The Saalbach Hinterglemm Tourist Office even publishes a sheet with “Rainy day suggestions.” Onimous looking mornings require a change in plans; visit a museum, take a bus somewhere, do nothing. For us, an easy walk from Hinterglemm into Saalbach on either the sidewalk along the entire highway or walk the path alongside the river. God Bless the Weather Channel for its accurate forecasts; they said it would rain and it sre did! No sooner had we returned from a short walk carrying two Cheese Strudels, when the skies opened for the rest of the day including dramatic lightening bolts over the mountains. You do not want to be on a mountain during an electric storm. Saalbach Hinterglemm says, “On a mountain, one must always keep an eye on the weather situation…leave the mountain peaks and ridges…avoid areas of water and solitary trees.” Good old common sense.
Rain down in the valley almost always signifies snow at higher altitudes, and a beautiful, sunny morning followed the storm with, yes, snow at higher elevations. The winter views from Hotel am Reiterkogel have to be phenomenal with ski runs, and lifts everywhere you look.
I studied topographic maps in earnest last night, reading about each detailed hike to prepare for today’s hike. Saalbach tells it like it is. “Steep…for experts only…needs surefootedness.” Heed their advice! We could see the Zwolferkogel mountain with its operating gondola from our balcony. (Repeat over and over again, Sheila, only four gondolas are operating.) Let’s go into ex-Marine/Travels With Sheila hiking mode; walk up to the top, take the gondola down, it’s a plan. The road/trail/gondola began at the other end of Hinterglemm, a four-block walk from Hotel am Reiterkogel, past even more hotels, and pensions, leading into another valley.
Even I couldn’t get us lost on this trail with signposted directions each time the trail led off the road, zigged or zagged. Up, up, past small huttes along the way. Referred to as huttes, we’d call them alpen restaurants that serve meals, drinks, coffee to hikers, strollers (skiers in winter) on the trail.
The Zwolferkogelbahn has a middle station. Besides mountain bikers coming down, we actually saw other people hiking up besides us, but they only went to the middle station. Mountain scenery as far as the eye could see. Trails in all directions. Fields filled with healthy, fat cows munching away. Valiant, we continued, step by step, to the top of the Zwolferkogelbahn where throwing backpacks down, we heaved a big sigh of relief. Our statistics (if you are interested) – 3:10, 5 miles, an altitude gain of 3,000′.
The top station of the Zwolferkogelbahn has a cafe, photographs of the mountains in all directions to orient yourself with which mountain is which, wooden chaise lounges to sit in the sun, a playground for children, and even a small heap of snow remaining from the storm last night. Austrian resorts take everything into consideration.
Each of the five summits also has a “snapshot cam” located in a spot to take the best photograph of you in front of mountain background. Press the green button on the large board, race back to a marked spot, smile. When the green light turns red, you’ll hear a click; machine is taking your photograph. Download later off the Saalbach Hinterglemm website for memories of a wonderful day. Take as many photographs as you’d like and let the machine click away so long as there isn’t a long line of people waiting to do the same. We thought that was a wonderful, ingenious, idea.
Very pleased with ourselves, we showed Joker Passes, and loaded into the gondola for the ride down. How easy is that! Now for the most fabulous Cheese Strudels ever as a reward even though the hotel has a dessert buffet tonight. Bring it on…