saas fee, switzerland

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  1. #1
    arik's Avatar
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    saas fee, switzerland

    Date Skied: March 16-21, 2008

    Resort: Saas Fee



    Conditions: Powder and Packed Powder, corn lower down in the afternoon

    Trip Report: I went to Switzerland for a week of skiing this March and choose Saas Fee due to it's reputation of good late season snow and a charming town for my partner who only wanted to ski some of the time. Saas is the valley next to Zermat and is supposedly just as nice but less pricey and less crowded.

    We flew into Zurich and caught a train at the Zurich airport (no need to transfer in town) which took us straight to Visp (through the new tunnel) where we took a short bus ride up a very narrow windy road to Saas Fee. It was 3 hours from the plane landing to us arriving in town.

    There are three ski areas in the Saas Valley but Saas fee is the largest. I had imagined I would ski one day at Saas Grund and another at Saas Almagel but it was clear these lower south facing resorts had little snow. When we arrived in Saas Fee it was pretty warm and I was a bit concerned but actually the conditions turned out to be great. I purchased a 6 day ski pass which gave the option of a day skiing in Zermat which I did not take advantage of because I wasn't interested in spending several hours in a van or bus driving up and down curvy roads to Zermat and back. Maybe someday they will put in a tram or tunnel to cross directly between Saas and Zermat but untill that day comes Saas and Zermat are very seperate ski areas.

    We stayed at the du Glacier Hotel and the hotels location was perfect, right in the middle of town but also close to the Alpine Express lift to ski. With regard to the skiing we had good snow conditions and the vertical drop (over 5000 feet) is impressive, I did some runs lasting well over an hour from top to bottom. There are several ways to get to the very top, one involving two gondolas (alpine express) and the other involving a new and impressive tram. Either way the last bit is in a subway type train tunnel. When you get out you are at 3500 meters and I admit to needing to sit to catch my breath the first time up. There is a fair amount of walking in tunnels carrying your skis which is no fun at that altitude. I think Saas Fee's skiing is probably better suited for an intermediate or advanced intermediate than an expert skiier. The groomed runs are great but there isn't much off piste skiing on account of rocks and glacial crevasses. I found lots of powder runs by scoping them out looking at other peoples tracks while going up on the lift, and noticed that the european skiiers didn't seem to want the powder the way american skiiers do, i.e. easy to find fresh tracks still available 2 days after it snowed. I had the best powder runs of my life up top, though I did notice I had come within a few feet of a glacial crevasse a couple times. I was loving the powder so much I basically didn't care. I can understand why off piste skiing is forbidden and in fact illegal, but that didn't stop some people. Saas Fee's lifts are mostly gondolas or trams as well as a number of T bars. There are only 2 chairlifts, one the Morenia Sesselbahn is a high speed detatchable 6 pack by Garaventa complete with bubblehood, nicest lift I have ever seen. There were occaisionally short lines for the trams or gondolas but never any line for the chairlifts or T bars. I wondered if European skiers disliked chairlifts? The chairlifts and T bars mostly just led to one or two trails which were occaisionally mildly crowded. I joked that it looked like Mount Snow on a Saturday. My favorite trails were in the Eiggenerjoch and the Gletscherwelt areas.

    The town is perfectly situated so it's warm and not too snowy in town but cold enough to have huge amounts of snow up top.It was very quiet at night though there were bars and clubs within a 2 minute walk if one was looking to go out at night. Some of the bars had an 80's theme which I liked. Saas Fee is a nice little town with cobblestone streets, good shops (an amazing and inexpensive cheese shop), bars, restraunts, and a variety of activities in winter not just skiing. We got over a foot of snow up top the first day but only an inch down in town, then on our last night in snowed 2 feet both at the top and bottom of the mountain. I do want to mention a suggestion for lunch while skiing, the Glacier-grotte restaurant which had much better food, a gorgeous location, a mellow vibe, and better prices than some of the other on mountain options like the Morenia Cafeteria which was crowded and stressful. In terms of Hotels I liked the du Glacier, the Unique Dom hotel looked like a good less expensive choice and the La Gorge Apart-Hotel (the rooms have kitchens) looked very nice as well with a great location next to a gondola and a beautiful gorge.

    I had a nice time in Switzerland and am glad I chose to go to Saas Fee. In terms of language it seemed everyone could speak english though they did seem to brighten up at my attempts at German. We did meet one other American there, a college student on spring break from a year abroad in Spain. Everyone else seemed to be British, German, or Swiss. If there is a next time I probably wont return to Saas Fee just because I feel I skiied it out in a week, like every trail multiple times. Our departure from Geneva was smooth and the journey from Saas Fee to Geneva along the rhone valley was gorgeous and just as easy as our arrival from Zurich. The ski areas closer to Geneva (Verbier, Villars, Champery, Leukerbad) looked nice from the train, though they are all lower than Saas Fee and snow conditions reportedly can be iffy.
    Last edited by arik; Mar 27, 2008 at 4:57 PM.

  2. #2
    Thank you for writing the travel log. You probably didn't expect someone to still be reading it 10 years later.

  3. #3

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