30.05.2022 Views

Magazine summer 2022

You also want an ePaper? Increase the reach of your titles

YUMPU automatically turns print PDFs into web optimized ePapers that Google loves.

Summer 2022

Saas-Fee/Saastal Magazine

1


WELCOME TO YOUR HIGH ALPINE WORLD OF ADVENTURES

Dear Readers,

Nature, adventure and sustainability are in great demand. After

having been through a challenging time, we crave natural

moments of happiness more than ever. We are all looking

for places where we can recharge our batteries, experience

new things with our loved ones, discover, learn or achieve our

goals. With its fascinating glacier worlds in the midst of Switzerland’s

highest mountains, the Saas Valley offers the ideal

conditions to enjoy exactly these pursuits – for every passion

and for every requirement. This is because Saas-Fee/Saastal

is THE high alpine world of adventures!

I look forward to welcoming you to our beautiful region.

Matthias Supersaxo, Tourism Director Saas-Fee/Saastal

Frankfurt (534 km)

Deutschland

München (521 km)

Basel (228 km)

Frankreich

Zürich (246 km)

Österreich

Bern (120 km)

The ticket for

tunnel drivers

With the BLS car transport to Valais

Timetable under:

bls.ch/autoverlad

Lausanne

Genf (226 km)

Sion

Martigny

YOUR JOURNEY TO THE SAAS VALLEY

Whether by car or by public transport: the Saas-Fee/Saastal

holiday region is easily accessible from anywhere in Switzerland.

There are direct train connections from all major Swiss

cities to Visp. From there, you can then take bus 511 on to the

Saas Valley. Practically speaking, we may be at the southernmost

tip of Switzerland, but your route to us couldn’t be

easier: just one change along the way, and unique scenery is

included free of charge! The journey takes three hours from

Zurich, Geneva and Basle and just two from Berne. Those arriving

by car will find plenty of parking spaces for car-free

Saas-Fee in the large multistorey car park right at the entrance

to the village.

Visp

Zermatt

Kandersteg

Goppenstein

Brig

Saas-Fee

Iselle

Gotthard

Italien

Milano (186 km)

2 3


A SUMMIT FIRMLY IN WOMEN’S HANDS

In June, Saas-Fee transforms into a hotspot for

women’s mountain sports: 60 women from all over

the world climb the Allalinhorn together. Among

them is mountain guide Elsie Trichot Lemordant.

Text: Patrick Gasser

Images: Elsie Trichot Lemordant / Amarcster Media

Making women visible in mountain and outdoor sports. That is

the goal of the initiative ‘100% Women’. Switzerland Tourism

launched the project last year on International Women’s Day.

Despite the pandemic, 700 female climbers from 20 countries

mastered all 48 Swiss four-thousand-metre peaks. The women

summiteers thus became role models for women all over

the world.

Now the project is entering its second round. And the

Saas Valley is playing a central role in this. And it’s no wonder:

18 of 48 four-thousand-metre peaks in the Swiss Alps

are located here, or can at least be seen from here. The venue

for this special kind of Peak Challenge is the Allalinhorn.

The 4,027 metre-high local mountain of Saas-Fee becomes

the pièce de résistance for a world record attempt: around 60

women are expected to climb the peak together between 15

and 17 June. Quite the symbolic undertaking: there has probably

never before been such a long women’s rope team.

A pleasing development

This is also confirmed by the two partner organisations – the

Swiss Mountain Guides Association and the Swiss Alpine

Club SAC – which are behind the project together with

Switzerland Tourism, Saas-Fee/Saastal Tourism and the

outdoor brand Mammut. ‘To the best of my knowledge,

never before in the history of mountain sports have so many

women joined forces to climb a peak together. And so it is all

the more gratifying that this record is being set in Switzerland’,

says historian Marie-France Hendrikx.

Burnaby and Niquille

Women are also taking the lead on the summit tour. The number

of female guides is growing. Nevertheless, in 2021, out

of 1,556 Swiss mountain guides, just 42 were women. Nicole

Niquille was the first woman to successfully complete the

physically and mentally demanding training in 1986. The history

of alpinism is predominantly shaped by men – and yet it

is more feminine than many think: be it in skirts or harem trousers

and being smirked at by their male competitors, some

women achieved top alpine performances as early as the 19th

century. For example, Elizabeth Burnaby Main Le Blond from

Great Britain (1861–1934). As a 20-year-old, she ventured on

an expedition for the first time. She made 26 first ascents, including

the east peak of the Bishorn. In 1907, she became the

first president of the British Ladies’ Alpine Club.

From the business world to the mountains

One of the female mountain guides who has a firm grip on the

rope for the ‘100% Women’ project on the Allalinhorn is Elsie

Trichot Lemordant. ‘I am happy to show women in my work

that alpinism is just as much fun for us as it is for men’, says

the mother of a two-year-old son. She grew up in Grenoble,

France, and stood on the summit of Mont Blanc at the age of

13. As her inner fire burned, Elsie’s dream job become crystal

clear: she wanted to become a mountain guide since her teenage

years. ‘Discover the world’, as she says herself. The journey

to get there was by no means straightforward: she studied

international management in Paris and started a career in the

business world, which took her to various countries.

Today she lives in Sion, Switzerland. ‘The call of the

mountains grew stronger’, says Elsie. In 2015, she dedicated

herself entirely to training to become a mountain guide.

In 2018, she passed the demanding certification exam set by

the International Federation of Mountain Guides Associations

(IFMGA). ‘Make your life a dream, and the dream a reality’, is a

quote from Antoine de Saint-Exupéry, the creator of ‘The Little

Prince’. Elsie did just that.

Stories like Elsie Trichot’s are meant to inspire and

encourage women all over the world to do new things.

With the Women’s Peak Challenge, those responsible want

to give alpinism a much more feminine touch. ‘90 per cent

of alpinists are still men’, says Elsie. ‘But women’s rope

teams often have a healthy group dynamic. You quickly

sense a willingness to help each other and the group

members inspire each other. ’ In the future – so hope

Elsie and those responsible for “100% Women” – even more

women should follow the call of the mountains.’

More information on

100% Women Peak Challenge

4 5


CONTENTS

A summit firmly in women’s hands

Elsie Trichot Lemordant

From seasonal worker to aviation pioneer

Jack Mullner

Adventure worlds

10

Family activities & biking

Murmeli Trail, Mittelallalin Adventure Terrace, Bike Skills Park, Flow Trail

The goldsmiths

Review of the Olympic Winter Games

The trailblazer

Marc Derivaz

Family activities – insider tips

Kreuzboden playground, Saas-Almagell treasure hunt, ‘Hinner de Zy’ barbecue area, Eddie our mascot

Hiking

Gsponer Höhenweg, Monte Moro Pass

14

Summer events

Saastal Märliwucha, SaasFeestival, Saaser Gaumengaudi, Mattmark Memorial Half-Marathon

Mattmark Dam

A moated castle and true powerhouse

18

22

Adventure

30

Via Ferrata Britannia, Bouldering, Glacier Experience Tour, My 1st and 2nd Four-Thousand-Metre Peaks

Limitless – with an E-MTB up the Strahlhorn

Erich and Beni Kälin

Well-being

Kneipp facilities

Photo spots

With Frederik Kalbermatten and Christelle Anthamatten

Mountain huts & mountain restaurants

Hannig and Almagell high trail

How a valley wants to protect its glaciers

The region as a pioneer in climate protection

28

36

42

34

8

12

4

41

32

24

20

IT MIT BERG-

KRAFT UND

DER RICHTIGEN

TECHNIK.

Impulsgeber für Informatik.

VISIT OUR YOUTUBE CHANNEL

Would you like to get an insight into our hiker’s paradise? Do

you know Karin Huber, who was trained as the first female

ropeway technician in Switzerland? Do you know how snow

is made? How is a glacier village like Saas-Fee experiencing

climate change? You can find insights into this and other exciting

stories on our YouTube channel. Feel inspired by our

holiday region and enjoy the four-thousand-metre peaks of

the Saas Valley – from the comfort of your sofa. You can find

more impressions on our additional social media channels.

Have fun watching!

Our most beautiful stories await

you on the playlist ‘4545’!

@saasfee

#saasfee

@saasfee_saastal

@saasfee

LEGAL NOTICE

Editor: Saastal Tourismus AG | Editorial direction: Mattia Storni and Patrick Gasser

Editorial: Patrick Gasser | Picture editor: Isabelle Krummenacher | Graphic design: Isabelle Krummenacher

Photography: Puzzle Media, Frederik Kalbermatten, Amarcster Media, levin.studio, Elsie Trichot Lemordant,

Switzerland Tourism, Lorenz Richard, Mario Heller, Christelle Anthamatten, swiss_voyage, Alberto @swiss

Cover image: Weissmies North Ridge with the summit in the background

Wir regeln das für Sie.

