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Known as the ‘the Pearl of the Alps’, Saas Fee is one of the most attractive ski touring destinations for all sorts of adventurers.
The small skiing hamlet is situated on the eastern end of the Valais region, not far from Zermatt and Verbier, and is surrounded by more than a dozen 4.000 meter high peaks.
The village itself is a picturesque maze of winding streets surrounded by quintessentially Swiss chalets. The skiing is also plentiful both in quantity and quality, however is best enjoyed by intermediate and advanced skiers. Newcomers to ski touring may find themselves a bit out of their depth here.
However, for more experienced ski tourers, Saas Fee boasts excellent off-piste skiing, freeride skiing and ski mountaineering options. Combine these with some great nightlife, smaller crowds than neighboring Zermatt and relatively low prices (for Switzerland), then you’ve got the making of an unforgettable ski holiday.
Part of the magic of Saas Fee is that it is a no car zone. This means that if you’re going to drive, you’ve got to park outside the hamlet and ski on in. What better way to begin your holiday?
If all of these factors are sweetening the deal, then the icing on the cake has to be the proximity. Saas Fee allows for easy access to the Hohsaas, which then allows ski tourers to access Fluchthorn, the Schwarzberg Glacier and Weissmeis, among many others.
There is a lot to take in before finalizing any plans to head to Saas Fee for a ski touring holiday. We’ve taken the time to compile some useful facts and information below to help you out with the planning process and fuel those daydreams for your next ski holiday here!
Like most Swiss ski spots, Saas Fee is stunningly scenic. Some even consider it to be the most beautiful Swiss mountain town. The small valley is surrounded by gorgeous and imposing mountains. From higher up on the slopes, there are great views back down into the Valais valley as well as numerous others. The Matterhorn makes for a particularly spectacular backdrop especially when skiing in the evening and the sun is setting behind it.
Thanks to the large glacier that sits at the upper elevations of Saas Fee, skiing is a year-round option. Low average daily temperatures throughout the year combined with plenty of precipitation mean snow sticks and accumulates in the area’s upper reaches.
Take advantage of wintery conditions for summer ascents of some of the region’s most prominent peaks.
Saas Fee is surrounded by at least 13 peaks with an elevation of more than 4.000 meters. This means there are plenty of slopes to explore and no shortage of high quality ski touring to do. The Dom, at 4.545 meters, is Switzerland’s highest mountain and always a treat for intrepid ski tourers.
After heading up to the top of the Hohsaas system, you have a few options as to what to do next.
Rising to 4.002 meters above sea level, Alphubel makes for a challenging but fun ski mountaineering expedition. Its summit is accessible after a long skin up its east face, the Langflue system will bring you up to 3.200 meters and then you can climb the rest after that.
The ascent is steep and pretty physically challenging. However, the descent is worth it. After swerving left back at the Langflue system, you will enter a deep and beautiful gorge. Ski through here and you will eventually wind your way back to Saas Fee having made a 2.400 vertical meter descent!
There’s also the option to head around the base of the Alphubel and neighboring Allalinpass in order to maker a massive 20 kilometer loop. Along the way, you will cross heavily glaciated backcountry and get some excellent views out over some of the region’s mountains.
The whole trek is hard work, but you will have the luxury of enjoying plenty of excellent downhill runs as you go.
Considered by many guides to be a ‘don’t miss’ in Saas Fee, the Fluchthorn and Schwarzberg Glacier are easily accessed from the hamlet.
Once you’ve reached the Britannia refuge, you head up the flanks of the Strahlhorn before crossing over Turr pass at 3.400 meters above sea level. Fit skiers will be able to skin the rest of the way up the top of the Fluchthorn pass, which reaches 3.800 meters in elevation.
The reward is well-worth the effort. Once you’ve reached the top of the pass, you have a 2.000 meter descent down the steep slopes of the peak and over the Schwarzberg Glacier.
