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Posts Tagged ‘Saas Fee’

By August 2011, only seven ski areas in Europe were still offering liftserved skiing (FirstTracksOnline News).

Tignes, France
Les Deux Alpes, France
Zermatt, Switzerland
Saas-Fee, Switzerland
Passo dello Stelvio, Italy
Hintertux, Austria (August and September)
– Mölltaler Gletscher, Austria

euro-summer-ski

I wasn’t in Europe to ski, but I was going to ski in Europe. I had hoped going on our last Summer in Europe back in 1998, but a record heat wave and a freak accident prevented me from doing so.

This time, 13 years later, I was going to cross off the months August and September in my ski streak. Then it occurred to me, wouldn’t be interesting to make a comparison between each ski areas still activate within the same time period. It didn’t start that way, but as time the weeks passed by, it became a goal. The fact that I probably not return to do a summer tour of European glaciers made it even more appealing. Visiting them side-by-side in the same time period at the closing of the Summer season and give me a better ideas of what Europe got to offer to skiers in the late Summer months.

Only Zermatt and Hintertux are open year-round while the others shutdown once the Summer comes to an end: some of them for a few weeks, while Passo dello Stelvio is only open in Summer.

This is a list of different aspect of each summer ski areas. I don’t like to talk about “Best of” lists, but the following is more according to my opinions, thus the reason why I call it “Favorites”. For many of them, the actual summer terrain was greater than what was left at the end of the season. The following only reflected of what was left.

Favorite park : Les Deux Alpes
Favorite terrain : Hintertux
Favorite winter quality snow : Zermatt
Favorite off-the-beaten track : Passo dello Stelvio
Favorite place : Saas-Fee
Favorite place in France : Tignes
Most expensive : Zermatt
Biggest vertical : Hintertux
Highest altitude (summit and base of skiing) : Zermatt
Lowest altitude (summit and base of skiing) : Hinterux
Favorite on mountain food : Hintertux
Favorite beer selection : Hintertux
Favorite view : Zermatt, Tignes and Saas-Fee
Favorite sick road : Passo dello Stelvio
Less favorite steeps (or lack of) : Les Deux Alpes
Favorite steeps : Hintertux
Favorite Day conditions during my visit : Passo dello Stelvio
Favorite place to have fun : Saas-Fee (2nd in parks, good terrain and off-the-beaten track).

The only ski area I didn’t to visit that was still open was Mölltaler Gletscher in Austria. As I mentioned to my wife, I was probably not going to repeat a European Summer Ski Safari as the cost was much more expensive than a trip to South America, but it was fun to do. I would have loved to make to Mölltaler, but I was running out of energy and cash after almost 6 weeks in Europe; 3 of them in the Alps. At 85.7%, it’s a good sample of the mission into what late summer skiing in Europe has to offer.

Click on the specific links or image to access the seven original Ski Mad World posts.

Cham, Genève et Tignes turns August, FR – 11-13 août 2011

13 août 2011: Glacier de la Grande Motte, Tignes

See La Meije and Ski Les Deux Alpes: 20-21 août 2011

Zermatt CH : August 24, 2011 – Classic!!!

Saas-Fee CH : August 25, 2011 – Between Zermatt and Zürich

Passo dello Stelvio / Stilfserjoch IT : August 28, 2011 – Sci estivo

Hintertux, AUT : August 29, 2011 – Austria’s turns

Hintertux, AUT : September 1, 2011 – last turns and days in Europe

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Day Two skiing on the combo Zermatt-Saas Fee lift ticket which set me back a nice 120 CHF. Zermatt’s neighbouring valley is less touristy, but as scenic. Saas-Fee doesn’t have the attraction power of Zermatt and it isn’t access by train, but you still can’t drive on the town’s streets. No majestic Matterhorn hovering above, but if it lacks in a majestic iconic peak, it makes up in hanging glaciers easily visible from town.


