Overview of Saas-Fee, Switzerland
Written by Greg and Heather Burke
Saas Fee may be the most under-rated, under-marketed ski resort in Switzerland. Copious quantities of snow, stunning scenery, big mountain skiing and a cute car-free village make this a must-ski destination. It's been referred to as "The Pearl of the Alps" because of the magnificent peaks surrounding the gem of a valley like a shell. Saas Fee is located in the German speaking Wallis region not far from Visp. As this is southern Switzerland, Saas Fee gets more sun (300 days annually) and milder temps than other ski regions of the Alps. The quaint alpine village complements the natural splendor of this glacial Swiss ski valley, Saas Fee translates to the meadow of the cows.
The skiing at Saas Fee is sizeable, with an impressive vertical drop of 5,906' from the 11,482' summit. There are over 100 kilometers of prepared pistes (35 trails) serviced by 36 lifts of all styles and vintages including 4 cable cars and a funicular railway, the Metro Alpin. This underground train transports you to the highest summit of Allalin. One of the most unique experiences at Saas Fee is emerging from the dark stepped railway (the world's highest underground rail car) up a flight of stairs to this remarkable mountaintop, where you are met with extraordinary views of glaciers and 18 peaks towering above 13,000' including The Dom, Aletschhorn, Monch, Eiger and Jungfrau. Saas Fee's summit offers gentle, wide open glacier skiing terrain. You can stay up here and play on the summit T-Bars for the better part of the day surrounded by the spectacular scenery.
While at the summit, you must dine (or drink) at "ThreeSixty" - the highest revolving restaurant in the world. We shared a delicious Walliser Plattli of local Swiss cheese and dried meats as we did one full revolution (which takes about an hour) before skiing off the summit amid the brilliant blue ice formations.
There's much more to Saas Fee's skiing than just the upper mountain glaciers. The three mountain areas of Fellskinn, Plattjen and Langfluh offer long prepared ski runs with excellent grooming and wide slopes marked on both sides by bright colored poles. It is not recommended that you venture off-piste without a guide as this glacial territory is riddled with crevasses and other dangers hidden beneath the snow pack. See our tips on Hiring a Ski Guide in Switzerland.
Saas Fee has a dozen on mountain chalets and restaurants, the Gletschergrotte is a charming old chalet serving delicious traditional alpine dishes like Rösti and Schnitzle, while the Spielboden is the definition of modern mountain chic with an upscale bar and wine list. Saas Fee is surprisingly popular with snowboarders, and there's a big freestyle park.
In addition to Saas Fee's main mountain, there are two other ski areas, Saas Almagell and Saas Grund. Saas means "valley" and these lower elevation areas were closed during our April visit. While Saas Fee is smaller than other Swiss ski resorts, it is also less busy, rarely a lift line or queue. Saas Fee won best Swiss Ski Resort for snow reliability, slope preparation (grooming) and coziness. Aletsch Arena and Zermatt, also in this Wallis region of Switzerland, ranked in the top 3 as well.
Saas Fee ski village is romantic and relatively small, just 1,700 friendly residents and classic alpine chalets made from native wood. There is a car park on the edge of town so there is no traffic on the narrow streets - just jiffy little electric shuttle cars for most hotels. There is a strong English clientele here as they bring their families for the acclaimed British run ski school. The local hero is Pirmin Zurbriggen, the Swiss ski racer grew up here and has a four star hotel in Saas Almagell.
We stayed at The Dom, named for the 14,911' peak, a grand four star hotel in the center of the ski village recently remodeled with alpine modern comforts and electronics. Walking the alpine village of Saas Fee, over bridges and past chalets, bakeries and boutiques, is a delightful après ski pastime. There are just enough Swiss restaurants and bars in Saas Fee to satisfy your ski appetite.
For alternative adrenaline, Saas Grund's Sledge run is one of the longest in Europe at 11-kilometers - sounds crazy to us. The Saas Feeblitz is a mountain coaster in the Adventure Park - where you can reach 25 mph on your sled. Snow tubing, torchlight walks and night sledding are all possibilities in peak winter.
We hit Saas Fee on a sunny powder day and it was amazing. So much terrain, so few people skiing it, and the remarkable glacial alpine scenery at every turn. You can see the village below you too as a reminder of the hospitality that awaits after your big ski day at Saas Fee.