This blueprint for the Glacier Trail Saas Fee is for anyone eager to hike a glacier in snowshoes. We are living proof that even a city slicker can do this without getting trapped in the eternal ice…
As an avid skier, I have always felt the urge to step outside my own comfort zone. I wanted to experience a guided off-piste adventure, such as freeride skiing or ski touring. Only in my wildest imagination would I be released on a glacier, tied to a safety rope, to explore a hidden world of ice and snow.
When Saas Fee Tourism reached out with a proposal for just that, I did not hesitate for a second. Of any destination in Switzerland, Saas Fee has written outdoor adventure all over it. Surrounded by no less than 13 peaks above 4000 meters, Saas Fee deserves the labels “extreme” and “record-breaking.”
And so, during a single weekend, we would be experiencing the taste of white wine from Europe’s highest vineyard, and we would ride the world’s highest funicular to the world’s highest revolving restaurant!
Hotel la Gorge Saas Fee
Just where the Feevispa river has carved a deep gorge into the rock sits Hotel La Gorge Saas Fee. At the same time, the boutique hotel is conveniently located just a few minutes’ walk from the bus terminal. And finally, as a testament to the rawness of nature, a mountain goat decided to graze beside our temporary home.
We are welcomed by Tatjana Kalbermatten. She is not only the face of the Hotel La Gorge Saas Fee, but also its soul. The directress grew up just a stone’s throw away and remembers the place from long before it was turned into a hotel.
An aromatherapy consultant by trade, Tatjana quite literally infuses her passion into the hotel. Her aim is to represent the valley she calls home: its intact nature with streams and waterfalls, glaciers, and mountain peaks. Through interior design and aromatherapy, Tatjana has created a soul-soothing environment in this newly renovated hotel.
Easily recognizable by the two medieval towers facing the mountainscape, the rooms at La Gorge offer some stunning views. Room 31 on the third floor is Tatjana’s favorite, and we are privy to staying here for the first night.
Perched under the roof but with large windows and high-end furniture, it feels cocoon-like. The bedframe is encased in oakwood, a material we would encounter again in the bathroom. There, the wall behind the round mirror is made of real oak while the ceramic sink features a wood imitation.
As we would learn the following day, the hotel’s Sky Suite is as exclusive as they get: just off the bedroom, there is a large deck overlooking the gorge below. And on that deck, a private hot tub! Needless to say, we hop in to enjoy the moment when the sun sets, the mountains turn orange, and blue hour makes an appearance.
The hotel has gifted us with two vouchers for welcome drinks. We follow the recommendation of the kind staff at the in-house Restaurant Zer Schlucht. The signature cocktail of beetroot gin, mandarine juice, and prosecco is pure refreshment.
With seasonality in mind, Chef Christoph Held changes his menu regularly. He finds inspiration in nature and infuses new aromas into his dishes. Tonight, our taste buds sample a winter salad with pumpkin and sautéd mushrooms, followed by suckling pig with pecan.
We enjoy a fantastic wine pairing, too. The local Heida white has minerality with notes of citrus and honey. And it would not be the Valais if this wine was not holding a record of its own: it stems from Europe’s highest vineyards at Visperterminen.
When staying at La Gorge, it really makes sense to also dine there - quite literally. The aromatherapy concept extends to the kitchen, exposing us to flavors such as roasted thyme.
Back in the room, I step out on the balcony one last time before turning off the lights. Despite the darkness, I can make out the glooming Saas Fee glacier high above.
Hiking the Glacier Trail Saas Fee with snowshoes
On the big day, we wake up bright and early. And we cannot believe our luck: there are no clouds in the sky, making for perfect conditions for our snowshoe hike on the glacier! We meet our local guide at the Saas-Fee Guides shop.
After introductions, we each receive a set of gear: snowshoes, ski poles, a climbing harness, and a pair of waterproof hiking boots. Our advice: go for the boot rental even if your own boots seem right. Your feet will be happier hiking up and down in a comfortable pair of shoes that are approved by a seasoned guide.
Our first destination is the Längfluh mountain station. This is likely the closest access point for a glacier hike anywhere. From here, we start walking along the ski slopes to where the glacier trail begins. The 10-minute walk through the deep snow is ideal to get used to the high altitude. And with every step, the anticipation grows to enter the world of ice.
Our guide gives some final instructions and checks our gear. Once attached to the master rope with a carabiner, we cross a vast snowfield before entering a corridor of ice.
The sheer magnitude of the Fee Glacier leaves us speechless. Our guide has seen it shrink significantly in his own lifetime, though.
After a three-hour snowshoe hike, we end up at the Spielboden station. The Glacier Experience with Saas-Fee Guides helped us put things into perspective. Global warming has a real and immediate effect on glaciers, a frail world of ice worthy of our protection.
The guided Glacier Trail Saas Fee is held from mid-December to mid-April. Depending on your physical condition, the hike can be as short as 30 minutes or as long as three hours.
How to reach the Saas Fee glacier viewpoints
The car-free village of Saas Fee offers two options for anyone to see the glaciers: Mittelallalin and Längfluh. In both cases, the cable car stop is connected to a restaurant. This makes it possible even for pedestrians to see a mighty glacier from close.
Mittelallalin Glacier Viewpoint
The restaurant at Mittelallalin sits just below the towering Allalinhorn peak. At an altitude of 3500 meters above the sea, the Mittelallalin restaurant is the world’s highest revolving restaurant.
There is yet another record waiting to be checked off the bucket list: Metro Alpin, the world’s highest funicular. On your way to Mittelallalin, you will first embark on the Felskinn cable car. Once you reach Felskinn at 2980 meters above the sea, you will already be able to spot the Saas Fee glacier.
The transfer to Mittelallalin takes place inside the Felskinn station. Running at 15-minute intervals, the Metro Alpin underground funicular will zip you to the top in just under three minutes.
Fun fact: the two funicular coaches are still original, dating back to 1984. Since the access tunnel to the funicular was structurally enhanced, the wagons no longer fit through. This explains why riding the Metro Alpin feels a bit like time traveling…
Except for an annual maintenance period during late spring, Mittelallalin is accessible throughout the year. There is an impressive ice cave located below the restaurant. And thanks to the Saas Fee glacier, summer skiing in Switzerland is possible.
Längfluh Glacier Viewpoint
Another option to see the Saas Fee glacier is at Längfluh. The restaurant there sits in an elevated position at 2869 meters above the sea, allowing for bird’s-eye views of the glacier below. This is also where the Saas-Fee Guide glacier walk begins.
In order to get there, simply take the cable car gondola from Saas Fee to Spielboden. This is an especially impressive ride across the glacier mound. Just a few decades ago, the Fee Glacier still covered much of the area below.
Once at Spielboden, transfer to the cable car to Längfluh. The 3.5-minute ride ends inside the mountain top station with the à la carte Restaurant Pilz.
Our advice: grab a table by the window from where you can marvel at some of the beforementioned 4k peaks that make up the Mischabel group.