race, etc. Young people interested in skiing are supported in particular. The international world of skiing took notice of the perfect organisation of competitions in Saalbach Hinterglemm.
And the municipality?
The municipality implemented important measures, continuously supported by the WSV and SC Saalbach Hinterglemm. Electrification in the whole community was conducted, people also continued to develop the roads and the infrastructure in the community, taking the demands of the tourists into consideration.
The Salzburger Nachrichten newspaper wrote in 1950:
"The ski village Saalbach has become a must for skiing connoisseurs. Saalbach is the most familiar place for winter sports in our country that attracts regular guests with the same intensity every year as a night lamp attracts moths.” During these years of development, Saalbach and Hinterglemm closely worked together. In an article for the SN with the title "Hinterglemm on the upswing", Oskar Külken shows his enthusiasm about the cooperation. He also appreciates the establishment of the WSV branch in Hinterglemm. The cooperation between the community, the ski lift companies, the WSV and SC Saalbach Hinterglemm is the secret for success of this great development phase between 1945 and 1959. Austria's and Europe's economic upswing, as well as incentives from the state played their parts. Saalbach Hinterglemm is now one of the "big four" in Salzburg province tourism, the others being the city of Salzburg, Badgastein und Hofgastein.
"Zwölferkogel - Personengemeinschaft" was created in Hinterglemm and the drag lift from Wiesern via Auergsuach to Kugelbäumen was built.
In the following years, other lifts were built and the existing ones were modernised.
Project planning and start of the construction of the Schattenberg cableway and Limberg lift. Approval of operation on 20.12.1960. Another important event in the skiing history of Saalbach Hinterglemm. The Schattenberg cableway was modernised in 2002 and transformed into a 8 seater with a middle station - Schattberg X-Press.
Alpine Ski World Championship 1991
The community representatives undertook everything - even things that were at the limit of their possibilities - so that the entire area surrounding Saalbach Hinterglemm could fulfil the requirements of an international tourist resort. There is no doubt that the highlight was the financially demanding construction of the bypass tunnel between Saalbach and Hinterglemm and the constant financial support of all the big international skiing competitions such as the Alpine Skiing World Championship in 1991. The expansion of the fire department, mountain rescue service and Red Cross were equally important.
The Ski World Championship from 22.01. to 03.02.1991 was a complete success. Beautiful weather accompanied the whole competition. The risk of cancellation of the competition due to the terror warnings caused by the First Gulf War could be averted.
After merging with the neighbouring village of Fieberbrunn, the Skicircus Saalbach Hinterglemm Leogang Fieberbrunn grew to offer more than 270 kilometres of ski runs and 70 lift systems and it became one of the biggest ski areas in the world.