Saas-Fee is a premier skiing village in the Valais region of Switzerland, so why were we traveling to Saas-Fee in summer? It wasn’t for the skiing, though Saas-Fee is unique because you can ski there year-round. While winter is Saas-Fee’s most popular season for travelers, summer is less crowded and there are many fun things to do in Saas-Fee in summer.
Saas-Fee is one of those little Swiss villages that is a tourist destination, yet doesn’t feel touristy. This is especially true in the summer. Because no cars are allowed, the streets are for people leisurely walking or biking, with only the occasional small electric vehicle used for deliveries or trash collection.
Saas-Fee used to be an agricultural village, and its past citizens weren’t all that excited by the idea of inviting travelers. But Father Johann Josef Imseng was passionate about the mountains and loved leading visitors to the mountain peaks. The first visitors to Saas-Fee stayed in the vicarage. Father Imseng knew that tourism would be a good source of income for the locals, so persuaded the farmers to open guest rooms in their houses. The first hotel was built in Saas-Fee in 1881. A road to Saas-Fee was finally built in 1951 and the first cable car systems were constructed. From there Saas-Fee’s winter sports tourism grew, and today Saas-Fee is a world-renowned resort.
So, what are the fun things to do in Saas-Fee when it isn’t covered in snow? They include traversing a via ferrata, hiking, exploring the caverns of a glacier, riding a toboggan, and feeding marmots.
Traverse the Gorge-Alpine Via Ferrata
The most exciting thing to do in Saas-Fee is to embrace the adventure of the Gorge-Alpine Via Ferrata. Via ferrata is Italian for iron path. Via ferratas are protected climbing routes found in the Alps and other places. A steel cable follows the route, fixed to the rock in intervals, so that climbers can constantly be safely secured. Climbing aids include iron pegs, iron rungs, wood planks, ladders, and suspended bridges. Via ferratas range in difficulty from easy to very difficult and can be done on one’s own or with a guide.
The Gorge-Alpine Via Ferrata is on the easier side of the spectrum and can only be visited with a guide. Romeo is afraid of heights (or afraid of falling from great heights to be more accurate), so I didn’t know if I’d get him to go with me. But then I found the Saas-Fee Guides’ video which shows a child traversing the via ferrata, and there was no way he could say no then.
The via ferrata is accessed through what’s kind of like a secret entrance. A tiny stone watchtower actually has stairs leading down from the inside into the gorge. From there the adventure begins. This particular via ferrata has canyons, caves, waterfalls, and a river.
Probably the most nerve-wracking pieces are the long ladders, used as suspension bridges, which we slowly used to cross from one side of the gorge to the other, stepping carefully rung by rung. But even then it was easy to be distracted by the milky aqua water running below. There are also multiple zip lines, one of which leads into the mouth of a cave, a Tarzan swing, and a chance to repel from one of those crazy ladder suspension bridges.
Because we were always hooked to the safety cable, and because we were with an extremely knowledgeable guide, we always felt perfectly safe, and the trip was exhilarating. I had a smile on my face the entire time, and so did Rome. About halfway through, while negotiating some tricky footwork, he yelled out at me, “I’m okay with this!”
The great thing about the Gorge-Alpine Via Ferrata is that it can be explored in the summer and winter, though the winter version is shorter.
Hike the Gemsweg
While Saas-Fee has numerous ski trails in winter, it also has numerous hiking trails in summer. One of the best hikes in Saas-Fee is the Gemsweg, also called the Chamois Trail after the goat-antelopes that can be spotted in the area.
We hiked from the Hannig gondola summit station to the Gletschergrotte before heading back down to Saas-Fee. The Gemsweg trail wraps its way around Saas-Fee, hugging the midpoint of the surrounding mountains. The trail crosses rivers and provides views of mountain peaks and glaciers above and the valley and village below. We encountered sheep, goats, and marmots.
Taking the four-mile trail in this direction meant most of the hike was flat or at a slight decline, though there were a few spots with a steep decline, and if you decide to visit the Gletschergrotte restaurant, first built in 1931, before heading back into Saas-Fee, there will be a short but steep hike up to the restaurant. However, the prize is a glass of Valais wine and maybe some sort of Alpine cheese dish, so the ascent is worth it.
For more of an adventure, instead of hiking back into Saas-Fee from Gletschergrotte, hikers can continue on to the Plattjen ridge, which will involve hiking uphill. The great thing about Swiss hiking trails is that they are very well-marked so you can choose your own adventure.