Kantonsstrasse 51, 3902 Glis

Telefon 027 922 10 10, ocom@ocom.ch

6 7


FROM SEASONAL WORKER TO AVIATION PIONEER

As a teenager, Jack Mullner cleaned holiday apartments

in Saas-Fee in the evenings so that he could

go skiing during the day. The ‘Chalet Boy’ of yesteryear

is one of the most talented drone pilots on the

action sports scene today.

Text: Patrick Gasser

Images: Puzzle Media

It is already late in the day. Only the bars on the village street

still have their lights on. And in the Puzzle Media office, too.

Here, Jack Mullner (29) has fulfilled a dream together with

his brother Jamie (31). Between Chinese instant noodle dishes

and beer, Jack cuts the printed analogue photos to size. It

won’t be long before the first photo exhibition takes centre

stage at the Puzzle Media House. Six professionals are working

together here. Self-employed copywriters, consultants

and, in the evening, tattoo artists. Time and again, holiday

guests also rent workspaces in the co-working space for days

at a time. Zoom calls after skiing. Working to meet deadlines

after the climbing tour.

2010. The ski trousers were wide, the jackets colourful.

Jack Mullner has just finished school. ‘I just wanted to go skiing’,

he recalls. At 17, he came to Saas-Fee from Kent, a town

in the south-east of England. And he went skiing. Every single

day. He earned his money as a ‘Chalet Boy’: Jack cleaned

holiday apartments. Twice he left Saas-Fee in spring. Then he

went on to stay here, and the seasonal worker became more

and more of a mountain man.

First DJ, then entrepreneur

When GoPro released its first action camera, Jack bought

one of these compact devices. He filmed his friends skiing,

and edited his first videos. Jack established his first contacts

through his DJ gigs in the village bars. This led to his being

commissioned for jobs for the first time – promo clips for holiday

apartments and hotels. ‘I thought,’ Jack tells me, ‘maybe I

can do this professionally.’ And that marked the birth of Puzzle

Media.

Today, companies such as RedBull, Samsung and the

ski manufacturer Faction count among Puzzle Media’s clientele.

Jack still puts his friends from Saas-Fee in front of his

lens from time to time. Along with Olympic champions like

Ayumu Hirano. When the Japanese skier performed his first

triple cork in the halfpipe on the Fee glacier in autumn 2021,

Jack was there with his drone.

Fredi K, the perfectionist

Jack’s collaboration with Frederik Kalbermatten (41) opened

the door to the world of snowboarders and freeskiers. For over

two decades, the exceptional talent from Saas-Fee dazzled

the scene with all his tricks. At some point, Jack and Jamie

Mullner were also out and about with Fredi in the glacier world

of Saas-Fee. Fredi still spends days building his ski jumps. For

example, over huge crevasses or through séracs. Fredi always

finds something new: ‘That’s what makes working with him so

exciting. He is a perfectionist. He puts a lot of time and work

into the preparation.’, says Jack.

There is also little of the film crew’s strenuous work to be seen

There are limits to freedom. Always further,

always cheaper, always better: drones have

gained significantly in terms of their popularity

in recent years. However, anyone who

has bought a flying machine for the first

time should be aware that their neighbour

will not necessarily be happy if the flying

machine – complete with camera – flies over

their hedge. In mountainous regions such

as the Saas Valley, drones can also become

a problem for helicopters or paragliders.

Therefore, the aircraft are only operated

by laymen without special training on

a Visual Flight Rules (VFR) basis only.

In addition, minimum distances must be

maintained for cable cars, for example.

in the finished clips. Jack remembers a shoot that took him to

the summit of the Strahlhorn. Jack spent ten hours on the road

with his camera equipment. ‘The tripod alone weighed 15 kilograms.

I didn’t use it’, he says and laughs. A single shot resulted

from this ten-hour feat. ‘Still, it was a great day’, says Jack.

The photos for the exhibition are cropped. He still

wants to touch up the lighting for the picture frames the next

day. For the layman, it is impossible to see what bothers Jack.

Like the athletes he captures on camera, Jack is also

a perfectionist. ‘The equipment is getting ever cheaper. What

remains crucial in what we do is creativity and quality’, says

Jack. ‘So, you’re forced to keep evolving. And that’s what excites

me.’

Right at the heart of the action, and not just on the edge

There is a small drone on the table in front of the large shopwindow.

The aircraft weighs just 1.5 kilograms. Jack soldered

them together himself with components from the internet. It

can fly up to 130 kilometres per hour. But the highlight is sat

right next to this nimble flying machine: FPV goggles. Through

this, Jack sees the images from the mounted GoPro camera

in real time and can control the aircraft with absolute precision.

FPV stands for ‘First-person view’. ‘It’s like I’m in the air

myself’, says Jack. This technology has revolutionised drone

photography in recent years. ‘It used to be just a toy. At some

point, someone must have come up with the idea of using

these drones with the appropriate cameras for action sports

footage’, says Jack. ‘That was a real game changer.’ Jack is one

of the first people to fly through the glacier world of Saas-Fee

with an FPV drone.

Jack Mullner (left) captures the Saas Valley from above with his drone.

Drone video Indian Summer

Thanks to the FPV drone, the spectators also feel as if they are

right in the middle of the action. For example, when freeriders

descend steep mountain slopes on the Freeride World Tour. Or

when Jack tracks the best freestylers with his drone in October

during the Stomping Grounds Camp on the Fee glacier. But

Jack also loves the nature that makes up Saas-Fee: ‘My favourite

places to fly are the glaciers of the Fee glacier or along the

Mischabel chain.’ His drone reaches up to the 4,545-metre-high

‘Dom’, the massif’s main summit. The device can also fly into deep

glacier caves. ‘Sometimes, I get a bit nervous’, says Jack. “But

I have to stay calm: because I cannot afford to make mistakes.

If the drone crashes, I’ll never see it again.’

8 9


Adventure worlds

1: Allalin – Highlight

2: Längfluh – Glacier world

3: Spielboden – Home of the marmots

4: Hannig – A sunny mountain

5: Kreuzboden – A family mountain

6: Hohsaas – Adrenaline & a view

7: Furggstalden and Heidbodmen – A place to recover

8: Mattmark Dam – A place to recharge

1

8

2

7

3

6

4

5

micharindisbacher.ch

10 11


Family activities

Biking

ON THE TRAIL OF THE

LATE RISER

They are probably the sweetest ambassadors of the Saas

Valley: the colonies of marmots at Spielboden and Stafelwald

show a particular trust in humans. Since summer 2021, Spielboden

has had its own family-friendly themed trail leading

through the marmots’ habitat. Together with Eddie the marmot,

the hikers learn a lot of information about this cute subspecies

of gopher. The circular trail leads from the Spielboden mountain

station into the marmot region. On seven panels, Eddie

provides some great insight into the life of his family. And with

a bit of luck, you will also meet them on the way. The marmots

especially like anyone with peanuts, dandelions or carrots.

And everyone will find a place in their hearts for these

friendly critters. Nevertheless, you should know that these are

wild animals and not for cuddling. And so, with that in mind:

quietly approach with caution and leave them alone in their

burrows. Photos should also only be taken without flash.

3

Discover the adventure worlds on p. 10

FAMILY FUN ON TWO

WHEELS

Anyone who has ever ventured onto a bike trail knows exactly

how much joy there is in store when everything is in ‘flow’. To

make it easier for children and other newcomers to enter the

world of mountain biking, three short trails have been in place

on Kreuzboden above Saas-Grund since 2021. The three

routes – each with different levels of difficulty – are roughly

400 metres long. You can get to the start line quite easily via

a carpet lift. The Bike Skills Park is located just a few metres

from the Hohsaas mountain railway station on Kreuzboden.

New in summer 2022, bike rental will also be offered directly

on location by the Saas-Fee Guides. Thanks to the beautiful

mountain lake and the adventure playground in the immediate

vicinity, an unforgettable family day is guaranteed. In the

midst of the impressive mountain world at 2,400 metres above

sea level, mountain bikers can hone their skills on two wheels

with maximum excitement along the way.

The Skills Park, however, is not only tailored to children.

It also offers adults the opportunity to safely approach mountain

biking and test their personal limits.

Information

saas-fee.ch/murmeli

5

Discover the adventure worlds on p. 10

Information

saas-fee.ch/skillspark

WHERE WINTER SPENDS

THE SUMMER

In just 40 minutes, you can escape the summer heat in the

valley. That’s how long it takes to ride the mountain railways

from Saas-Fee up into the high mountains. Here, the

snow lies on the ground all year round. The best skiers

and snowboarders train here, even in high summer. And

this is where the fascinating journey into the depths of

the Fee glacier begins. Sculptor Pascal has created fascinating

works of art out of ice in the glacier grotto, which

is accessible from the Mittelallalin mountain station. The ice pavilion

is both an art exhibition and a scientific excursion in one.

