Saas-Fee exemplifies a Zermatt of 20 years ago, before development of the resort ramped up and charm was replaced with high end shopping and five star hotels. The entire ski village is incredibly charming – from old houses and chalets built in the traditional style to narrow cobblestone streets that boast local watering holes and ski shops galore. Saas-Fee also has delightfully reliable early season snow – as early as October – and it’s one of the reasons that ski teams from all over the world come to Saas-Fee for early season training runs. Though the ski area is quite small, and definitely doesn’t have enough to keep an expert skier fully entertained for a week’s trip, it’s a great place to visit, as most runs are at an exceptionally high altitude which is unrivaled by any other resort.
When I visited Saas-Fee, I was struck by how charming and old world the village feels. The ring of 4000m mountains are incredibly huge and incredibly close, and stun from every angle because of Saas-Fee’s location at the apex of the valley. Since I visited in springtime, I was lucky enough to feel the warmth of the sun for most of the day – this is uncommon in midwinter, when late afternoon is the only time skiers will really see the sun. The differences between Zermatt and Saas-Fee are striking; though both are car-free towns (but not electric minibus-free), Zermatt is all about the hustle and bustle, while Saas-Fee shows a quieter, more relaxed side of the ski industry. Those who are looking for something smaller or more authentic, as I do, will be impressed with Saas-Fee.
Saas-Fee has a lot to offer skiers and nonskiers alike. Skiers will be treated to high altitude runs, but also can be subject to gusty winds coming off of the glacier. Most of the slopes are north-facing, so you’re likely to get great snow higher up, though it can get patchy on the lower slopes later in the season. For nonskiers, take the Metro Alpin, the world’s highest-altitude underground train, up to the revolving restaurant Allallin, which makes a full 360 degree turn over the course of an hour, putting the dazzling snowcapped peaks on full display. Afterwards, go explore the Ice Pavillion – sit on the ice throne, or check out the colored lights displays that illuminate some amazing ice carvings!