Clear, cold conditions in super-high Saas-Fee

23rd January 2020, by Chris Gill

Great views of the glacier that splits the skiing, from the Längfluh side

Great views of the glacier that splits the skiing, from the Längfluh side

On Sunday evening I moved on from Aletsch Arena, first stop on my little tour of the Valais, to the more familiar territory of Saas-Fee, the Swiss resort that’s a kind of mini-Zermatt without the international reputation – the skiing is exceptionally high, and the village is car-free and cute.

I managed to navigate my way through the car parks outside the village to a spot right where the car parks and the village meet, leaving me with a short walk to the cosily traditional hotel Tenne, where a satisfying and equally traditional dinner awaited.

Monday, like Sunday, dawned bright, clear and, on Saas-Fee’s glaciers, seriously cold. Although this was my first visit for some years, there were no surprises in the skiing – featureless red cruises at the top of the area (and one die-straight blue) and more interesting intermediate runs at mid-mountain, in two sectors separated by the dramatically crevassed glacier – Morenia and Längfluh.

The easy linking run from one side of the glacier to the other ends in a bit of a precipice

Although I’d made a late start, I’d skied most of the main area by early afternoon, so I headed down the challenging red home run from Morenia to the village to ride up to the much smaller, non-glacial Plattjen sector intending to have lunch at the stylishly restored old Berghaus Plattjen.

Sadly it turned out to have closed. This is not so surprising – Plattjen offers an excellent red run, but it’s quite short and it’s followed by one of two options: a proper little black, or a blue cat track through the woods that is very long, narrow, and steep enough to require braking much of the time. Neither package is very appealing to most skiers.

Plan B was to ride up to Spielboden below Längfluh, where the restaurant has recently had a cool makeover and moved upmarket. The food is reputedly good, but I had neither the time nor budget for more than a quick snack. The descent to the village, another testing red run was already getting hard.

There are glorious beginner slopes at village level

If you discount Plattjen for the reasons I’ve given, the quantity of interesting skiing at Saas-Fee is much more limited than you might expect, given the resort’s standing and its claim to have 100km of pistes in total.

The poor relations a few hundred metres lower down in Saastal – Saas-Grund and Saas-Almagell – together claim about half as much skiing, but in practice offer nearly as much proper red skiing as Saas-Fee. What’s more, when I skied Grund on Tuesday morning, the snow was better (= softer) than at Saas-Fee. Of course, it was a different day, less cold. But Grund gets a lot more sun, and on this occasion that worked in its favour.

You get a great view of Saas-Fee from lowly Saas-Grund

Certainly, anyone going to Saas-Fee for a week should, in my view, plan on spending a couple of days at Saas-Grund.

Now, I’m off to Crans-Montana, last stop on this short tour.

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