Go two floors up and you will find the highest revolving

restaurant in the world. It takes an hour to complete

one revolution here. There is time to enjoy the

view of the surrounding four-thousand-metre peaks and

as far as the Italian metropolis of Milan. But the excursion

destination of Allalin is also the setting for one of the

most breathtaking sunrises in the world. This is precisely

the kind of experience you should not miss out on when

visiting in summer. Of course, such an early morning trip also

includes a hearty breakfast in the revolving restaurant. Those

who want to go even higher can also climb the Allalin, 500

metres higher, together with a mountain guide. The tour to the

4,027-metre-high Allalinhorn is considered the easiest summit

in terms of what the Alps have to offer. From the summer of

2022, the Adventure Terrace will also offer a good dose of adventure

for little ones: be it slackline, snow groomer simulator

or CUPRA Bobby Car.

1

Discover the adventure worlds on p. 10

Information

saas-fee.ch/allalin

1,600 VERTICAL METERS –

WHO OFFERS MORE?

If you choose to saddle up at 3,200 metres above sea level,

you can rejoice in the knowledge that: from the glacier

world on the Hohsaas at the foot of the Weissmies,

you’ll descend a whole 1,600 metres in altitude

to Saas-Grund. Directly at the gondola station, the route

descends over flowing, natural trails to Kreuzboden. But

beware: the upper part of this near-endless descent requires

some skill. Further down on Kreuzboden, a short

stop at the mountain lake is worthwhile. Around three kilometres

of trail have been newly created from here down to

Triftalp. Another ten kilometres have been adapted to the

needs of mountain bikers. The specialists from Flying Metal

GmbH have designed the ‘Adventure Trail’ to a medium

difficulty spec, with technical elements such as stone passages

or roots. This trail merges almost seamlessly with the

mountain bike trail from Triftalp to Saas-Grund. This provides

mountain bikers with a route accessed by the gondola lifts at

over 1,600 metres in altitude.

And the Saas Valley also has a lot to offer in the way

of flowing mountain bike trails. Trendy magazines from the

industry rave about this ‘Wild West’ of downhill biking, and

speak of a true paradise for enduro mountain bikers. And it’s

no wonder: with 80 kilometres of perfectly marked-out trails,

the Saas Valley is ideal for mountain biking. Everyone will find

their favourite route here. Be it simple or demanding. Not only

this: In the Saas Valley, you can rent high-quality bikes – with

or without power boost – as well as tours led by local guides.

6

Discover the adventure worlds on p. 10

Information

saas-fee.ch/bike

12 13


THE GOLDSMITHS

For Hollywood stars, it’s the red carpet, for the snow

sporting elite, it’s the summer ski area of Saas-Fee.

No fewer than 64 medal winners from the 2022 Winter

Olympics train here regularly.

Text: Patrick Gasser

Image: Amarcster Media

Summer ski area Saas-Fee

In Saas-Fee, winter begins in summer. It is exactly when freshly

mown mountain grass dries into hay in the sun here that the

stars are training 1,800 metres above sea level. In the morning,

they train on the Fee glacier. Looking for the perfect set-up

in equipment and an edge on the competition. Down in the

valley – where the ski instructors wait for their students in

winter – they lift weights and play football. Saas-Fee is the

natural retreat for the sport’s elite on one or two boards over

the summer months.

Halfpipe skiers, alpine snowboarders. Marco Odermatt

and Mikaela Shiffrin. Swiss and American female athletes.

For all of them, the Fee glacier has become a fixed

point in the preparation calendar for the World Cup season.

Just a 40-minute ride on the mountain railways separates

high summer from winter here. ‘Saas-Fee is difficult to top

in terms of the preparation phase‘, says, for example, the twotime

Olympic medallist from Beijing, Federica Brignone (31,

ITA): ‘In the morning, I find exactly the conditions I need on

the glacier and, in the afternoon, I can play tennis in the village.’

Moreover, it is an extremely familiar atmosphere in Saas-

Fee – people know each other.

Start of training: 5.00 a.m.

And it’s no wonder: Up to 1,000 athletes trained on the glacier

slopes and in the snow park in autumn 2021. Among them

were many young talents from the regional bases in Switzerland

and abroad. The closer the start of the competition season

gets in autumn, the more poles you’ll see stuck on the

slopes at the foot of the Allalin. Then, the trainers set out at

5.00 a.m. with headlamps and flag down their courses before

the first rays of sunlight. On some slopes, there are 15 giant

slalom runs side by side in October. In order to avoid chaos,

these are distributed in a kind of stock exchange process at

the coaches’ meeting the day before. And some coaches then

no longer use red and blue goal flags, but use other colours

instead.

And not quite as early as the alpine skiers and snowboarders,

you’ll find the freestylers making their entrance on

the mountain. Every autumn, Australian Charles Beckinsale

and his crew build a top-class snowpark on the Fee glacier.

The dimensions are enormous: the superpipe is over 120 metres

long, and its icy walls are almost seven metres high. This

is where American snowboarding legend Shaun White prepared

for the final competition of his career. It was here that

his heir apparent, Ayumu Hirano (Japan), learned the trick that

won him the gold medal.

World premieres by the metre

The triple cork in Hirano’s halfpipe was a ‘world first’. A trick

that was performed for the very first time. Just a few years ago,

this was not considered possible. But it’s moments like these

that drive Charles Beckinsale and his crew to work 20-hour

shifts on the Fee glacier: ‘When we see what the athletes can

deliver on our jumps, rails and in the pipe, it motivates us to

give our best time and again’, says Beckinsale.

Olympic champion Gremaud: ‘Best training conditions’

Mathilde Gremaud also landed a ‘world first’ in the autumn of

2020: she was the first woman to perform a ‘switch double cork

1440’ in Saas-Fee. The native of Fribourg says: ‘The snowpark

here offers me the best training conditions: the approaches

to the kickers are steep and the runs long.’ In

February 2022, she returned from the Winter Olympics in China

with a gold medal in slopestyle. She took the bronze in the

Big Air competition.

The examples of Gremaud, Brignone or Hirano are not

isolated cases. A total of 64 medals from Beijing 2022 went

to athletes who train regularly in Saas-Fee. In 2018, the figure

was 41. And here’s another comparison: Norway, the most

successful nation at the Games in China, won a total of 37

medals.

From 16 July onwards, the Saas-Fee summer ski area

will be open again. And not just for world-class athletes (and

those who would like to become one). The unique experience

of a ski day in high summer is also worthwhile for ‘normal’ winter

sports fans.

Information about the summer ski area

saas-fee.ch/sommerski

14 15


FROM THE LARCH FOREST TO THE GLACIER

E-mountain biking could not be more varied: the

tour leads from Saas-Balen through wonderful larch

forests and up to the ‘Grüebu’ glacier at 2,860

metres above sea level.

Image: Puzzle Media

16 17


THE TRAILBLAZER

When the traces of winter clear, their work begins:

a team of the Saas-Fee Guides takes care of an

extensive network of hiking trails in Saas-Fee. Behind

the beautifully kept hiking trails, hundreds of

hours of hard manual labour have been invested.

Text: Patrick Gasser

Images: Puzzle Media / Switzerland Tourism / Lorenz Richard

‘You are standing at the end of the world

and yet at the same time at its origin, at its

beginning and in its centre.’ Carl Zuckmayer

fell in love with Saas-Fee back in 1938.

20 years later, the writer moved here and

stayed until his death in 1977. At the origin,

in the middle and at the end: the men who

maintain the network of hiking trails in the

Saas Valley can often be found. Hoes and

rakes carry them for kilometres at a time.

When the snow melts away in spring, the

work begins for the two mountain guides

Marc Derivaz and Michi Schwarzl, as well

as Félicien Pépin and Patrick Gracey. They

and the other teams from the municipalities

in the Saas Valley are the first to hit

the trails in spring. And in autumn, the last.

As a team, they clear away the remnants of

winter on the network of hiking trails in the

Saas-Fee/Saastal holiday region.

Over 350 kilometres of trails wind through the Saas Valley.

Along mountain streams, glaciers and four-thousand-metre

peaks. It doesn’t matter whether you are looking for a personal

challenge or just peace and quiet: there are great prospects

for everyone. Countless challenges also await the team that

handles the maintenance of this network of hiking trails. ‘You

have to see the problems, in order to recognise them’, says

Marc Derivaz, who is starting his third season in trail maintenance.

He is part of the team of the local outdoor service

Saas-Fee Guides, which is responsible for maintaining the

trail network in Saas-Fee for the municipality.

Bridge transport complete with helicopter

The storms in the winter months knock down trees. Avalanches

wash wood and debris onto the hiking trails. In spring, meltwater

erodes sections of the paths in some places. In summer,

heavy thundershowers batter the paths. Then the men behind

Marc Derivaz rebuild the damaged sections of path, step

by step. ‘Our job is mainly manual labour’, Marc explains. On

foot, we follow the hiking trails. Meanwhile, they also reach

some sections with e-mountain bikes – and rarely with an

off-road vehicle. Marc Derivaz’s team is also responsible for 17

bridges. Six of them will be taken to their destination by helicopter

in spring. And taken away again in autumn. Otherwise,

they would become damaged in winter by the huge masses of

snow – or washed away completely by avalanches.

