CI Bike Region Saalfelden Leogang at one with nature
Spotlight on the Austrian region of Saalfelden Leogang
As the world tries to find solutions to slow climate change during the COP28 in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates, we look at sustainability actions in some of our UCI Bike Cities and Regions. Spotlight on the Austrian region of Saalfelden Leogang.
Host of multiple UCI mountain bike events at its Epic Bikepark Leogang – where downhill UCI World Champion Valentina Höll learned to bike – since 2010, the region of Saalfelden Leogang is rightly proud of its international reputation.
Its craggy Steinberge mountains and gentle grass-covered mountains attract not only the world’s Elite mountain bikers, but have a growing bike-touring industry and the goal of becoming the No. 1 bike destination in Europe. Every year, the number of visitors increases: cable car rides made by downhill enthusiasts have grown from around 150,000 in 2014 to over 260,000 in 2023. Every year, more than 300,000 EUR is invested in bike infrastructure while hotels are adapting their offers for mountain bikers with secure bike storage, tools for hire, laundry services and, in some cases, bike rental and bike guides.
The industry is booming, but no question of ignoring the wellbeing of this pristine alpine environment. Sustainable practices include waste reduction, wildlife conservation, and initiatives to minimize the ecological impact of tourism.
TRAILS IN HARMONY WITH NATURE
As the largest bike region in Austria, with more than 90 kilometres of lines and trails across thesprawling mountain bike area of Saalbach Hinterglemm (home of Valentina Höll), the Epic Bikepark Leogang and the Bike Area in Fieberbrunn, careful attention is given to integrate the trail network into nature as harmoniously as possible. The single trails in Saalfelden Leogang are built by hand, avoiding the use of excavators and rollers.
“It’s about recognizing the natural surroundings and adapting the trail to them, not the other way round,” explains Reini Unterberger, designer of single trails. “No trees that are in full sap are felled. Only trees that have lost their tops are cut down, and these are immediately incorporated into the trail as barriers. The trunks are sustainable. They take about 15 years to rot, so the trail will last that long if it is maintained after each winter.”
In addition, the entire forest floor – including mosses and other plants – is not destroyed but replanted elsewhere. Any stones dug up when clearing the path are used to create transitions from one passage to another.
AUSTRIAN ECO-LABEL, RESPACT AND CLIMATE ALLIANCE
Under the leadership of the Verein für Konsumenteninformation (Austrian consumer protection association), the Saalfelden Leogang region and 19 other destinations jointly developed an independent seal-of-approval certification (Österreichisches Umweltzeichen für Destinationen) for sustainable tourism regions.
As a result, in 2023, Saalfelden Leogang became the third destination in Austria to be awarded the Austrian Eco-label for destinations. Only a handful of regions in Austria have such a high density of companies and businesses that have been awarded the Austrian Eco-label. This independent seal of quality assesses a wide range of measures in the areas of sustainability, waste management, mobility and resource management. Electric cars are also available to guests in Saalfelden Leogang. The region’s own biomass heating plants, wood chip plants and composting facilities supply energy. Care is also taken to avoid waste.
WHAT GOES UP, MUST COME DOWN
The famous expression “What goes up must come down” is particularly significant in Saalfelden Leogang. Rubbish must be deposited in containers provided throughout the valley, and the popular goggle tear-offs are forbidden in the bike park. On rainy days, riders who purchase a ticket are provided with a replacement film for a roll-off system and a discount voucher for roll-off goggles… “Roll-off, not tear-off” is the valley’s motto.
Other concrete examples of the region’s sustainability initiatives include:
- Eco-Friendly Accommodation: Different accommodation options in Saalfelden Leogang undertake eco-friendly practices such as energy efficiency, waste reduction, and water conservation. Some hotels and lodges have obtained certification for their sustainability efforts.
- Green Mobility: The Saalfelden Leogang Card is included with overnight stays at partner establishments. This offers numerous discounts and benefits, including all public transport services of the Salzburg Transport Association and its partners in the entire Pinzgau region. With three railway stations in Saalfelden Leogang, travelling by train is a viable and popular option.
- Local and Organic Food: Saalfelden Leogang supports local farmers and businesses, reducing the carbon footprint associated with food production and transportation.
- Sustainable events: Saalfelden Leogang integrates multiple sustainable practices into the organisation of its events, including reusable cup usage, free use of public transport, recycling of branding materials, working with local producers and partners, and separating waste….
- Environmental awareness: the region’s “Respect your boundaries” initiative aims to raise awareness of respectful interaction between humans, wildlife and nature.
Finally, visitors can increase their knowledge about the climate crisis and how it affects regions such as Saalfelden Leogang during a guided hike. Organised weekly during summer, the Climate Hike tour gives participants first-hand examples of the effects of climate change.
They are effects that the UCI Bike Region is working hard to slow down.