There is a place in Switzerland where snow is guaranteed. Surrounded by high peaks and mighty glaciers, summer skiing on the Alp's largest glacier slope is a possibility in Saas-Fee.
Whenever we arrive at the Saas-Fee bus terminal and get a first glimpse of the landscape, we can never quite decide: is Saas-Fee at the end of the world? Or could it be the beginning of it all?
It feels a bit like being inside a kettle with steep slopes coming down on all sides. Yet, the area has a good vibe and by no mean does it make you feel enclosed. The ski slopes are facing north, protecting them from too much sun exposure and thus guaranteeing powdery snow. At the edge of the village, there are a number of bunny lifts for beginner skiers.
We like to go all the way up above 3000 meters above sea to ski on the glaciers.
It is an awesome experience to face the eternal ice all around us. This time, we were supposed to embark on a glacier hike with a local guide. But due to snowfall, our excursion had to be canceled. We will surely return next winter to try a glacier hike.
Inside the Walliserhof Grand-Hotel & Spa Saas-Fee
This February, we had the privilege to spend a ski weekend at the Walliserhof Grand-Hotel & Spa Saas-Fee. The newest member hotel of the Relais & Chateaux family in Switzerland has been renovated from the ground up.
Located in the center of charming Saas-Fee, the hotel with its three restaurants is ideal for those into winter sports or summer hiking. The cable cars leading up to the ski slopes are within walking distance. However, a ski shuttle runs regularly outside the hotel and is included in the room rate.
The hotel has 74 rooms and suites distributed among its property. We like the feel of our Superior Double Room with its spruce and oak woods. For an alpine destination, it is very much fitting to feature a touch of nature in the rooms. Here, even the DO NOT DISTURB sign is made of wood.
The first night, we dine in style at the Cäsar Ritz
Our half-board arrangement includes any four courses of our choosing. The philosophy of Head Chef, Philipp Höppler, is to offer regional and seasonal dishes for carnivores and vegetarians. The young chef has exceptional plating skills. The dishes are eye-candy and we cannot stop taking pictures...
An amuse bouche of sweet citrus infused burrata with roasted almonds in a cone:
An appetizer reminiscent of a walk through the forest: tomato, parsnip and wild mushrooms:
For the main, I try the delicious and juicy monk fish with wild broccoli, first potato and caviar:
And for dessert, we share the heavenly cheese cake with apricot and crumbles:
Our advice: try the vinegar tasting before the main course. The chef will personally serve two types of vintage vinegars from his hometown of Venningen, Germany.
The following night, we try the Mediterranean restaurant Del Ponte
Mamiko heads straight for the pulpo octopus. All the pasta is made in-house. Whenever I see a restaurant with a wood-burning pizza stove, I simply cannot resist. My Pizza Bufalina is fantastic, starting with the tasty dough, the fresh cherry tomatoes and the delicious buffalo mozzarella.
"Last Christmas" by Wham! is a thing of the past
The hotel that is now the Walliserhof has quite a legacy. Back in 1984, two exotic London musicians and their entourage checked in for an entire week: it was George Michael and Andrew Ridgeley with their band Wham!.
The duo would go on to shoot the video clip for the world's most played Christmas song: Last Christmas. In the music video, you will recognize the Felskinn cable car or a couple chalets located in the Wildi part of Saas-Fee.
Today, the hotel still retains some memorabilia of that faithful December when George Michael stayed at the Adlerhorst Suite. But the hotel's GM, Thorsten Fink, does not like to dwell in nostalgia. Instead, he has a clear vision about how to position the newly reopened Walliserhof: it should be an oasis of well-being for body, mind and soul.
The alpine setting of Saas-Fee with its crisp air and mineral water sources lays the foundation for helping guests to recover from their daily stresses. The GM has attracted a highly likeable team of hosts and hostesses from 16 nations with the best intentions to make our stay as pleasant as possible. Be it the barkeeper or the concierge, his team is approachable and forthcoming as they help us get the most out of our ski weekend in Saas-Fee.
Despite the hotel's complete metamorphosis, we could not resist but step back in time and re-enact the music video for "Last Christmas"...
A recommendation and some candid thoughts about the classification
The Walliserhof Grand-Hotel & Spa is declared as a five-star hotel. The reception and lobby are bright and welcoming, the spa offers enough variety, the swimming pool is a piece of eye-candy, and the hotel did not spare with design elements.
There are three in-house restaurants and a cozy bar. And our superior double room had been newly renovated, featuring a memory foam mattress, a pillow menu and views of the glacier. (Although it was rather chilly because we could not find the temperature control.)
Having stayed at numerous five-star hotels in Switzerland, I cannot help but compare each experience to my reference points. Some of the most luxurious hotels offer large spas with quiet areas for relaxation, spacious rooms with touch-panel interfaces for lighting and temperature, as well as gourmet temples recognized by the Guide Michelin.
Located in the historic center of Saas-Fee, the chalet style Walliserhof consists of several houses that are connected through hallways and passages. With no space for expansion, the recent renovation focused on the interior.
It is evident that lots of thought went into the design which gives the hotel a contemporary and fresh atmosphere. But compared to other five-star hotels where interior spaces were planned from scratch, the Walliserhof had to compromise and make the best out of its existing structure.
What I am getting at is that the Walliserhof Grand-Hotel & Spa would have exceeded my expectations by far were is classified as a four-star hotel. (In fact, it would be my favorite four-star hotel in Switzerland.) But since it decided to play in the five-star league, it cannot quite match up to my reference points.
Thanks to Thorsten Fink and his team for an unforgettable stay!
Walliserhof Grand-Hotel & Spa Saas-Fee
Phone: +41 27 958 19 00