As extensive as the hiking trail network in the Saas

Valley is, so is the team around Marc Derivaz versatile: some

are mountain guides, while others work as ski instructors in

winter. Marc and his team can sense the change happening

on the mountain. Less snow in winter. More hot days in summer.

Work with the guests on the mountain is becoming more

demanding. Marc doesn’t like to complain about it. He learned

early on to work with and not against nature. ‘Our boss is nature‘,

Marc says pragmatically. ‘She sets the pace.’

A back-breaking job

And in any case: Marc Derivaz does not like to put himself

in the foreground: ‘I’m more the quiet creator.’ There is the

temptation to romanticise his job as a trailblazer for the hikers:

At dawn, the teams make their way through the larch forests.

This view, this peace before the hiking season. But Marc

warns: ‘It’s a back-breaking job. ’ They carry their equipment

for up to twelve kilometres on the longest section of the Höhenweg

Grächen. With the motorised trimmer, they climb up

to the forest line to mow bushes and scrub. Rake, trimmer

and a canister with five litres of petrol weigh heavily on the

shoulders. A working day in the field can then last a good ten

hours. In spring, they clean and repair after the melting snow

has disappeared. In autumn, they clear away signposts, cables

and benches along the paths before the first big winter

storm renders the paths impassable in October.

Maintaining the hiking trail network is hard work.

But the work is not done there: throughout the summer, a

team of Saas-Fee Guides is out and about. ‘No sooner are

the hiking trails ready for the season than the mowing work

begins’, says Marc. If there is a threat of heavy thunderstorms,

the trailblazers make sure that the rain gutters on the paths

are free of debris: ‘Scraping the drains free is tedious. But it

is much worse when the water literally eats away the paths

because it cannot run off’.

The joy of hikers

Nevertheless, Marc appreciates his job. Working in a team

where everyone can rely on each other is what he likes best.

And what is more: ‘It does us good to see how hikers enjoy

our network of trails.’ Marc’s experience as a mountain guide

comes in handy in his work maintaining the trail network: He

knows how to move in rough terrain. Where hiking trails are

not yet open to hikers, dangers such as falling rocks or wet

snow avalanches lurk. ‘It is important to always find out if the

trail is open or closed before you go hiking’, says Marc.

More on the subject of hiking:

saas-fee.ch/wandern

Mountain guide Marc Derivaz and his team are responsible

for maintaining the hiking trails in Saas-Fee.

18

19


Family activities

THESE INSIDER TIPS

AWAIT VISITING FAMILIES

Adverts

COME ENJOY WITH US

New playground in Kreuzboden

Bike Skills Park for the whole family, mountain lake with ferry,

monster scooter and petting zoo: the Kreuzboden above

Saas-Grund is an ideal destination for an active family outing.

Kids can look forward to a newly designed adventure playground

for the 2022 summer season. There is a lot to discover

and try out there: be it on suspension bridges, climbing walls

or other equipment. There are also many interesting things to

discover in the water park.

Treasure hunt in Saas-Almagell’s larch forest

Together on the trail of mystery: using the tools available at the Saas

Tourism offices, family members get to solve the riddles of Furggstalden

together. You can reach the starting point conveniently

by chairlift from Saas-Almagell. The treasure hunt leads

across eight posts – each family member has to do their bit

so that the trophy can be recovered at the end. The special

highlight: the family learns interesting facts about the habitat

in the larch forest and receives a surprise to take home at the

end.

7

Discover the adventure worlds on p. 10

Hi,

I’m Eddie the marmot.

Nice of you to visit me in the Saas Valley.

‘Hinner de Zy’ barbecue area

A successful family holiday in the Saas mountains naturally

includes a barbecue together. Numerous fireplaces with wood

provided offer the perfect opportunity for this. The ‘Hinner

de Zy’ barbecue area near Stafelwald has been redesigned for

this summer. Directly by the fireplaces, the glacier water here

ripples at a leisurely pace through ‘Suonen’ – irrigation canals

– in the direction of Saaservispa river. Not only is it perfect

for chilling drinks, but it’s also a great play opportunity for the

kids.

Restaurant Saaser-Stube

Embark on a culinary journey of pleasure

in the Saaser-Stube Saas-Fee. Dine on

regional delicacies, vegetarian and vegan

specialities, our famous Saasi Burger, and

even experience an exclusive flambé service

at the guest table. Flambéed fillet of

beef ‘Woronow’ according to an old recipe,

flambéed fillet of lamb, crêpes Suzette or

an original Viennese veal escalope are prepared

for you directly at the table. What is

a good meal without the right wine? On our

wine list, you will find the finest bottles from

the Valais and Europe.

Lehnstrasse 1

3906 Saas-Fee

info@saaserhof.ch

saaserhof.ch

+41 27 958 98 98

belMont Apart Lodge & Restaurant

Our restaurant and our three apartments

are located directly at the Kalbermatten

sports field. Cordon bleu is both our

speciality and our passion. Our terrace,

complete with a beautiful mountain view,

invites you to savour the moment.

You are most welcome.

Gletscherstrasse 8

3906 Saas-Fee

apart@belmont-saas-fee.ch

belmont-saas-fee.ch

+41 27 530 12 28

Restaurant 1659

The new restaurant 1659 offers its guests

the best Swiss and French cuisine. We

focus very strongly on regional products

and sustainability. Indulge your palate

with veal from the Chum-Ssä-Ssä stables

in Saas-Almagell, or enjoy exquisite fish

caught fresh from the pond on our garden

terrace. We round off the offer with

our vegetarian and vegan dishes. For every

foodie out there, Restaurant 1659 is a must!

Talstrasse 43

3905 Saas-Almagell

kristall@kristall.ch

kristall.ch/restaurant1659

+41 27 958 17 00

Eddie – our very own mascot

On the ‘Murmeliweg’ marmot trail at Spielboden, Eddie talks

about the everyday life of his fellow marmots in a way that is

suitable for children. The fluffy mascot of the Saas-Fee/Saastal

holiday region is also an ideal souvenir to pass the time

until your next holiday.

Information

saas-fee.ch/familie

20 21


A CLASSIC AMONG KINGS

Here, you always have the Mischabel Mountains

in view and get to come close to Valais Blacknose

sheep: the Gsponer Höhenweg is one of the most

impressive hikes in the Saas Valley.

Text: Patrick Gasser

Image: Puzzle Media

A small gondola runs from the station in Stalden in the direction

of Gspon. This is the starting point for one of the most

beautiful high-altitude trails in Switzerland. And it is also

home to the highest football pitch in Europe. It is quite possible

that some of the best free-kick takers ever grow up here.

Anyone who blasts the ball over the fence here is unlikely to

find it again in this steep, sloping terrain.

The first section of the high-altitude trail is more leisurely

than the search for the football in Gspon. Only from the

hamlet of Oberfinilu does the wide path become a narrow hiking

trail. The route alternates through forest and open spaces.

The Gsponer Höhenweg starts quite comfortably on a

wide farm track. Just right for a warm-up. Only from the hamlet

of Oberfinilu does the path turn into a narrow hiking trail.

The view frees up to reveal the almost 3,800-metre-high Balfrin,

which lies to the west of Saas-Balen. But the view during

the hike not only falls on the impressive mountains. It is not

unusual to be surprised by the tinkling of bells from genuine

locals: these being Valais Blacknose sheep. Even before the

Romans, this breed came to the valleys of the Upper Valais –

and today, it is just as typical of the region as raclette cheese

and ‘Genepie’ – alpine herbal liqueur with glacier wormwood.

The next ascent takes you to Siwiboden. It’s worth taking

a break here for the magnificent view. This is because the

path stretches for a total of five hours over a good 14 kilometres.

A soothing, cooling effect

Siwiboden is followed by the Linde Bodu. What’s important

here: you should definitely keep an eye on the time, in order

to catch the last mountain railway to Kreuzboden. This saves

you almost 1,000 metres of descent to Saas-Grund. If there is

not enough time, you can already start the descent directly

to Saas-Balen or Saas-Grund via another trail option. If you

make it to Kreuzboden, a soothing footbath awaits you at the

mountain lake.

However, this footbath has to be worked hard for

again on the last section. This is because here, the hike becomes

challenging once more with a section of trail that leads

through a boulder landscape.

Time requirement: approx. 5 hours

Route: 14 kilometres

Metres in altitude uphill: 740m

Metres in altitude downhill: 236m

Highest point: 2,470 m above sea level

Lowest point: 1,865 m above sea level

Great views: from the larch forest, the view

of the imposing mountain scenery is unobstructed.