Few skiers usually make it this far, so expect long and uninterrupted runs through usually unspoiled powder until you reach the bottom. Ski the rest of the way through this pristine and remote landscape until you reach the hamlet of Saas Almagell.
Situated as the easternmost 4.000er near Saas Fee, Weissmies is an incredibly attractive peak for skiers seeking out a mountaineering experience of unparalleled beauty.
Starting in neighboring Saas Grund, you head up to the top of the Hohsaas, at 3.100 meters and then make the ascent of the south-west ridge by skinning over the glacier that encompasses the peak. This takes about four hours and requires some caution around crevasses, but is not technically difficult.
After taking in the incredible views, you are then rewarded with a thrilling descent back down with inclines of up to 40 degrees. Certainly best suited for advanced ski tourers, but well worth a visit.
As preparation for the Weissmies, many guides will warm up with an ascent of the Allalinhorn the day before. This keeps you in close proximity to the start of the route up Weissmies and gives you a great opportunity to for some views of it.
Sitting to the south of Saas Fee, the Dufourspitze on the magnificent Monte Rosa massif is a popular ski mountaineering destination for many visitors to the ski village.
Many guides offer the peak as the highlight of a multi-day hut-to-hut expedition up from Saas Fee and onto the massif. This sometimes, but not always, includes tackling the Allalinhorn, Stralhorn and Breithorn, among others.
Reaching the summit of the peak on your skis does require a bit more mountaineering skills and techniques as well as a bit more time, but is well-worth the effort. When approaching from the Breithorn, you will stay in the Monte Rosa hut and begin early the next morning, around sunrise, in order to be at the summit by around midday.
The views are spectacular, with the opportunity to see the iconic Matterhorn and Mont Blanc on clear days. The skiing back down is even better, with long uninterrupted runs down steep and snow-filled slopes.
If you’ve got a week or more to spend in Saas Fee the approach and culmination of summiting Dufourspitze is well-worth the consideration.
Ski touring season in Saas Fee runs from December to April, although some guides offer ski mountaineering trips during the summer months as well.
During the winter, average daily temperatures range from -5 °C to 0 °C. These temperatures oftentimes decrease at higher elevations and usually feel colder due to windchill.
The winter months also happen to be the driest, but still receive plenty of powder and the slopes retain almost everything that falls. Snow begins to accumulate in November and by the start of the season, a considerable covering has generally fallen.
Each winter month receives an average of between 100 and 120 millimeters of fresh powder.
The cost of a guided ski trip to Saas Fee depends on a lot of factors. Based on how many people are in the group, the amount of time for which you visit and what is included in the guide’s price, trips costs vary significantly.
That being said, you could expect to pay as little as 180 Swiss francs (CHF) for a single-day of ski touring, with only the guide fee included. This means you’d need to cover lift costs.
These prices can rise to anywhere from 215 CHF to 3.000 CHF for trips that range from 1+ day to a week or more. These prices tend to mostly just include group equipment and the guide fee. The lower range of these prices generally applies to groups of four people or more. The high end of the range is usually for smaller groups or solo trips (with the guide).
Remember that every guide prices their trips differently, so be sure to confirm a price quote prior to booking.
Saas Fee can be accessed fairly easily from both Zurich (ZRH) and Geneva (GVA) by rail or rental car.
Rental car may be the easiest and is likely to cost around the same as the rail journey, in the end from either destination.
From Zurich, driving to Saas Fee takes about 3 hours and 20 minutes on the A1 and then the A6. This route has tolls.
Traveling by rail takes about the same amount of time and you can catch a train from the airport directly to Visp. From Visp, there is a bus that will take you directly to Saas Free and runs about every half-hour.
From Geneva, the drive takes 2.5 hours on the A1 and then A9. This route also has tolls.
Traveling by rail from GVA takes about 3 hours and 40 minutes. You can similarly head directly from the airport to Visp, before disembarking and catching the same bus to Saas Fee.
So what are you waiting for? Start planning your next trip to Saas Fee today and get ready for stunning scenery and sublime ski touring!
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