Work A Ski Season in Saas Fee
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Saas Fee has almost year-round skiing on its glacier, Allalin, and a beautiful mountain setting in amongst 13 of Switzerland’s highest peaks. For those working a snow season, Saas Fee is a cheaper and altogether less crowded version of the more well-known Zermatt, which is located in the next valley across.
Location and Getting There
Saas Fee is in Switzerland, in the Saas Valley within the Valais Canton, right near the Italian border. It is 228km from Geneva (3 hours’ drive).
The closest airport is at Sion (1.5 hours’ drive), but Geneva is generally a cheaper way to get in. Zurich is around 3 hours’ drive while Basel is also 3 hours’ drive away.
If you are not driving, you can take the train from Geneva to Visp using Switzerland’s highly efficient rail network. See www.sbb.ch/en/home.html for tickets. A ticket to Visp is around 60 CHF.
From Visp, you will need to take the Post Bus up to Saas Fee. This bus runs every half hour from Visp and takes around 52 minutes. See www.postauto.ch/en for tickets.
Once in town, it is all on foot as there are no cars in town. The village is quite spread out at around 2km end-to-end. The furthest parts of the village from the lifts are around 25 minutes’ walk. To get around the region, the Post Bus is the best option. A season pass covers rides on the Post Bus.
Other Resorts in the Region
Zermatt Ski Resort, one of the most famous resorts in Switzerland, is in the next valley across from Saas Fee and takes around 45 minutes by car to drive. If you take the Post Bus, it takes around an hour and you need to switch to the cog railway. Zermatt is home to the famous, craggy peak of the Matterhorn which is certainly worth visiting at least once during the season.
Saas Grund is a small resort down the road from Saas Fee. It sits in a bowl opposite Saas Fee. It is not connected to Saas Fee by lifts, so you need to take the Post Bus.
Another even smaller resort just nearby is Saas Almagell, which can be nice for a day trip. It is much more protected from the weather by trees, so can be good for harsh weather days. However, it is very family-oriented and the runs are quite short.
Saas Fee is a generally quieter, smaller and less crowded version of Zermatt. The town has a noise-limit rule after 10pm, which means that the bars have to install sound proof windows and walls to keep the parties going deep into the night. It can give the town an eerie feel when you exit a bar to total alpine silence!
The mountains overshadow the village which can mean it gets quite shady and cold, especially in the middle of winter. However, the mountains surrounding the resort are classic Swiss – tall, striking and stunningly beautiful with a number of 4,000m peaks in view of the resort.
There is an incredible funicular up the mountain which was the first in Europe. It takes you inside the mountain to the highest lift station in Europe (3,500m).
The resort is very high (1,800m at the village base), so the snow is generally very well kept.
Terrain at Saas Fee
Overall, Saas Fee is a good mountain for beginners and intermediates, but less so for advanced riders. Given the long season on the glacier, it is often better cited for early and late season riding. The glacier is open 10 months of the year.
You can explore most of the mountain within a relatively short period of time. There aren’t actually too many cut out runs on the mountain and terrain accessible by the ski lifts is not large.
For intermediates, there are some moderate runs up near the glacier and some leg-burning runs back down to the village base which give you a nice view over the mountains. The glacier also has some nice cruisers. There are also some nice red runs up the top at the glacier for a slightly steeper pitch, but nothing too serious.
For experts, the best part of the mountain is around Egginerjoch where there are a couple of nice, but short black runs. However, Saas Fee is certainly not an expert’s mountain. Furthermore, the backcountry is a bit limited as there is a large crevasse danger around the glacier.
The lift lines and crowds tend to be pretty good at Saas Fee as it is not nearly as popular as Zermatt.
There is a decent terrain park at the glacier with a few different lines for different levels. The park at Zermatt is generally a little bigger each season.
Snow and Weather
Saas Fee doesn’t receive huge snowfall, similar to other resorts in the region. The average is around 3 metres each season. However, given the high altitude, the snow is retained fairly well and Saas Fee is generally considered one of the more snow-sure resorts in the Swiss Alps.
The top station is quite high at 3,500m but it is also quite exposed which can mean that, when the weather closes in, this can provide for rougher riding conditions.
Finding a Job
If you are from the European Union, you are able to work in Switzerland without needing a work permit. If you are not from the EU, Switzerland is generally quite a hard place to find a job. See Work at a Ski Resort in Switzerland for further details.
For those who don’t speak German, the best options would be the tour operators who offer ski packages at Saas Fee or one of the several ski schools which operate independently at the resort.
Tour Operators at Saas Fee include:
- Crystal Ski
Ski Schools at Saas Fee include:
- www.eskimos.ch/en – Eskimos
- www.optimumsnowsports.com – Optimum Snowsports
- www.skischule-saas-almagell.ch – Ski school Saas-Almagell
- www.skischule-saas-fee.ch – Swiss Ski school Saas-Fee
- www.skisaas.ch – Ski School Saas-Grund
See Work at a Ski Resort in Switzerland for information on converting your ski instructing certificate to a Swiss recognised certificate.
The village at Saas Fee is quite spread out which can be a pain if your staff accommodation is a long way from the centre. If you are looking for your own accommodation, you might try:
Nightlife and Outside Work
The best après is found on the main street in the village. The Black Bull and the Zur Mühle are two of the best places for seasonal workers. The crowd moves to Nesti’s later on. For live music, the Dom Bar is cool, while Popcorn and Poison get DJs into the night.
Other activities during a season in Saas Fee to check out include ice-climbing on the glacier, snow tubing, checking out the ice pavilion and ice caves. Taking walks (or hitting up the cross-country skis) around the stunning Swiss mountain side, particularly around Hannig Mountain which is set aside for snowshoeing, is another great way to spend your days off.