THE SMUGGLER’S ROUTE

For centuries, the Monto Moro Pass was an

important route for trade between north and south.

Even today, this period of history can be felt.

Text: Patrick Gasser

Image: Frederik Kalbermatten

Anyone visiting the Italian municipality of Macugnaga for the

first time will immediately notice the log cabin-style houses.

Family names like ‘Zurbriggen’ or ‘Anthamatten’ do not sound

typically Italian either. And indeed: in the 12th century, entire

families emigrated from the Saas Valley over the Monte Moro

Pass to what is now the province of Verbano-Cusio-Ossola.

For hundreds of years, the language and culture remained

similar to those on the other side of the Monte Moro Pass.

Those who set out on this cross-border hike today

from the Mattmark Dam do so on the same stone slabs as

smugglers have done for hundreds of years. Salt, wine,

cheese, sheep – and later on even cigarettes found their

way over the pass. The people of Saas bought jewellery and

cooking utensils from the traders at the weekly market in

Macugnaga.

The hike begins on the circular trail around Lake Mattmark.

Embedded in an impressive mountain backdrop, the

water glistens in the most beautiful emerald shades. Hikers

leave the mostly asphalted path at the Distel Alp at the end of

the dam.

From there, a well-marked hiking trail climbs to Tälliboden,

a pretty moorland. The scenery further up to the Golden

Madonna is rugged. Here, you walk along the remains of

the centuries-old paved mule track. The statue ‘Maria zum

Schnee’ is of great significance for the inhabitants on both

sides of the pass. A cross-border pilgrimage mass is held here

on 5 August every year. The statue is enthroned at the top of

the pass with a view towards Italy.

Not far from the top of the pass is the station of the

gondola lift to Macugnaga. A detour to eat pizza in the Walser

village is always worthwhile. The way back takes you via the

same route as the ascent to Monte Moro Pass. If you want to

return the same day, however, be sure to follow the timetable

of the mountain railway back up. The same applies to the

bus timetable from the dam crest at Lake Mattmark back to

Saas-Almagell.

Time requirement: approx. 5

hours, there and back

Route: 14.5 kilometres

Metres in altitude uphill: 642m

Metres in altitude downhill: 642m

Highest point: 2,840 m above sea level

Lowest point: 2,200 m above sea level

On the historic route to the Monte Moro Pass,

you always have Lake Mattmark in view.

22 23


Events

SAASTAL MÄRLIWUCHA

17 – 21 JULY

Between 17 and 21 July, numerous places in the Saas Valley

transform into a world of stories and fables. During this time,

both big and small fans of fables are again completely in their

element. The ‘Saastal Märliwucha’ offers treasure hunts and

dwarf riddles in the wonderful Saas mountain world. There

is no better place than this picturesque setting, which could

itself have been penned by the Brothers Grimm.

Information

saas-fee.ch/maerchenwoche

SAASER GAUMENGAUDI

4 – 25 SEPTEMBER

Under the motto ‘Saaser Gaumengaudi’, numerous local

restaurateurs will create exquisite menus between 4 and 25

September 2022. But that is not all: a gourmet weekend in

the Saas Valley will be raffled off among all participants. So,

there’s double the pleasure in store.

Information

saas-fee.ch/gaumengaudi

Presented by

Partnerhotel

Powered by

SAASFEESTIVAL

16 JULY – 12 AUGUST

Baschi, Anna Rossinelli Trio, Baba Shrimps and other national

top acts will ensure a fantastic atmosphere in front of a unique

backdrop this summer. The first edition of the SaasFeestival

transforms the glacier world into a unique open-air stage.

Things get going on Saturday, 16 July, with Family Day

on Kreuzboden above Saas-Grund. Children’s activities and a

festive atmosphere to the sounds of the Upper Valais ‘troubadour

z’Hansrüedi’ guarantee carefree moments for the whole

family. The highlight of the new festival concept is the three

evenings on the village square in Saas-Fee. Olympic snowboarder

Pat Burgener will be supporting Anna Rossinelli Trio.

Baschi and Baba Shrimps will also be doing the honours in

Saas-Fee. Likewise, ‘Freitagsauto’ and ‘Die Nachbarn’. The

first SaasFeestival will draw to a worthy conclusion with the

performance of the Zermatt band ‘Wintershome’ on Friday, 12

August, on the village square in Saas-Almagell.

Admission to the concerts is free.

Information

saasfeestival.ch

MATTMARK MEMORIAL

HALF-MARATHON

10 SEPTEMBER

It was already clear after the first time the running event was

held: people wanted more! The Mattmark Half-Marathon is a

tough one, with 810 metres of ascent. The ambience is all the

more beautiful for the runners: the tour starts at the Round

Church in Saas-Balen. The route then leads through picturesque

larch forests past Saas-Grund and Saas-Almagell to

the hamlet of Zermeiggern. On these historic paths, the ascent

slowly becomes steeper until you reach the wall of the largest

earthen dam in Europe. Those who have made it this far are

inspired by the sight of the turquoise waters of Lake Mattmark.

The seven-kilometre loop around the lake is the crowning glory

of the Mattmark Half-Marathon. As an alternative to the full

half-marathon distance, there is also an eight-kilometre route

that takes you around the lake, or there is a Nordic Walking/

Fun category to sign up for. The starting places are in great

demand for all categories: Early registration is worthwhile.

Information and registration

saas-fee.ch/mattmark-halbmarathon

24 25


Adverts

FIND YOUR HOME WITH US

Saas-Grund

La Gorge – Unique – Boutique Hotel

The Aroma Boutique Hotel La Gorge in

Saas-Fee has been offering an exclusive

holiday experience in the glacier paradise

in Saas-Fee with its 15 unique rooms since

November 2021. Each room is a real winner

with its unique charm. Whether sleeping

like a princess in the tower suite, feeling comfortable

in the simple standard double room,

bathing in the private outdoor whirlpool at

dizzying heights, or relaxing with a massage,

Hotel La Gorge is sure to create long-lasting

memories that inspire.

We are happy to welcome you in a quiet

and central location right next to the Alpin-Express

mountain railway, close to the

shops and the multistorey car park.

Blomattenweg 2

3906 Saas-Fee

info@lagorge.ch

lagorge.ch

+41 27 958 16 80

Hotel Mistral***Superior

The Hotel Mistral is a modern holiday hotel

located right next to the mountain railways

and the hiking area of Saas-Fee. We offer

warm hospitality and informality in a personal

ambience. Our Basic and Top Style

rooms are tastefully furnished – some with

whirlpool tubs. In our à la carte restaurant,

we’ll spoil you with regional and international

delicacies. Our dishes are prepared

with seasonal and market-fresh products.

What’s more, Hotel Mistral has **** holiday

apartments with hotel service.

We look forward to your visit.

The Supersaxo family and the Mistral team

Gletscherstrasse 1

3906 Saas-Fee

info@hotel-mistral.ch

hotel-mistral.ch

+41 27 958 92 10

26 27


A MOATED CASTLE AND TRUE POWERHOUSE

The Mattmark Dam has a turbulent history.

It not only serves guests and locals as a place

of power – but also supplies thousands

households with electricity.

Text: Patrick Gasser

Images: levin.studio / Alberto @swiss

1965 – disaster strikes

Studies in the 1950s showed that the enormous power of

the water mass in the Mattmark area could also be beneficial.

Kraftwerke Mattmark AG began construction of the present

dam in 1958. Today, the dammed water uses its power

to drive turbines for electricity production and supplies thousands

of households with electricity. Before the dam was

completed seven years after construction began, the ‘dragon’

struck again: on 30 August 1965, part of the glacier tongue

of the Allalin glacier broke off. Two million cubic metres of

ice and debris thundered down onto the workers’ shelters at

the construction site on the dam. 88 workers, the majority of

them Italian guest workers, died. Recovering the dead took

months. Today, a memorial not far from the site of the accident

commemorates the victims. The Mattmark Half-Marathon,

launched five years ago, is also held in memory of the

deceased.

They called it the ‘dragon in the valley floor

of Mattmark’. The Allalin glacier. It has now

receded far from the dam wall, which was

completed in 1967. During the ‘Little Ice

Age’, i.e. between the 15th and the early

20th century, it took over the task of a

dam. The Allalin glacier was unpredictable

in its function as a weir: time and again,

the glacial lake burst and flooded the hamlets

and meadows further down the valley.

Sand and debris turned the farmland into

barren deserts for years. Quite a few of the

valley inhabitants packed up their belongings

and migrated – for example, over the

Monte Moro Pass to the Walser settlement

of today’s Macugnaga.

A true powerhouse

Today, the lake fills and empties as the power plant operators

intend. In spring, the meltwater is fed into the lake through a

system of pipelines. As the snow melts, the lake level rises.

