Travel: Top 20 Resorts: Saas-Fee

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The Independent Travel
ARRIVING in Saas-Fee for the first time can be a depressing experience: fiercely policed entry gates and barely adequate multi-storey car parking make you feel as if you have come to the worst kind of theme park. But all is forgiven next morning when you wake to see (weather permitting) the spectacular glaciers hanging above the village; and, later, when you amble along the long, traffic-free main street - no more than a path, really - towards the lifts that take you up to those same glaciers.

Saas-Fee's skiing is all about altitude. It is not extensive, or greatly varied, or hugely difficult, or even well served by lifts - though a new gondola has apparently helped. The glaciers offer little or no off-piste scope. But it is high, with one of the biggest ski areas in the Alps that can claim to be completely snow-sure. Nearly all the skiing takes place between 3,500m and 2,500m, though there are lower runs back to the village at 1,800m. There is hardly any tree skiing, and even that involves taking high lifts; so when the weather closes in, skiing simply stops.

Other attractions include an exceptionally civilised (though not cheap) sports centre, and an an attractive away-from-it-all hotel lost in the woods overlooking Saas-Grund, the Waldhotel Fletschhorn.

CHRIS GILL'S VERDICT: Saas- Fee is what I wish Zermatt still was - a village rather than a town, with the signs of international success not too obtrusive. Go for a week, not a fortnight - and hope that they really have fixed the queues.

(Photograph omitted)

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