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Updated: 15th January 2023
It’s a little after nine in the evening, and the final slither of sun withers behind the imposing mountain saddles soaring around me. Siping a chilled glass of locally distilled schnapps, I raise a toast to the summer solstice – what a sensational pocket of the world to spend the longest day of the year in.
With little warning, the sky radiates in shades of violets and tangerines, marking The Asitz Mountain’s final encore of the day. This isn’t merely a mountain that wishes to be hiked; Mother Earth wants you to settle in for the whole cinematic show.
These slopes, abound with serenity, soothing sounds, spellbinding scenery, and silent introspection, had been my home for the end-of-spring days. Artworks by Adriana Franza had guided me through towering pines, orchestras had supplied the soundtrack to my meditation in mountain huts, and organic vending machines selling local produce had provided the picnic flavours to keep at the ‘Cinema of Nature’.
While thoughts of the Austrian Alps often conjure up powdery-white vistas, ski-laden gondolas, and chilly afternoons enjoying bubbles and beers in mountain huts between pistes, the warmer months arrive with their own invitation.
Unlike some other winter-only destinations, Austria in summer also sees the mountains come alive – and yes, in this instance, you can get away with quoting that old Sound of Music cliché.
Welcome to the Asitz, a mountain for your senses
The Asitz snuggles against one side of the Leogang Mountain Range, forming part of the Eastern Alps. It’s perhaps one of the most emblematic in the Salzburg region, especially as the City of Mozart’s deep love of music, art, creativity, and all things cultural spill out onto this slope.
Yes, it’s not just the city’s concert halls that have taken centre stage for classical music offerings. Beyond the church spires and cobbled streets, Salzburgerland slopes into shimmering and swimmable lakes, craggy peaks, and a slower, more sustainable pace of life.
With this long and acclaimed cultural history running through the blood of the region’s residents, it’s unsurprising that passion for the arts has also spilt outwards, and indeed upwards, reaching new lofty heights. There’s a reason The Asitz is locally known as Berg der Sinne (Mountain of the Senses), and the long summer months, from late spring to early autumn, are the best times to visit and appreciate an active cultural break.
The Asitz provides the perfect chance to envelop yourself in nature without a gruesome slog for those who aren’t fans of multi-day hikes or intense gradients.
Sure, you could opt to tackle some of the extended and more strenuous hikes in the surrounding mountains of Leogang Saalfelden, or you could simply ride the gondola (free with the local tourism card) to the top of the mountain to enjoy the art, music, views and alpine gastronomy without breaking a sweat. The Asitz truly is a mountain for everyone.
A summer of concerts
The TONspuren concerts serenade an enchanted audience from late June to August. Partly due to the docile tones of singers and strings that take to the stage, but perhaps primarily due to the magical setting.
As the sun starts to fade, performers take their place against the backdrop of saw-toothed slate peaks on the lake-side stage. The sound of music reverberates across the waters, echoing far into the valley. World-class performers from near and far grace this vast yet intimate setting every year, providing another reason to return to The Asitsz’s slope.
Soothing sounds at the TONspur Islands
Should your schedule not follow that of the summer concerts, fear not, as from spring to autumn, you’ll have the chance to hear previous years’ performances in something of a private space.
The innovative TONspur islands, of which there is currently a handful, can be found dotted around the most scenic points on the Asitz Mountain. These wooden huts frame vistas of mountains, clouds, valleys and lakes, and the lounging bed inside can be rolled out onto the deck for a sun-kissed experience or sheltered by the roof and walls to escape the elements.
With the push of a button, your silent reflection is accompanied by recorded concerts washing over you from the speakers in the headrest. I spent a blissful hour contemplating the panoramas to a varied soundtrack, and it was perhaps that hour which made me fall in love with this corner of Austria.
Watch Mother Nature perform at the Cinema of Nature
In a world of screens and streaming, we can easily fall into the trap of ‘just one more episode’, and at the Cinema of Nature, it’s precisely what the designers wanted you to do.
