The origin of the name Saalbach is from „Salpach“, the original name of the stream running through the village.

From a poor farming village to the ski circus

Dire straits

Today the stream is called Spielbergbach and flows into the Saalbach. In 1350 the village name was first documented. Before that Saalbach was called “Clemb”. The origin and meaning of this name are still controversial to this day. Settlement in the area dates back to the year 1222. At least this is the first written evidence. Until 1500 at least 82 houses were occupied. In 1498 the village was granted market rights. This helped the inhabitants to maintain a small economic recovery, because the goods and products the farmers produced and the locals no longer had to go to Zell am See. Nevertheless Saalbach with Vorder and Hinterglemm stayed a poor farming village. The remote location in a side valley being the main reason.

First steps with skiing

Skiing took some time to develop. In 1898 Josef Wallner brought the first ski from Mürzzuschlag into the village.
Gradually it came to the attention of  the head teacher Peter Höll. He motivated many pupils at the elementary school to take up skiing. In 1901another teacher Ludwig Ramsauer also discovered the sport locally and took to it enthusiastically and this is how the two teachers became Saalbach‘s skiing pioneers. In 1903 Saalbach was discovered by non-locals for the first time as a skiing area (the free lawyers from Kitzbühel) But the older population and the council saw no benefits in the strange exercises. It took many years until skiing was accepted by the community’s residents. Finally in 1912 the Saalbach winter sports club was founded and pupils ski races took place. The First World War threw back all efforts for several years. Due to the difficult food situation even a ban on residence for foreigners and non locals was pronounced, which made winter tourism basically impossible. In 1921, this residence ban was lifted.

Boom as ski resort

From the winter of 1924/25 due the constant efforts of the Saalbach winter sports club, Winter sports  finally started to recover. The village catered for 800 guests and guest quarters were in great demand. This greatly benefited the community. In 1928 the central village road was expanded and in 1930 a telephone line with connectors at Auwirt and the Akademiker Hütte was set up. Meanwhile, there were already 3,000 overnight stays in summer and 30,000 in winter. Despite politically uncertain times, the number of overnight stays increased to 40,000 up until 1937. This was also due to the expansion of the road to Hinterglemm. In 1945 they built the first tow and chairlift. A milestone for tourism. From then success for the area flowed from commercial businesses success on the high street, due to significant expansion. Sallbach found its place on the international map hosting the World Ski Championships in 1991. Today with expansion of infrastructure and investment in the future, it is one of the world's most famous ski resorts with 1,413,420 overnight stays (winter 2013/2014) yet only 2,881 residents.

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