Spotlight on Saas Fee: The ‘Pearl of the Swiss Alps’

Written by Matt Dickinson
13th October 2016
ski, offpiste skiing, ski touring, day ski touring, skiing in Saas Fee

At Mountain Tracks, the search for the very best off-piste and touring in the Alps never ends. We invest a lot of time exploring new areas before we offer courses, this ensures that when our groups arrive in resort we hit the ground running and experience the best snow and terrain possible.

Previous to running our first Saas day tours trip in 2014, I had passed through Saas Fee many times, both in summer and winter and was always impressed with the sheer size of the slopes and the quality of its high and extensive lift system. Instead of just passing through I hankered after running a dedicated ‘Saas’ ski week. In March this dream became a reality, the hunch proved to be correct and the backcountry skiing was simply amazing. The area is best suited to day-touring rather than simply lift-served off piste, the touring gear enables us to cross the numerous high passes surrounding the main ski domain and access the deeper back country. I am particularly keen to offer this week again in 2015 for fit skiers looking for the next adventure.

Saas Fee itself is argued by some to be the most beautiful town in the Alps (although there is a fair amount of competition!) and has earned the tag ‘Pearl of the Swiss Alps’. Winding streets are flanked by traditional Swiss chalets and cowsheds and dwarfed by thirteen 4000m peaks. Saas lies close to Zermatt at the eastern end of the Valais region of Switzerland and like Zermatt, Saas Fee is car free. Much of the accommodation is ski-in, ski-out and although the area has been a popular mountain centre for a long time, it is friendlier and better value for money than the nearby centres of Zermatt and Verbier. Another bonus - as well as covering Saas Fee, a lift pass also covers the excellent Hohsaas domain a few miles down the valley. The Hohsaas area by itself is remarkable with a fast modern lift to 3200m and a number of classic 2000m descents.

The following five routes are my favourite day tours within the Saas area, each route is a substantial journey in itself and each day cumulates in a long 2000m+ descent.

Flucthorn and the Swarzberg Glacier

Possibly my favourite ski within the whole area. Passing the Britannia refuge we head up the flanks of the Strahlhorn and cross the Inn Turr pass (3400). For fit skiers it is possible to skin to the top of the Fluchthorn at 3800m before crossing the pass. Once through the pass, extensive steep slopes lead all the way down to the remote and seldom travelled Swarzberggletscher, and eventually on to Saas Almagell. This is a long and spectacular journey, with over 2000m of vertical descent, not to be missed.

Trifthorn west face direct to Saas Grund

from the top of the Hohsaas system it is a 2 hour journey by skin to reach the Flucthorn (3400m). The west face gives a continuously steep and remote descent all the way to Saas Grund at 1500m

Allalinpass, Alphubelljoch

This scenic circular tour of the Allalinhorn and Alphubel, give the chance for the experienced ski tourer to stretch their legs! This trip takes us deep into the heavily glaciated backcountry with lies between Saas and Zermatt. It is a 20km round trip, but don’t worry the reward for the skinning is plenty of downhill..

East face of the Alphubel

The summit of the Alphubel (4200m) is accessible by (a long) skin up the east face. The Langflue system takes us to 3200m, and then a long but steady climb takes us to the summit. On descent it is possible to ski to the left of the Langflue lift, down into a deep and impressive gorge which eventually pops out in Saas Fee giving a grand total of 2400m of descent!

Allalingletcher direct to Saas Almagell

A shorter trip, but not to be underestimated and not for the fait hearted. From the Felskinn tunnel (guides and groups only), we ski down the Allalin glacier past the Britannia hut high on the left side and then steeply and directly down to the dam above Saas Almagell. This trip takes most of the day and there is no skinning required, it takes us through stunning glaciated scenery and always quite due to it being exclusive to guided groups.

As illustrated above, what is remarkable about the day touring in Saas Fee is the sheer size of the terrain, other than Chamonix and Zermatt, few places can offer the same accessibility to such long and remote descents.

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