The constant change of the seasons is felt particularly strongly

here. In winter, hikers pass the top of the dam on their descent

from the Fluchthorn. It gets busier in the summer. Then

the restaurant is also open. The bus service takes families to

the starting point of the approximately eight-kilometre hike

around the lake. Everywhere the water tumbles via falls and

streams and onto the lake surface. The power of nature is thus

particularly palpable. And it seems to pass over to you when

you feel the cold spray of the waterfalls on your skin.

Only a few steps away from the dam, the last signal

bar on your smartphone disappears. Sparse network coverage

helps visitors to slow down. However, it is also important

to bear this in mind when hiking into the deserted ‘Ofental’

valley or towards the Monte Moro Pass. The smartphone only

picks up the next mobile network later from the Italian side of

the border. Here in the moated castle of the Upper Valais, the

weather can suddenly change even in summer: not only does

the network coverage here increasingly come from Italy, but

also thunderstorms.

Along the lakefront, you will find another elemental

force in the form of the Eringer cows. These animals of ancient

decent have been grazing in the region here for centuries.

With the retreat of the Allalin glacier, their summer pasture

gradually increases in size.

8

Discover the adventure worlds on p. 10

More about the Mattmark area

saas-fee.ch/mattmark

Hiking tip

The approximately eight-kilometre circuit around

Lake Mattmark is also ideal for families. If you

take a good two hours, you can let the power of

nature unleash its wonderful effect on you. The

trail is relatively even and, with only a good 100

metres of ascent and descent, slightly elevated

along the lakefront. At the same time, the Mattmark

Dam, which is accessible by bus, is also

the starting point for more challenging hikes in

the direction of the Monte Moro Pass, Ofental

or Jazzilücke. However, these hikes should be

planned well and started early. In summer, spring

clouds often form in the region around the Monte

Moro Pass, which can envelop the area in fog.

Turquoise water and mystical mist: the region around

today’s Lake Mattmark looks back on an eventful history.

28 29


Adventure

ON TO NEW SPHERES

Via Ferrata Britannia – host Dario Andenmatten and his

team expanded the offer at the Britannia Hut last early summer:

the new Via Ferrata leads up to the ridge of Hinter Allalin at difficulty

levels K-3 (fairly difficult) to K-4 (difficult). The entrance is

only a few minutes’ walk below the Britannia Hut, which

can be reached from the Felskinn mountain station in less

than an hour via a hiking trail. The Via Ferrata is extremely

varied. After completing roughly two-thirds of the route, the

rock forms a small platform: ideal for taking a breather and

enjoying the spectacular view down to the turquoise waters

of Lake Mattmark. This is followed by the most spectacular

part high up on the ridge of the route’s final point at 3,144

metres. The descent leads along a blue-white-marked trail

down to the Hohlaub glacier and back to the Britannia Hut.

Even in high summer, you have to expect to cross snowfields

on this trail. If you are early, you can also tackle the Glacier

Trail, which is also marked in blue and white, after the approximately

two-and-a-half-hour tour. This leads you over both the

Hohlaub and Allalin glaciers. The hike ends at the Mattmark

Dam and takes about three hours.

A TIMEOUT IN THE ICE AGE

Längfluh Glacier Experience Tour – nowhere else in the Alps

do you find yourself in the harsh world of ice as quickly as on

Längfluh. In just a few minutes, and together with the mountain

guide, you leave the gondola lift station behind you and

trudge along the rope across the expanse of the Fee glacier.

The séracs are stacked as high as a house here. They occur

because the glacier is constantly in motion. The ice pushes

up to 20 centimetres down the valley – and thus constantly

changes the landscape. During the three- to four-hour tour, the

mountain guides – who are familiar with the area – tell you

how the face of the mountains changes. Equipped with crampons,

climbing harness and poles, the tour leads over glacial

ice that is thousands of years old. This tour is also perfectly

suitable for people without alpine experience – and is sure to

leave no one out in the cold, so to speak.

2

Discover the adventure worlds on p. 10

Glacier Experience Tour Längfluh

saas-fee.ch/gletscher-erlebnistour

Via Ferrata Britannia

saas-fee.ch/klettersteige

ALLALIN AND WEISSMIES:

YOUR ENTRY

INTO ALPINISM

WHATEVER THE WEATHER,

THERE’S SOMETHING HERE

FOR EVERYONE

Bouldering in the Saas Valley – to offer budding climbing fans

and those who are just discovering their passion a bad-weather

option, active climbers from the region have set up a bouldering

cellar in Saas-Grund. With a usable climbing area of

around 120 square metres, it is available to all climbing enthusiasts

every day.

A group of enthusiastic climbers has discovered countless

boulders and ledges in the Saas Valley that are perfect

for bouldering. Unlike classic climbing, a climbing harness

and rope are not required here. A mattress for a soft landing is

all that is needed.

Bouldering in the Saas Valley

saas-fee.ch/bouldern

The Allalinhorn is the Saas-Fee’s local mountain. The glaciated

giant is considered the easiest 4,000-metre peak

in the Alps when climbed via the normal route. With a

mountain guide and the right equipment, the 500 metres

in altitude from the top station of the Metro Alpin

are doable even for people without alpine experience.

Prerequisites are sure-footedness and fitness for four hours of

high alpine hiking. You should also bring a healthy portion of

respect for the mountain. The tour to the summit at 4,027 metres

above sea level takes about two hours. An overwhelming

panoramic view of the Alps awaits you at the summit cross.

If you have been bitten by the summit bug after climbing

the Allalinhorn, you should definitely try the Weissmies.

The tour to the 4,017-metre high local mountain of Saas-Grund

takes around five hours, which is somewhat longer than

the tour to the Allalinhorn. The starting point is the Hohsaas

mountain station. An alternative comes in the form of a twoday

tour from the Almagellerhütte.

1

Discover the adventure worlds on p. 10

Information and booking

saas-fee.ch/meinersterviertausender

You want to fly high? The mountain

guides of the Saas Valley are always at

your disposal and provide adventure in

the high mountains. Let our guides lead

you safely into the alpine world of the

Saas Valley. saas-fee.ch/bergfuehrer

30 31


LIMITLESS

Erich and Beni Kälin achieved something extraordinary

two years ago: from Visp, they rode their

commercially available e-mountain bikes via the

Britannia Hut to the 4,190-metre-high Strahlhorn.

Text: Patrick Gasser

Images: Mario Heller

Dawn. Summit cross. A father and son

embrace. Photo. A snapshot of the kind

that can be found on almost any mountain

peak in the Alps on a July day. And yet the

undertaking of Erich (63) and Beni (33)

Kälin in the summer of 2020 made waves

far beyond the alpinist scene: not far from

the summit cross of the 4,190-metre-high

Strahlhorn are two bicycles on which the

Bernese Oberland paraglider pilot and

speed-flying pioneer covered the entire

distance together with his father Erich. It’s

over 3,500 metres in altitude from Visp to

the Strahlhorn at the very back of the Saas

Valley.

Made it: Beni (left) and Erich Kälin on the summit of the

Strahlhorn.

The most important component of the bikes is hidden in the

frame: ‘We used bikes with one of the most powerful electric

motors on the market’, says Beni Kälin. ‘With non-motorised

bikes, we would have had far too little power for the steep and

snow-covered slopes and would have had to push or carry

them over long distances.’

The project clearly demonstrates what is feasible today.

Even though small modifications to the saddle and steering

fork were necessary and special wheels provided more grip

on the snow: the Kälins rode the Strahlhorn with commercially

available e-mountain bikes.

Rapid development

In the near future, battery performance is set to increase

by another 30 to 40 per cent for the same weight,

industry magazines predict. ‘I think in ten years’ time, we’ll be

laughing about the fact that we used to have to lug around

heavy spare batteries’, adds Beni Kälin.

A motorised mountain bike is still around 10 kilograms

heavier than a non-motorised one. This makes the e-mountain

bikes a little more sluggish to steer downhill. But these

e-bikes are also catching up in terms of downhill performance,

making even the most puritanical bikers succumb

to temptation. In the Saas Valley, the trend is being noticed:

numerous routes – such as the tour to the Gletscherseewini

above Saas-Balen – have plenty of impressive experiences

in store.

Incline of up to 23 degrees

Back to the Strahlhorn: for climbers, the summit is one of the

easier four-thousand-metre peaks in the Alps. But the long

path demands quite a bit of fitness when climbing to the

4,190-metre peak. For Beni and Erich Kälin, the tour already

began in Visp. There, they rode their e-mountain bikes up the

cantonal road to Saas-Fee. Here, they changed tyres to have

better grip later on when riding on the snow that covers the

glaciers.

They covered another 1,200 metres in altitude to the

Britannia Hut via the ski slopes, which have been eroded.

Shortly before the intermediate destination at 3,030 metres

above sea level, the two reached their limits with their bikes

for the first time. The steep, snow-covered slope at Egginerjoch

with an incline of 23 degrees – a red-marked ski slope in

winter – meant that Beni and Erich Kälin had to push the bikes

for the first time. With a tare weight of 24 kilograms (without

additional battery), the motor also provided support thanks to

the corresponding push-assist function.