You can lay back and watch the show from lazy string-suspended hammock beds or reclining wooden chairs. There is no flat screen or projection here, just an unadulterated view across the mountain peaks and small villages of Saalfelden Leogang.
Sometimes, we simply forget to press pause and admire what we have in front of us, but from this viewing platform in the sky, where mother nature performs a unique show daily, you’ll be reminded of the simplest pleasures of the great outdoors.
Hike the Art Trail
Linking the top and middle gondola station together, the summer Asitz art trail will take you on a journey of inspiration through the towering pines of the forest.
This year’s installation was courtesy of the Italian artist Adriana Franza, although a different artist is represented each year. As you follow the trail up or down, sometimes with the ski lift gliding above you, you’ll find shaded benches to rest and take in the views while spotting paintings in clearings.
Reflect by the still waters
The Asitz is home to two artificial lakes, which double as art installations. The highest, best admired from the cross at the heights point or the TONspur looking over it, seemingly floats in the clouds, as the dramatic descent around it presents like a suspended lake high above the valley.
The second lake, closer to the middle station, is called ‘Peaceful Water’, a crystal-clear pong surrounded by wooden art installations and plenty of seating to contemplate.
Whether you opt to take a seat on the wooden swings and benches designed by local students, cool your feet in the refreshing water, or circumnavigate the lake looking out on the valley and caramel-spotted cows, you’ll certainly find your inner zen by the waters.
Breathe in the alpine scents and flavours
Just before the middle station, a range of play areas for children provides education and challenges.
However, the delightful scent of mountain herbs and plants from the gardens makes this a perfect finish before descending to the valley’s base.
Adventure experiences atop The Asitz Mountain
For adrenaline junkies and those who prefer to mix their cultural fix with adventure kicks, The Asitz in summer will keep you entertained.
Beyond the art trails and easy hikes, there is an impressive network of trails across the nearby Alps, both in the mountains and between villages, and a few more ‘extreme’ ways to discover The Asitz itself.
One of the Asitz’s most extensive claims to fame is the Epic Mountain Biking Park, one of the most celebrated in Europe.
Stretching far beyond The Asitz, it covers some 80km of trails over multiple peaks. Tracks jump off the side of mountains, down tracks of various grades and intensities, and are used for competitions. Expect to find technical and challenging conditions on many routes, with awe-inspiring vistas accompanying you the whole time.
Take flight on the flying fox
A new addition to The Asitz is the XXL Flying Fox, one of the steepest and most rapid in the world.
Take flight over the mountains, nearly 150 metres above, and hurtle along this 1,600-metre rope line at extreme speeds to get your adrenaline kicks.
My time in The Asitz was exactly what I needed. A place to pause, regather and rejuvenate.
I read a whole book. I unpacked my entire suitcase. I spent an hour listening to classical music. For me, it’s rare to find a place in modern Europe that not only allows you these joys but seemingly pushes you towards them, insisting you have the time.
I hope that when you breathe in the fresh alpine air while listening to Bach inside a tiny hut atop The Asitz Mountain, you will find the same inner peace I did – it’s a true natural escape where art and adventure collide.
Make it happen
Where to stay, how to travel, and how to get around Saalfelden Leogang and The Asitz Mountain.
How to reach Astiz Mountain?
If you want to travel more sustainably by train, you can take the Eurostar from London to Amsterdam and then change to the Alpine Express, an overnight service which stops in Saalfelden.
Where to stay near Astiz Mountain?
I stayed at the peaceful and wood-clad Stockinggut Hotel and adored my stay – it felt like an almost all-inclusive Austrian Alps resort with the evening dinner option, and the views of the valley were beautiful. It’s also just a short walk from the gondola to reach the top of the mountain,
How to get around Saalfelden Leogang?
You might imagine being in the Alps, a car is required, but I had a great trip using public transport. The local bus, train, and gondola connections work well, and if you stay in accommodation signed up for a regional card (such as Stockinggut), you can use all the public transport locally for free.
Where to go next?
My visit to Saalfelden Leogang was supported by Austria Tourism as part of their #RealAustria summer series. As always, all writing and thoughts are my own.