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The Saas-Fee valley. (©_Switzerland Tourism)
Lying in the next-door valley to Zermatt, SAAS-FEE is often overlooked, mostly because it doesn’t have any train access. However, were it not for the Matterhorn next door, the array of peaks around Saas-Fee would be enough of a draw in themselves: the village is perched on a shelf of pasture at the base of a horseshoe of thirteen 4000m-plus peaks. Oozing out from between them is the giant Feegletscher – or Fairy Glacier – trickling its meltwater down through the village, and active enough in its various sectors to limit what would otherwise be spectacular skiing. The danger of falling down a glacial crevasse if you stray beyond piste-markings is more pronounced in Saas-Fee than in most other resorts.

Saas-Fee is one of four linked villages at the end of the Saas valley. Buses from Brig pass through Visp and then Stalden (both on the BVZ train line) before branching off into the valley, passing first through Saas Balen, then Saas Grund, the main village on the valley floor; from here, a road branches up to Saas-Fee – which is car-free – while a few kilometres on down the valley is Saas Almagell.

From the entrance to Saas-Fee, several quaint lanes lead down (southwest) into the heart of the village, full of shops and some boutiques, but still with much character and charm. In winter, several lifts serve a handful of good blue runs at the bottom of the glacial bowl towering all around, but the main route up the mountain is via the Alpin Express, the highest underground funicular system in the world, which emerges at the top of the Mittelallalin (3500m). From here there are some good red and blue runs on the Feegletscher, the longer ones winding all the way back down to the village; summer skiing is also possible up here. Passes cost Fr.58/day, Fr.152/three days or Fr.300 for a week. The top station also boasts a giant ice pavilion (Fr.7), with scholarly explications of the workings of glaciers. Hiking routes abound, both in summer, with long treks finding a way between the peaks into the Matter valley, and in winter, when some 30km of trails above the village remain open.

Throughout the village you may come across the name Zurbriggen on a number of shop signs; if the name sounds familar, it’s because Pirmin Zurbriggen, a local boy made good, was a downhill skiing world champion in the 1980s. Today, he owns a hotel in tiny Saas Almagell up the valley, as well as another in Zermatt. Various branches of the family have kept their foothold in Saas-Fee.

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