New Viehhofen valley station © Schmittenhöhebahn
The Skicircus Saalbach Hinterglemm Leogang Fieberbrunn is poised to become the biggest ski resort in Austria thanks to a recently announced merger with Zell am See - Kaprun. Scheduled to be complete by the year 2023 if all goes well, the merger would see a new gondola and new pistes linking the two ski areas. Skiers and snowboarders would be able to start a ski day on the Kitzsteinhorn glacier at an altitude of 3029m, head up the Maiskogel and into Kaprun, then take a short ski bus to Zell am See to join up with the Schmittenhöhe, back down into the Glemmtal and into Fieberbrunn in the Skicircus. A skier’s dream, soon to be a reality!
The two ski areas will be linked via a blue piste leading from the Skicircus to Viehhofen, in the Glemmtal valley. This will be possible thanks to a new lift, the zellamseeXpress, to be constructed for the 2019/20 ski season. Until the construction of a new lift from Viehhofen back to the Skicircus, skiers and snowboarders will have to rely on a ski bus to get back to Vorderglemm in the Skicircus. Plans are underway to connect the Schmitten and the Skircircus four years from now. Once all the construction is complete, the new linked ski area will be the largest in Austria.
Plans for the new lift
The upper part of the zellamseeXpress, ending at Schmittenhöhe, was completed for the 2016/17 ski season. Construction is currently underway to expand the lift down into the valley in Viehhofen, which should be ready in time for the 2019/20 ski season. Unfortunately, the steep terrain makes it impossible to carve out a valley run, but a ski route will lead to the valley station in Viehhofen. In future, the ski area hopes to build a gondola that will take skiers and snowboarders to the Wildenkarkogel in the Skicircus. The plans for the Viehhofen lift have already been laid, but the exact details of the corresponding piste and details about the reservoir for the snow machines have yet to be worked out. Technical details about the new gondola have not been announced, but in the wake of the two new 10-seater gondolas at the Kohlmaisgipfel and the Schmittenhöhe, it looks like it’s safe to assume this will be another 10-seater gondola.
Curiously enough, Zell am See, Kaprun and Saalbach-Hinterglemm started out as partners of a sort with the founding of the Europa Sportregion in 1966. However, Saalbach-Hinterglemm left the Europa Sportregion in 1980 and thus begun a rivalry between these popular Salzburg ski resorts. The year 2002 saw them come together once again with the introduction of the Ski Alpin Card, which offered 408km of pistes between all the participating ski areas. The completion of the zellamseeXpress and the eventual lift from Viehhofen to the Wildenkarkogel will mark a new era for these Salzburg ski giants.
Working together © Schmittenhöhebahn
The lovely Zell am See – Kaprun is situated in a picturesque setting with panoramic lake views of the water. Thanks to the Kitzsteinhorn/Maiskogel – Kaprun glacier, the ski area enjoys a particularly long ski season with guaranteed snow. Meanwhile, the Skicircus boasts a mammoth ski area with 270km of pistes and is well-known for internationally popular events like the Rave on Snow and the Freeride World Tour. Together, these ski areas will be able to offer something for absolutely everyone. With over 400km of pistes, this will be the largest linked ski area in Austria, beating out Ski Arlberg by about 100km.
Born and raised in the ski paradise of Vancouver, Canada, I learned to ski before I can remember, balancing precariously on my parents’ skis as they sailed down the hill. I started snowboarding in my teens and am now delighted to be exploring everything Europe’s ski scene has to offer!
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