Pros: High, Huge Vertical Drop, Charming Village
Cons: Choke Points, Big queues during peak season
I've been coming to Saas-Fee for the past seven years every Christmas and New year for two weeks.
Though I don't actually stay in the Fee, rather the village of Unter den Bodmen halfway between Saas-Almagell and Saas-Grund, I spend the majority of my time skiing there.
You read reviews constantly complaining about how Saas-Fee is north facing and always in the shadow, but last time I checked the ski resorts worldwide that have the best skiing conditions tend to always face north (Northern Hemisphere). If anything this produces some of the best skiing on well groomed runs I have experienced.
Saas-Fee has several negatives, as any resort with character has. The lift system from the village though innovative, The alpin express being the first tri-cable gondola in the world; and the metro alpin the highest funicular in the world taking you to the top, tends to have several points were queues are almost certain such as any lift from the base. I don't want to rant but I do not understand people who catch the lift up in the morning to either of the middle stations, Spielboden or Morenia, and then ski down again to the base clogging up the early morning rush and making huge queues even bigger. The access trail to the new high speed 6-person chairlift at Morenia is also frustrating owing to its blind and tight corners, and the inability for beginner snowboarders and skiers to maintain there speed effectively blocking the chairlift off and extend queue times.
My main frustration with Saas Fee is the lack of opportunities to have a seat between runs of its twenty two lifts only three have seats, two chairlifts and an ancient gondola. The rest of the lifts are standing, either in a cable car or the alpin express gondola or on tbars. I honestly don't understand why the base beginner section does not have a detachable chair as inexperienced skiers and boarders do have difficulty getting on to tbars.
These issues I have raised above are not my biggest problem I have with Saas-Fee. The lift ticket prices! please do not quote me on this but they are exceptionally expensive compared to other similarly sized ski resorts throughout Europe. I don't know were the money goes because the on mountain grooming the sufficient is not superb and there certainly could be more snowmaking. And it isn't spent on access from the bus station or village to the slopes as they are both strenuous and time consuming walks.
My final negative on the Fee is the people who visit it. I am not wanting to say anything too controversial as I know it does not apply to everyone there but I just don't understand why you would if you are not a great skier get back to the village by skiing down. Its like trying to ski through a minefield of out of control beginners skiing down a red run which by the end of the day should be classified as a black run. Seriously there is no shame in getting the lift down! why ruin a good days skiing.
Ok I know i've basically listed a huge amount of cons for Saas-Fee. But I assure you they are only my frustrations as an avid skier. The skiing is usually world class, with fairly wide slopes that are well marked with poles, wouldn't want to ski off the glacier into a pesky crevasse. The best runs can be found : underneath the Egginer, by catching the Tbar up to the Egginerjoch; also the glacial skiing up at allalin is often underused but superb, people have a tendency to just ski top to bottom when they would have a much better days skiing breaking there skiing up into vertical segments. Plattjen should be skied early in the morning when freshly groomed. Also the run beneath the spielboden gondola which has been recently widened should be skied by all good intermediates looking for a rush going straight over the very steep edges from were the grooming tracks cross the run. The felsental from the top of the Felskinn is a black run which will vary in difficulty depending on snow conditions present.
Food wise on the slopes there is a fair bit of variety, everywhere will have the Swiss staples though, which is good. The pick for many visitors is the morenia self service restaurant with a wide variety and alright pricing. Off the slopes down in the village there is plenty to choose from for food based on your preferences. My advice is if you are on a budget do not picnic but limit yourself to the less expensive items on the menus such as pommes frittes.
The village has plenty of apres and is characterised by its quaint charm and imposing views of the mischabel massif.
The saas Valley has two other ski areas and a single short lift in Saas-Balen. Saas-grund is the second biggest area in the valley, It has specatcular vertical drop and much to my pleasure has a gondola from 2400m to 3200m with seats! because of its size it gets very busy in peak times but offpeak its a dream to ski with enough variety for several days skiing. Further up the valley is the traditional village of Saas-Almagell home to skiing legend Pirmin Zurbriggen, with its two double chairlifts it is not the biggest of areas but offers the best value food at the restaurant at furggstalden and also at the cafe at the top which has sweeping views of the top of the valley. To conclude these two areas they are definately worth a visit and have there own advantages.
In summary Saas-Fee is a traditional charming village with great skiing, tasty food and a fairly good atmosphere. Though it has some problems they are slowly being addressed and improved. I would highly recommend going to Saas-Fee and I am sure you will too.