5 reasons to consider Saas-Fee for your next family skiing holiday
by Fraser Wilkin, 3 April 2014
Looking for a great family ski resort? Fraser Wilkin went on a long weekend to Saas-Fee with his 9 year old son and found it hard to leave...
1. The village
The traffic-free village is a delight to explore, with ancient barns and cowsheds still very much in evidence among the maze of narrow streets.
Spring is a great time to visit Saas-Fee - there is still plenty of snow, the restaurant and café terraces are buzzing, and the resort is a hive of outdoor activity.
2. The slopes
Complete beginners are privy to some of the finest nursery slopes in the Alps. Not only are they wide, gentle and snow sure, they are set apart from the main areas, free from intrusion from faster more intimidating skiers.
Near beginners can progress to the glacier and get a feel for the spectacular high mountain scenery without encountering anything too tricky, returning to base by lift at the end of the day.
Saas-Fee also has plenty to amuse more experienced skiers, with the most challenging terrain on the lower half of the mountain where the pistes are steeper and narrower.
For a change of scene, or if Saas-Fee is very busy, you could give Saas-Grund a try - just a few minutes by bus down the valley.
Saas-Grund has a delightful little ski area that is perfect for all abilities, with excellent mid-mountain nursery slopes, some satisfying reds and an epic 10km descent from the 3200m high point to 1560m in the valley below.
February to April is the best time to take the family to Saas-Fee. Surrounded by some of the highest mountains in the Alps, the village gets very little sun early in the season and can be very cold.
3. The snow
Saas-Fee has a justified reputation as one of the most reliable ski resorts for snow in the Alps.
Not only does the village sit at an impressive 1800m, the pistes are among the very highest in the Alps, reaching nearly twice that.
This part of Switzerland may have a relatively dry climate but, at these altitudes, any snow that does fall tends to stick around and the season is one of the longest in the Alps.
Indeed skiing on the glacier is possible most of the year.
The steeper lower runs can be icy, particularly early in the season, but can be avoided by taking a lift down to resort.
4. Non-skiing activities
So much is there to experience for families in Saas-Fee, that skiing is often only one part of the overall agenda.
Firstly there's the Hannig, an entire mountain dedicated to non-skiing activities served by its own lift. Choose from a myriad of sporting activities including tobogganing, snow shoeing and paragliding.
Winter walking is also popular with mile upon mile of cleared footpaths through snow covered larch forest. For a truly unforgettable experience, try this at night with flaming torches.
For something completely different you could also visit the world largest ice cave deep inside the Allalin glacier.
The Hannig is a great area for spotting local wildlife, particularly in spring when chamois can be seen grazing on the rocky outcrops above the gondola station.
5. Hotel Alphübel
Never has the old adage "happy kids equals happy parents" been truer than in the Alphübel - a hotel with few pretences, where a genuinely warm welcome makes the entire family feel instantly at home. Little, it seems, has changed in over 30 years and nor does it need to.
Here, children are king, with full day free supervision (2-12 years, with English speaking staff) offered Monday to Friday 9am to 6pm, including lunch and a huge variety of indoor and outdoor activities.
It might be pizza-making one day, Alpine horn-blowing another - they even lay on "traditional" evening entertainment three times a week - all good clean fun that is guaranteed to keep the whole family amused for the week.
For the best mountain views, book a south-facing room.
Crystal Ski (crystalski.co.uk; 0871 231 2256) offers a week’s half board at the Hotel Alphübel in Saas-Fee, Switzerland, from £755 per adult and £599 per child departing in January 2015, including flights from Gatwick to Geneva and transfers.
For more information about Switzerland:
Swiss International Airlines
SWISS offers up to 31 daily flights from London Heathrow, London City, Birmingham and Manchester to either Zurich, Geneva or Basel. Fares start from £123 return, including all airport taxes. For reservations call 0845 601 0956 or visit www.swiss.com
Swiss Travel System
The Swiss Travel System provides a dedicated range of travel passes and tickets exclusively for visitors from abroad. The Swiss Transfer Ticket covers a round-trip between the airport/Swiss border and your destination.
Prices are £96 in second class and £153 in first class.
For the ultimate Swiss rail specialist call Switzerland Travel Centre on 00800 100 200 30 or visit www.swisstravelsystem.co.uk