Pit stop at the Britannia Hut

At the Britannia Hut, both father and son charged their own

batteries for the summit day. They were not the first guests

on two wheels that Dario Andenmatten has hosted: ‘The first

mountain biker was on our terrace about 25 years ago’, says

Dario Andenmatten, host at one of the Swiss Alpine Club’s

most frequented huts.

Even a four-thousand-metre peak has been reached

here by mountain bike: about 15 years ago – people in the

Saas Valley don’t remember exactly – a group ventured down

the Allalinhorn (4,027 metres above sea level). Together with

the Zermatt Breithorn (4,164 metres above sea level), the summit

is considered the easiest four-thousand-metre peak in the

Alps. This is not least because of the accessibility by mountain

railways up to around 500 metres in altitude below the

mountain peak.

Together, Beni and Erich Kälin rode the Strahlhorn on an e-mountain bike in the

summer of 2020.

On a rope over the glacier

For Beni and Erich Kälin, the journey continued at 1.00 a.m. in

the direction of the Strahlhorn. Roped up, they travelled over

the glacier towards the Adler Pass. The snow cover was not

always frozen enough. Time and again, the two had to push

their bikes a few metres. Beni Kälin: ‘The Strahlhorn may be

a flat 4,000-metre peak for classic high-altitude tours. For the

e-bike, however, the various sections with more than 20 degrees

of incline are still extremely steep.’

Traversing like when on a ski tour is not possible.

‘The pedals always get stuck in the snow on the

slope.’ Small holes eaten into the snow by the July sun

make it difficult for the duo to find their balance on the uneven

surface. Nevertheless, they reached the summit and then

rode back to Saas-Fee.

Beni and Erich Kälin’s venture has shown what is possible

with technology today. But the e-mountain bikes, which

start at around 5,000 Swiss francs, are no guarantee of successfully

reaching the summit. Beni Kälin: ‘It’s wrong to think

that you can just make your way up there.’ That’s because:

Without experienced riding technique, good fitness, the right

e-bikes with the right components and, above all, the right

conditions, you will quickly reach your limits in the high mountains

(see below).

Approach slowly

Even if technical development offers support: not

everyone makes it through with the e-mountain bike

off-road. It is, therefore, important to approach the tour

slowly and adapt it to your personal abilities. By the

way, the same also applies to mountain bikes without

a motor. It is also worth taking riding courses with

trained MTB instructors. This is because the right riding

technique is far more important than battery range.

32

33


Well-being

RECHARGE YOUR BATTERIES IN THE OUTDOOR SPA

Adverts

RELAX WITH US

The Saas Valley is the perfect place to recharge your batteries.

For example, with the outdoor wellness offer.

Feeling the fresh alpine meadow between your toes

and dipping your face into the cold glacier water: nowhere

else do you feel as alive as in the abundant nature

of the Saas mountains. The top athletes from all over the world

who train on the Fee glacier in summer also know this. After

honing their technique in the summer ski area, Marco Odermatt,

Mikaela Shiffrin and Co. always meet at the Kneipp facility

above the Kalbermatten sports field in Saas-Fee. Bathing

in the glacier water helps to regenerate muscles.

A real insider tip, however, is the pool of the Almagellerbach

stream not far from the Hotel Kristall Saphir in Saas-Almagell.

The cool water here runs delicately over the smooth rocks and

into a natural tub. An ideal finishing point for a hike with the

family from Saas-Fee via Waldweg Bodmen to Saas-Almagell.

In addition to the outdoor wellness facilities, there

are five publicly accessible spa and wellness areas in

hotels in the Saas Valley. Whether it’s a sauna or Turkish

steam bath: everyone will find what they are looking for here.

Massages and other services round off the offer.

The Kneipp facility at the Kalbermatten sports field

invites you to regenerate your muscles. Image: Puzzle Media

One particularly wonderful offer is a

wellness stay in

Saas-Fee/Saastal.

saas-fee.ch/wellness

wellnessHostel4000

Aqua Allalin – recreation and sport at 1,800 m 2

Peace and serenity for body and mind determine

the ambience in the wellness area;

saunas, steam bath, navel stone and more

invite you to spend many a relaxing hour in

a top-notch wellness environment. Let the

panoramic view of the surrounding mountains

inspire you to new thoughts.

Sport and fun play are the order of the day

in the indoor pool. Whether it’s training

in the 25-metre pool, regeneration in the

whirlpool and on the outdoor terrace, or

family fun in the children’s pool and on the

adventure slide – this is the place to be

active. An extensive massage and wellness

programme, as well as beauty treatments,

round off the offer. You can enjoy all this

at wellnessHostel4000 whether you book a

double, family or multibed room.

Panoramastrasse 1

3906 Saas-Fee

wellnesshostel4000@

youthhostel.ch

+41 27 958 50 50

Walliserhof Grand-Hotel & Spa*****

Your alpine timeout

for body, mind and soul

After exciting mountain adventures,

the hotel’s spa ensures holistic relaxation.

Whether you actively approach your relaxation

step by step with one of the

experienced wellness coaches or treat

yourself to a timeout in the sauna world –

that is entirely up to you.

An alpine retreat of peace and relaxation welcomes

you on over 2,100 m². Various saunas,

a steam bath, whirlpool and a light-flooded

relaxation zone await you here. The wellness

experts will pamper you in several treatment

rooms with massages, cosmetic treatments,

baths and packs.

Dorfweg 1

3906 Saas-Fee

info@walliserhof-saasfee.ch

walliserhof-saasfee.ch

+41 27 958 19 00

Wellness Spa Pirmin Zurbriggen****S

LoftSuite*****

Monte-Moro***

In the three hotels, the stage is set for the

experience and enjoyment you’d expect

from a stay that is so much in demand today.

Pure relaxation in natural surroundings,

enjoyment and well-being in an informal

atmosphere, bringing body and soul into

harmony, that is the motto with which the

hotelier family makes their guests happy.

Saas-Almagell (Valais) 1,672 m, framed

by a dreamlike mountain world with

18 four-thousand-metre peaks. A southern

stimulating climate – plenty of sun, pleasant

temperatures. Ideal for Alpine wellness with

1,700 m 2 !

The most important factor, however, is the

Zurbriggen team, especially the managing

directors Esther and Fabian Zurbriggen.

They guarantee family moments of well-being

and comfort in a unique ambience.

New at Monte Moro:

Rösti and Cordon Bleu Hüs Restaurant.

Pick-up service CHF 4 per person.

+41 27 957 10 12

Furusandstrasse

3905 Saas-Almagell

pirmin.zurbriggen@rhone.ch

loftsuite.ch

monte-moro.ch

+41 27 957 23 01

34 35


PHOTOGRAPHIC PERSPECTIVES

Christelle Anthamatten and Frederik Kalbermatten

explore the Saas Valley with their camera. They

each reveal one of their favourite photo spots.

‘Mountain Layers’ on Ofentalhorn

“This photo was taken on the 3,059 metre high Ofentalhorn.

The Ofental valley is one of my favourite places in the Saas Valley.

There is a path through the valley towards Jazzilücke, Antronapass

and Heidbodmen. On the hike through the Ofental

valley, you could, in some places, even take your shoes off:

you feel like you’re in the Scottish Highlands on the cotton

grass and soft ground. Only a little later, at the Ofen Pass, do

you need sturdy mountain boots: from here, you can see all

the way to Italy. I find these ‘Mountain Layers’ very special.

You look out of the Saas Valley in the opposite direction to

the Mischabel chain. This day trip is worth it for this change

of perspective alone.’

Christelle Anthamatten (30) from Saas-Almagell is a secondary school teacher and

teaches mathematics in Brig.

Beach holidays

‘My father spends the summer with the Eringer cows on the

Distel Alp, where he herds the animals. I, too, always enjoy

spending time on the alp. Despite my love for my home country,

I love to travel and enjoy discovering other countries and

cultures. As is well known, this was only possible with restrictions

during the coronavirus pandemic. But it made me all

the more aware of how beautiful we have it here in the Saas

Valley and just how diverse it is. We have mountains, glaciers,

lakes and even beaches. On a glorious summer’s day, I decided

to take all the beach stuff with me to the shore of Lake

Mattmark and so spent a wonderful beach day on Distel Alp.

My interest in photography has always been there. Two years

ago, I bought a camera and started to get more involved with

photography. I like to experiment with different perspectives

and subjects, and enjoy discovering new things. Photography

acts as a great balance to my job.’

Frederik Kalbermatten (41) is a professional snowboarder and photographer. He lives with his family in Saas-Fee.

