The Allalin glacier, at the top of the resort, is no scrap of ice. Even though, like every Alpine glacier, it’s on the retreat, it’s still an impressive piece of work, and dominates the slopes above the town.
Its presence guarantees skiing throughout the year (although the lifts aren’t always running), and conditions even in mid-summer, can be distinctly wintry. Needless to say, during the regular winter season, the snow on its surface is almost always good.
The glacier is both a blessing and a curse
Problem is, it takes up an awful lot of space, and much of the rest of the mountain is covered in the ocean of rubble that’s been left in the glacier’s wake. So apart from the intermediate runs on the glacier itself, there isn’t an awful lot else to ski. The other waymarked trails all tend to be thrust into sheltered crevices by the ice and rock.
That said, what does exist is high quality stuff. In particular, the 1700m on-piste descent you can stitch together, from the 3500m Allalin funicular station, passing by the Morenia mid-station, all the way back down into town is real scorcher. We went there for the first time a few years back, and fell in love with that drop, skiing it faster and faster, over and over again, for a whole day. All of which makes it a rather odd proposition – but one which we think will work well for the following types of skier:
What sort of skier will it suit?
1. Piste-hungry speed-freaks on a short break: Most of us will take three or four days to discover the limitations of the terrain, which makes it perfect for a quick blast in late January, or in the middle of March. What’s more, Saas Fee has a surprisingly good apres scene as well – dominated by the Swiss, but perfect for a self-sufficient group of twenty or thirty-something friends who want to ski and party in equal measure.
2. Freestylers: There’s a big terrain park up on the glacier,(which includes half-pipe, lots of kickers and rails and a boardercross course). snow-parks.com rates it highly. The resort’s home of one of the classic slacker hang-outs too: Popcorn, underneath the hotel of the same name, which starts as a café, carries on as a bar, and finishes at about 4am as a full-on, wigged-out club.
3. Beginners and families with small children: Not only are the nursery slopes set apart from the main pistes (so no heart-stopping moments when the speed freaks whizz by), but there are easy-going slopes at two stages higher up to which you can progress – though you’ll have to ride the lifts back down at the end of your session.
4. Summer skiers: The glacier is one of the most extensive in Europe and attracts national ski teams from around the world for training in summer. This is one of the few glaciers with a fully operational summer terrain park and half-pipe.
Saas-Fee is snowboarding stronghold, though we can’t see why
Yes, there’s a highly-rated terrain park up on the glacier – given 4.5/5 by snow-parks.com, and Popcorn (see above) is a classic boarders’ hangout. But where’s the freeriding? You can’t take off over the glacier, for fear of disappearing down a crevasse. And all the debris left behind by the retreating ice means it’s much too rocky on most of the lower slopes. But there are still lots of drag-lifts serving the glacier runs, many of which are open throughout the summer – as is the terrain park.