Through the back door of the Circus
While Saalbach-Hinterglemm is one of Austria's most rambunctious apres destinations, Fieberbrunn has always been rather a quieter proposition. Both the village itself and the area around the base of the lifts are dominated by pragmatic rather than flashy hotels, pensions and apartments. And although Saalbach-Hinterglemm boasts some of the most extensive and modern lift infrastructure in Europe, this is far from evident when you set eyes on the oddly impractical gondola 'clusters' that pass for the Streuböden lift at the base of the mountain. In short, the fact that Fieberbrunn has become part of the immense 'Skicircus' domain is far from evident at first glance.
The frontside slopes remain the stomping ground of ambitious intermediates and families, with easy cruisers around the Lärchfilzkogel, and more challenging reds from the top of the Lärchfilzen quad chair. The backside slopes, centred around the Reckmoos Süd gondola and Hochhörndl quad chair, are the departure point for Fieberbrunn's vaunted off-piste.
Although the Wildseeloder - where FWT riders do their thing - requires close to an hour ascent, there is an abundance of challenging terrain within an easy traverse of the lift. It's worth noting, too, that while the northern slopes of the Wildseeloder feature some intimidating chutes and world-class freeride terrain, there are a choice of descents of a more gentle nature.
However, courtesy of the new link-up to Saalbach-Hinterglemm, the Reckmoos gondolas see more traffic than previously, as skiers and riders of various abilities make their way to the new TirolS cable car, which brings them to the Reiterkogel. One of the secondary benefits of the new connection, is that this has opened up off piste descents on the Fieberbrunn side ('Big Dude' and 'Big Mom' specifically) that were previously skiable, but required a substantial hike back out at the end.
From the Reiterkogel (1819m), where the new 10-person TirolS gondola tops out, the entire expanse of the Saalbach Valley is visible, with lifts strewn out across the vista of 2000m peaks. The top of the new TirolS lift also marks the provincial border between Tirol and neighbouring Salzburgerland, where the previously interlinked resorts of Saalbach, Hinterglemm, and Leogang are all located. Lucky for Tirol Snow Card holders, the 'upgrade' to get access to the entire lift network is only an additional €20 per day.
Compared to Fieberbrunn's long peak to valley off-piste descents, for many of which a local guide is advisable, the Saalbach Valley is rather more limited in this department. The north-facing slopes of the Schattberg offer the best opportunity for untracked powder, and the Zwölferkogel has some playful terrain, but it's on piste where the Skicircus really shines.
Long fall-line descents of up to 1000m are possible in blue, red, and black varieties, and there is an abundance of good novice terrain around the Reiterkogel and the Kohlmaiskopf, both of which are blessed with plenty of sun. The Schattberg north descent is definitely the pick of the advanced runs.
It is advantageous that the TirolS connection brings skiers and riders into a fairly central part of the Skicircus, because even traveling at a decent clip, this is not a ski circuit that can easily be knocked off in a day. However, a major plus is that the vast majority of valley descents (with the notable exception of those to Leogang) finish in the Saalbach Valley, and a regular ski bus makes it possible to return home. Be warned though - you don't want to miss the connection back to Fieberbrunn if staying on the Tirol side. It's not far as the crow flies, but nearly an hour by car!