@saasfee

#keeponexploring

#saasfee

36 37


Rothorn-Traverse, Saas-Balen

38 39


Adverts

MOUNTAIN HUTS AND MOUNTAIN RESTAURANTS

ALMAGELL HIGH TRAIL

Britannia Hut – the grande dame of the

Swiss Alps

A desire for adventure, breathtaking views

and grandiose mountain worlds! The

traditional mountain hut above Saas-

Fee at 3,030 m above sea level. It offers

its guests and visitors everything nature-related

for their stay. The Britannia

Hut offers various ascent options

for both young and old. The Glacier Trail

from Mattmark Dam, which is marked out

across majestic glaciers such as the Allalin

and Hohlaub glaciers, is considered one of the

most beautiful connections to the Britannia

Hut. Or how about an overnight stay in

our newly renovated alpine rooms, in order

to climb the newly built Via Ferrata Britannia

the next day? The Britannia Hut is

also the starting point for many four-thousand-metre

peaks such as the Strahlhorn,

Rimpfischhorn, Allalin and Alphubel.

Your host, Dario Andenmatten, and the

team look forward to your visit.

Britannia Hütte SAC

Dario Andenmatten

info@britannia.ch

britannia.ch

+41 27 957 22 88

Almagelleralp

The Almagelleralp stands at 2,200 m above

sea level in the midst of a breathtaking

mountain and glacier world. It is the ideal

destination for hikers, mountaineers and

nature fans.

Surrounded by the highest peaks in the

Swiss Alps, Almagelleralp offers rest

and relaxation. We have three double rooms

and camp beds – and why not book halfboard

at the same time?

You can reach the Almagelleralp via the

hiking trail from Kreuzboden (3h), via the

suspension bridges from Furggstalden (1.5

hours) or via the hiking trail from Saas-Almagell

(1.5 hours)

I look forward to welcoming you!

Urs Anthamatten

almagelleralp.ch

+41 79 629 78 08

‘Alpenblick’ mountain restaurant

Enjoy our renovated mountain restaurant

in the summer and winter hiking region

of Hannig at an altitude of 2,030 metres

on the edge of a gnarled larch and pine

forest, and halfway between Hannig and

Saas-Fee.

You will love the beautiful sun terrace

with a magnificent view of the mountain

landscape and the rustic interior of our

Zuckmayer Stube. We will spoil you with

Swiss cuisine and fine home-made cakes.

Our small yet refined dormitory for groups

(min. 6 and max. 10 people) is all set up for a

good night’s sleep, if you want to enjoy the

starry Saas sky and a sumptuous breakfast

the morning after.

Hohneggweg 100

3906 Saas-Fee

info@alpenblick-saasfee.ch

alpenblick-saasfee.ch

+41 76 539 32 78

On this trail high above the treeline, you can enjoy unspoilt

nature and a fantastic view over the Saas Valley and the

Mischabel chain – with the highest mountains in Switzerland.

The hike starts at the Kreuzboden mountain station above

Saas-Grund at 2,400 m above sea level, which is easily

accessible by gondola . Always surrounded by the four-thousand-metre

peaks of Saas and with an unobstructed view of

the Mattmark Dam, nature fans will reach the Almagellertal

valley. Here follows the descent to the Almagelleralp mountain

hotel with its striking red shutters. Once there, you can taste

traditional dishes such as ‘smugglers’ macaroni’ and fresh fruit

tarts. Then continue either via the adventure trail with two

suspension bridges and ladders to Furggstalden, or via the

direct trail to Saas-Almagell.

Time requirement: approx. 3.5 hours

Route: 10.5 kilometres

Metres in altitude uphill: 204m

Metres in altitude downhill: 931m

Highest point: 2,522 m above sea level

Lowest point: 1,671 m above sea level

A MOUNTAIN SPANNING

GENERATIONS

The Hannig connects both young and old. A visit to this sunny

mountain expanse creates experiences that interlink generations.

Some are delighted by the goats that graze the

alpine herbs here in summer. Others like to watch the birds and

listen to the charming sounds of the marmots. And there are

those who are simply happy about the ice cream in the mountain

restaurant right next to the playground. The Hannig, with its

comparatively easy hiking trails and rail access, is a family-centric

mountain in the best possible sense. Here at 2,350 metres

above sea level, generations come together to enjoy. The

view at the foot of the Mischabel chain stretches from the

4,545-metre-high Dom, over the white glaciers to the Weissmies.

Everyone feels at home here.

The Hannig is also ideally suited for bikers. Or even

on scooters, the descent can then be tackled. Those who

prefer it a little more leisurely can stroll down into the valley.

This provides, for example, the opportunity to buy

fresh goat’s cheese directly from the alpine cooperative

shop just before the treeline. Further down on Melchboden,

the recently renovated lake area with adjacent barbecue zone

and large playground invites you to spend some quality time.

4

Discover the adventure worlds on p. 10

Hannig

saas-fee.ch/hannig

40 41


HOW A VALLEY WANTS TO PROTECT ITS GLACIERS

The Alps are warming twice as fast as the rest of the

world due to climate change. The consequences

have long been felt in the Saas Valley. This is precisely

why the region has become a pioneer in climate

protection.

Text: Patrick Gasser

Images: Puzzle Meida / @swiss_voyage

The Alpine region has warmed twice as much as the global

average since the late 19th century. The temperature

increase from the beginning of the industrial age to

the beginning of the 21st century was 2 degrees Celsius. The

fact that it has become noticeably warmer in the glacier world

of the Saas Valley is particularly apparent to people who have

been travelling through the mountains for decades. Dominik

Gnos, a mountain guide for 50 years, says: ‘Today, some summit

tours are done in summer in a shirt. In the past, you always

needed a jacket.’

It is tempting to think that fewer clothes will be the

norm on the summit tour. But warming brings a multitude of

challenges, especially for a high alpine region like the Saas

Valley: Swiss glaciers have lost around ten per cent of their

mass in the past five years alone. Where the ice disappears,

the rock destabilises. Routes that the mountain guides have

walked for years are suddenly no longer passable.

An important water reservoir:

Swiss glaciers store 57 trillion litres of drinking water.

Glaciers as water reservoirs

Warming is also associated with problems for buildings at

altitude. Where the permafrost – a kind of icy glue – thaws

due to the higher temperatures, the rock crumbles or water

begins to flow. In summer 2021, the Saas Valley mountain lift

operator, therefore, extensively renovated the access tunnel

to the Metro Alpin at a total cost of CHF 4.5 million.

The Swiss glaciers are also a huge reservoir of

drinking water. In total, they store 57 trillion litres of water.

That is more than the volume of Lake Constance and

Lake Thun combined. Nowhere else are you as close

to this impressive glacier world as in the holiday region

Saas-Fee/Saastal. This also means that you are always walking

in the footsteps of climate change.

Always car-free

As the consequences of global warming are particularly noticeable

here, a lot is being done in the Saas Valley to enable

future generations to enjoy a view of these ice giants

as well. Thus, as early as the beginning of the 1950s, the decision

was made in Saas-Fee to remain car-free. George Michael’s

jeep ride for the shoot of the music video for the Christmas

hit ‘Last Christmas’ was an exception to the rule. Since 2002,

Saas-Fee has also carried the label ‘Energy City GOLD’. This

certificate is awarded to cities and municipalities that continuously

promote the efficient use of energy, climate protection

and environmentally friendly mobility. Municipalities with the

Energy City label also promote environmentally compatible

mobility. Only electric cars get to operate in Saas-Fee. There

are only a few exceptions: for example, for the village doctor,

ambulance vehicles or the police.

With its energy and climate mission statement, Saas-

Fee has set itself lofty goals for the future. For example,

total energy consumption is to be reduced by 70 per cent in

stages by 2050. In the same period, the share of renewable

energy sources is to be increased to 100 per cent. This is to

be done primarily through building renovation and by promoting

solar accumulation zones. The potential for solar energy

in sunny Saas-Fee is an impressive 13.73 gigawatt hours per

year. Through all these measures, the hope remains that key

climate goals will be achieved. The vision is to reduce emissions

of the harmful greenhouse gas CO2 to one tonne per

inhabitant per year by 2050.

District heating heats indoor swimming pool

A district heating network has already been in operation in

Saas-Fee since 2015. This consists of an air/heat pump combined

with an underground storage tank. In summer, the pump

is fed by solar energy and the heat thus gained from the ambient

air is stored seasonally in the underground storage tank.

In winter, this heat can be fed into the district heating network.

The Aqua Allalin youth hostel, for example, benefits from this

process. It is supplied with district heating.

And so, in the holiday destination of Saas-Fee/Saastal,

the high alpine hiking and climbing tours are not the only

challenges. A lot is also being done to ensure that future generations

will also be able to marvel at the uniquely blue ice of

these glacier giants in the region.

The Alps are warming twice as much as the global average.

There are many other

sustainable projects going on in the Saas Valley.

saas-fee.ch/nachhaltigkeit

42 43


44

Pictured on the cover is the Weissmies North Ridge

with the summit in the background.

Image: Frederik Kalbermatten

Hooray! Your file is uploaded and ready to be published.

Saved successfully!

Ooh no, something went wrong!