Apres Ski in Saas-Fee
Saas-Fee, also known as “the pearl of the Alps” is one of the prettiest ski resorts in Switzerland and one of twelve “Best of the Alps” resorts. Saas-Fee’s rural origins are still evident in the old chalets and storehouses and the car-free streets help preserve the ambience.
The Village of Saas-Fee
The Saas Valley includes the four communities of Saas-Fee, Saas Grund, Saas Almagell and Saas Balen, the biggest of which is Saas-Fee with nearly 1,700 inhabitants.
Before the advent of tourism, Saas-Fee’s inhabitants were subsistence farmers who, for extra cash, would harvest ice from the glaciers, delivering it to the hotels in the valley and beyond. Saas-Fee’s rural origins are still evident in the old chalets and storehouses, called ‘Stadel’, perched on stone mushrooms to keep the rats at bay. The car-free streets help preserve the ambience.
A priest, Johann Josef, brought the first British alpinists to town in the mid 1800s and established Saas-Fee’s future. The Hotel Dom was the first to be built and in 1849 Josef made skis with which to descend to Saas Grund. There was no looking back, other than to his statue in the town square.
Saas-Fee has a wide choice of accommodation with 57 hotels and numerous apartments, most of which are owned by local families as the sale of apartments is strictly controlled to ensure that the traditional village character is maintained.
The road to Saas-Fee was only built in the 1950s, before which it was a donkey track. The builders wisely decided to end the road with a big car park from where it’s an easy walk, with luggage on a hand trolley or electric hotel taxi cart, to the centre, making this one of the Alps’ easiest traffic-free ski resorts to negotiate.
Today, Saas-Fee has some of the most restrictive building regulations in Switzerland. New buildings must follow the traditional Swiss chalet style construction with gabled roof and their facade which must be built largely from wood, which is quickly blackened by sunlight, so that they blend well with the older properties.
Heading south (left) from the car park takes you down towards the base area with a mix of hotels, après-ski bars and ski shops. In the northern half of town there are more hotels and chalets as well as restaurants and bars.
Three electric bus routes run to the ski lifts and although Saas-Fee village is not big, the many places with ski and boot storage (CHF 2 per day) near the base station come in handy for people staying at the northern end of the village (up to 1km from base area) allowing them a more comfortable commute to the lifts.
Apres Ski Bars & Nightlife in Saas-Fee
At the last count Saas-Fee had 10 bars, 4 discos and around 50 restaurants in the village – not bad for a place of this size – and there are also plenty of tea rooms and bakeries for a more calorific après-ski experience.
The street leading from the slopes into Saas-Fee must have been built with apres-ski in mind, and it’s enjoyable rather than. Lined with restaurants and bars that catch the last of the sun, this is where you’ll find the late afternoon action.
Hotel Waldesruh, Hotel Derby and Restaurant Belmont have terraces and an umbrella bar right next to the base area nursery slopes and at the bottom of the runs down from the main ski area which ensures their popularity at lunch times and after skiing and for families especially.
Nesti’s Ski Bar is frequently packed and probably the most popular of the lot; the Fee-Iglu-Bar is another good indoor venue; the Black Bull pumps out some lively tunes well beyond the confines of the Heineken umbrellas on its sundeck and is busy until the early hours of the morning. Zur Mühle, close to the base area ski slopes, is a popular bar restaurant with a dark, cosy interior and popular outdoor terrace with sheepskin covered seats and heaters when needed.
Beneath the Unique Hotel Dom, Popcorn’s is a popular snowboarder haunt, which transforms from being a popular place for boarders to hang out and shop by day into a lively bar and disco after hours. Living Room in the Unique Hotel Dom is open daily from 8pm has a chilled out atmosphere and is one of the more popular late night venues for drinking and dancing. Poison nightclub (underneath the Metro) attracts a younger crowd and is invariably lively and packed from late night until 3 or 4am.
Restaurants in Saas-Fee
There’s a good range of eating in Saas-Fee with 42 restaurants and cafés ranging from Michelin-starred gourmet dining at one of Switzerland’s top restaurants to traditional Swiss fare, speciality dishes, pizza and spaghetti in rustic surroundings, 5 cafés and 11 mountain restaurants. With 15 bars and 3 night clubs there’s also plenty of après ski to be enjoyed before and after dinner and for those that wish to until well after midnight.
The illustrated guide book Saas-Fee for Gourmets by Irma DűtsIrma Dütsch – the first Swiss woman to become Cuisiniere de l’annee in 1994, who made her name over 30 years at the Restaurant Waldhotel Fletschhorn – is a mouth watering guide to some of the gourmet dishes available and restaurants where you can savour them.