Arriving in Saas-Fee in the late afternoon

I arrived the previous day as it was getting dark; Saas-Fee is definitely quiet place compared to my previous destination. I stayed at the Hotel Garni-Imseng, a laidback hotel with normal zimmers, but you could find in the basement next to the Bakers Museum, the Touristenlager place, a dorm in the basement which had 7 side-by-side 3 stories bunkbeds for a potential capacity of 21 people in one small room, fortunately we were only 5. The other guests were a couple of parkskiers from Geneva and a freerider that skied 2 hours in the early morning then took the bus and train to get to work in Lausanne and back later in the night. I’m not even sure if the owner knew this guy was staying there. The setup was sketchier than in Zermatt, but more genuine, authentic and friendlier from the owner, staff and guess. I guess that too many tourists in Zermatt can have a negative effect on the locals.

I had a full breakfast before heading for the gondola; I wasn’t in the hurry to hit the ice. It was slightly overcast as I rode the lift with a hiker. Lift assisted hiking was really big in my two Swiss destinations, many of the Saas-Fee gondolas were running just for hikers and had nothing to do with skier access to snow. The last part of the ascent was done with the Metro Alpin, an underground funicular, but much older than the one at Tignes.


Saas Fee in the early morning light from the gondola


Saas Fee’s Winter ski runs below glaciers

You couldn’t really see where the skiing was once you leave the terminal building; it didn’t help that it was cloudy. The skiing started as a push across very thin cover flats towards the side of the glacier. The first thing would notice was the cattrack set next to huge crevasses. I was also impressed with the overall steepness of the runs; not much of a runout in Saas-Fee. The runs were short and steep, not really steeper than Zermatt, but didn’t have the runout. The skiing domaine was also more restraint.


The zigzag Metro run that you access once off the Allalin terminal at 3500 meters. The run is on the edge of the glacier and among the crevasses. T-Bars in the background.


The Allalin 2 + 3 T-bars, bottom of Metro pitch with courses and Allalinhorn (4027m).


There were also courses on the FIS run. View of the crevasses and Allalin station (3500m).


Courses on FIS and Allalinhorn


Snowpark

No wonder the Geneva park kids like Saas Fee; the jumps and halfpipe were happening. The only park I witnessed during this late summer treks across the Alps glacier that came close was the Les Deux Alpes park.

The altitude wasn’t as high as the previous day skiing at Zermatt, so the snow softened up earlier. The glacier setup was two parallel T-Bars and a lower one where the bottom snow conditions were somewhat sketchy. There were a number of people training, but not close to the amount or general caliber as in Zermatt. I made runs until we started being immersed in clouds just prior to the last lift at 1pm.


Allalin 2 + 3 lifts and Metro run


FIS run with part of snowpark in the shadow of Allalinhorn


Top part of Summer skiing terrain as seen from top of Allalin 1 lift


Allalin 1 lift, lower part of Summer skiing terrain with Täschhorn (4490m) and Dom (4545m), 3rd highest mountain in the Alps.


Lower T-Bar : Allalin 1 – Lower ski accessed point at approximately 3200 meters.


Upper T-bars and Allalin restaurant & terminal (3500m)


Feegletscher and Täschhorn from the gondola


Storm brewing as the skiing ended

Once back in the valley, early evening showers moved in and continued into the next day. I managed to ride the alpine luge next to the gondola. The next morning the Swiss kids weren’t going out as the hill was closed and I decided to make an early move out towards Zürich. Zürich is a beautiful city. but like Switzerland, it is expensive. I’m moving further East for my next destination.


Saas-Fee


Walliser Rösti and beer after a good day skiing


Road from Saas-Fee to Zürich


and tracks from Saas-Fee to Zürich


Zürich

MadPat’s Galleries :
Tag 27 / 24 August: Zermatt und auf nach Saas Fee
Tag 28 / 25 August: Saas Fee
Tag 29 / 26 August: Saas Fee und Zurich

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Day’s Log

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Detail log of skiable terrain

The Day and terrain stats: 18 runs and 4490m vertical in just under 4 hours.
Verticals :
Allalin 2 + 3 : 249m (3330-3579)
Allalin 1 : 162m (3200-3362)
Top to bottom summer ski terrain: 379m (3200-3579)
Allalin restaurant terminal : 3500m
Metro Alpin Funicular Felskinn-Allalin : 456m (3044-3500)
Alpin Express 2 Gondola Moreina-Felskinn : 372m (2672-3044)
Alpin Express 1 Gondola Saas-Fee-Moreina : 765m (1907-2672)
Saas-Fee to Allalin : 1593m (1907-3500)

Ski Pass

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