As you are all aware, the Saas Fee Ride comp was cancelled for this year, and unfortunately…or should I say fortunately, we were already out here and it seemed a shame to come all this way and not brag about it in some way, so here is little feature on Saas Fee itself and the summer scene out here.
For those of you who don’t know, Saas Fee is a small (car free) town in the neighbouring valley to Zermatt, a couple of hours on the train from either Zurich or Geneva. In winter the resort is known for its cruisy skiing and tree runs, as well as its snow park, but for many it is the number one ski destination for the summer months.
Unlike a lot of European glaciers, Saas Fee is rarely crowded, and has a laid back vibe which means you often end up lapping the park with riders you meet on the mountain. The park itself is well shaped, and has everything you need – a pipe, a line of three big kickers, with smaller options on all their tables, a line of three learner kickers, and varying numbers of rails.
Depending on the snowfall, they have been known to throw a monster hip up as well, and for the rest of the glacier there’s around a 20km area of piste to explore and boarder-cross course which is under construction at the moment.
It’s a good idea to get up early here and it’s advisable to take all you think you’re going to need for the day as there is only a mountain restaurant and a small shop up the mountain, both of which are a pain to get back to once you have skied onto the main glacier. The lifts open at 7.30, and it is rare you will be skiing much beyond 1 or 2 o’clock in the afternoon in the, with the snow often softening up a while before then.
The lift ride itself takes about 45 minutes, so even leaving on the first bubble, you won’t hit the glacier until 8.15/8.30. The time restrictions on your riding aren’t too much of a problem as there are loads of things to do when you get down. They have a huge astro-turfed area for football, 5 tennis courts, a couple of volley-ball courts, mini-golf, luging, mountain biking, mountain-scootering (I think that’s what its called, basically a big bike with no pedals, huge forks, and a long steep hill), climbing, swimming, a skate park, an adventure park, and probably loads more that we were just too exhausted to try out.
Of course the glacier is also home to the Saas Fee Ride, which was unfortunately cancelled this year, but is a comp that will normally attract some of the best freestylers in Europe, and has been won for the last three years, by the Orage European Open champion, Henrik Harlaut. Brit skiers, Paddy Graham and James Woods also hang out on the glacier for a few months of the year, normally coaching at the British Freeski camps, and swiss rider JP Furrer is also a regular, so even if you are having an off day there is normally some pretty sick riding to be watched.
The bottom line here is that Saas Fee is one of the best places to come for a bit of summer riding, and if you want to improve your freestyle, the coaching and comoradary on the British Freeski camps is second to none. Here is a bunch of info you might find useful should you decide to make the wise decision of making a visit:
Getting there: The nearest airports are Zurich or Geneva, and both about a 2 hour train ride to Visp station. From Visp there are regular buses up to the resort, but they stop after about 10 o’clock in the evening and taxis can be expensive, so it is best to check out your transfer times before you go. See www.sbb.ch/en or www.myswitzerland.com for travel info and train times. Saas Fee is a car free resort, so if you are driving, bear in mind you may have to pay for parking, or alternatively you have to park down the valley and then jump on a bus up to resort.
On the mountain: As we mentioned the glacier is open from 7.30 until around 1 or 2 o’clock depending on the conditions and the time of year. For a timetable of the glacier operating hours click here. Ski passes cost 65 CHF for the day and 329 CHF for a six day pass (these are prices for adults, click here for a full listing of prices)
In Town: The nightlife is predominantly based around the town centre – head for the church, it’s difficult to miss – where you will find the infamous Popcorn bar, the slightly more sophisticated Living Room, and the Alpen Pub. At the other end of town near Wild Ones snowboard shop there is the Happy Bar which seems to be a bit of a locals hangout, and is a good place to go if you want to avoid swinging from the roof at 2 in the morning in Popcorn! Food wise there is plenty of choice, and you can’t really walk more than a couple of yards without hitting a restaurant. If you want something a little different try the waldhus bodmen, and the steak house up near the swimming pool is also a favourite…although expect your wallet to be a lot lighter when you leave.
For afternoon activities it is hard to miss the skate park/Astroturf/tennis courts/volleyball/basketball area, and the luge and Forest adventure are fairly obvious as well. They are all at the far end of town past the main lift Felskin lift. At the other end of town you have the mountain scooter trail which is accessed by the Hannig lift, and it is pretty good for mountain biking here as well.
Words: Jamie Cameron
All Photos: Pally Learmond