The best restaurant in the region, with one Michelin star and 18 points in the Gault Milau gourmet guide, is the Fletschhorn, a 30-minute walk from town or a 10-minute taxi ride. Its nouvelle cuisine is considered some of the best in Switzerland. Make reservations early and expect to pay from €100 per head or more if you choose high end fine wines from a cellar of more than 20,000 bottles. It’s also a 15 room hotel.
Hotel Hohnegg’s award winning restaurant is particularly good for vegetarian food, which in this part of the world usually means cheese, by the kilo. The Hohnegg makes a refreshing, refined change. Recommended by Gault Milau, Guide Michelin, Guide-Bleu and Gôut Mieux, it’s also an 8 room hotel and has been listed among the top 10 Alpine hotels in Switzerland and the 100 most liked restaurants in Switzerland.
For more centrally situated gourmet dining, the stylish Vernissage Restaurant at the 5-star Ferienart Resort & Spa with Heinz Julen chairs and impressive chandeliers is worth visiting for dinner or for after dinner drinks in the stylish Vernissage cocktail bar which is one of the more sophisticated places to chill out later in the evening. Ferienart Resort & Spa’s Casar Ritz is another of Saas-Fee’s first class restaurants.
La Ferme, a rustic chalet restaurant in the centre of the village, offers a good choice of traditional Swiss fare, mostly meat dishes as well as fish, pasta and vegetarian alternatives. Starters range from CHF 10-30, main courses CHF 25-50 and desserts are CHF 10-15 so expect to pay CHF50-100 per person for a 3-course dinner plus wine. Le Vieux Chalet, with Swiss flags flying from its first floor window boxes, serves Swiss traditional fare in similar surroundings.
Don’t forget Saas-Fee is just a few kilometers from Italy and Del Ponte Pizzeria at Ferienart Resort & Spa serves excellent pizza and spaghetti dishes. The trendy CofFee Bar in the main street is worth visiting for relaxed après ski, for a snack or after dinner drinks with “smooth music”.
Other Activities in Saas-Fee
There’s plenty to do in Saas-Fee besides skiing and boarding: long toboggan runs, winter walking, snow shoeing, cross-country skiing, alpine gorge adventure, ice climbing and plenty more winter things to do and see including the world’s largest ice grotto at 3500m above sea level.
Winter walking and Snow-shoeing in Saas-Fee
Saas-Fee has winter walking trails on the Hannig and elsewhere around Saas-Fee, totaling 30km, with an additional 22km around Saas Grund, Almagell and Balen. The Tourist Office information lists 24 different walking trails in Saastal, many of which are no more than a 30-60 minute walk and the longest will take an average walker about 2½ hours to complete. Similarly, there are 16 high alpine walking trails for snowshoeing above Saas-Fee and Saas Grund including the route from Felskinn via Egginerjoch to Britanniahűtte and back which takes between 1-2 hours.
Tobogganing in Saas-Fee
There’s a 5km toboggan run from the top of the Hannig. The slopes are served by gondola and there’s a twice a-week fondue evening at the Hannig mountain restaurant, followed by a torchlit descent. It’s a great ride down the forested hillside, with a small bar on a corner before the final quick section. At Saas Grund there’s an even longer 11km from Kreuzboden to Saas Grund. The 900m Feeblitz toboggan run in Saas-Fee is an adventure ride on rails, open all year, but it’s no match for the thrill of tobogganing 5-11km on snow.
Cross-Country Skiing in Saas-Fee
There are 36km of cross country skiing, most of which is in Saas Almagell including the route up the valley from Saas Almagell to the Mattmark dam, following the pretty route alongside the wooded river. In Saas-Fee itself, has just 6km of cross-country skiing. Most trails are for classic cross-country with only 4-8km of skating trails depending on conditions.
Alpine Gorge Via Ferata and ice climbing in Saas-Fee
For thrills, try the alpine gorge adventure, led by a guide through frozen waterfalls and across rope slides. More serious still is Saas-Fee’s first class ice climbing; in January they hold the world indoor ice climbing championships on a spectacular ice pillar in the middle of the car-park’s spiral ramp.
The world’s largest ice grotto in Saas-Fee
Still on ice, but with no special skills required, Saas-Fee’s ice grotto is the world’s largest (5500m³) and at an altitude of 3500m above seal level; you can get married there but most visitors choose just to slide around and take in the ice sculptures.
Other Winter Activities in Saas-Fee
Back at valley level there are outdoor skating and curling rinks. Additionally there’s snow tubing, airboarding, husky sledding, horse carriage rides, spa, pool and wellness facilities at the Bielen leisure centre, and finally, free walking tours of the village organised by the Saas-Fee tourist office and a village museum. A number of Saas-Fee hotels including Hotel du Glacier and the Ferienart Resort & Spa also allow non-residents the opportunity to enjoy wellness facilities.
Saas-Fee Tourist Information
For more information contact the Tourist Office in Saas-Fee: