I have to be honest, I almost didn’t write this up. Chatting with Ryan over breakfast yesterday, I asked if I should write about “just another ski weekend” but we both decided that trips to Switzerland, which are only a short-ish drive away now, are soon going to be much fewer and far between (at least for a while) and the trip was worth remembering in 20 years so here we are.
Our trip started on Friday. While I finished up some work, Ryan drove down south. The trip, with the exception of our very first drive-on car train, was non-eventful. It was an easy day, taking us to the parking lot outside the car free village of Saas-Fee, Switzerland.
It was on Ryan’s bucket list to ski the Swiss Alps before we move. My only request was that we ski early enough in the year that any potential injuries would be healed up by our big trip in March. I’m happy to report we are injury free and the village, nicknamed the Pearl of the Alps, was exactly the experience we were looking for.
After parking, we loaded our bags onto our backs and took the 10 minute walk from the city parking lot through the nearly empty streets to Hotel Bristol, directly on the slopes. We checked in, dropped our luggage, and went for a walk through the village. Our stroll took us over the prefect cobblestoned streets, dodging the occasional hotel shuttle and window shopping for our future Swiss ski chalet. After walking around for a bit, we headed to a restaurant across from our hotel, aptly named Skihütte, to give into an out-of-character craving …. for a hamburger.
We settled into the glassed-in restaurant and got some Swiss beer to pair with a chicken burger for me and a fondue burger for Ryan. That’s right, he ordered a hamburger …. topped with melted Swiss cheese, white wine, and garlic. Pair that with some fries and end it with a home made apple strudel with vanilla ice cream and it was a pretty solid meal. On top of it all, I got to practice my German which is a sure fire way to make me happy.
We took another stroll through the quiet city after dinner to help digest and then headed to bed early, already excited for the following day.
We woke up at 7:00 AM and started our day with our go-to BBC before breakfast. We headed down to the hotel breakfast at 8:00 AM and I got to use my German again, this time with the breakfast staff who spoke no English. As I said to my mom a few weeks ago, I’ve finally gotten good enough at my German to live here just a few months before we have leave. We had some coffee, bread, meat, cheese, and yogurt and I was constantly distracted by the gorgeous sight of the mountain outside. After a quick breakfast, we were off.
We stopped by Intersport, just next door, and picked up our skis. By 9:00 AM we were heading to the ticket office, picking up our ski passes, and ready to get lost in the miles of ski runs. We took a gondola up to switch to a 50-person gondola to then take a funicular-like train up again. By this point, we had been taking lifts for nearly half an hour and we had no clue where we were but we were let out at the very top of the mountain. Step one was, of course, to take some pictures. It is no exaggeration to say there were no clouds in the sky. Seriously, just look at that picture! The jagged peaks stood out in stark contrast to the pure blue sky behind them. Behind us, the icy blue glacier that sits atop the mountain was shining in the sun. It was definitely one of the best views we’ve had while skiing and hands down the best weather.
We started down the mountain, Ryan bombing down as always and me being a bit more cautious as I got started. There was no fresh snow so the runs were a bit slick for my first run in a year but I’m happy to say we made it down the first few runs no problem. We spent our morning skiing up and down the top of the mountain, taking the different lifts and (much more uncomfortable) two-person T lifts as we tried out a limited section of reds (the Swiss equivalent of blues) and enjoyed the views.
After skiing for a few hours, we stopped at a nearby chalet for the perfect mid-ski lunch: Croque Monsieur, two Hot Dogs with ketchup and Mayo, a snickers, and 2 beers. We let our legs rest up a bit, then got some coffee before heading back to the slopes.
This time, we branched out from our few runs at the top of the mountain and this is where it started to get interesting for me. If I’m being honest, I’m still not sure what runs we were on and what part of the mountain we were on. We let ourselves get lost, which resulted in some steeper-than-anticipated runs. The good news was the mountain felt nearly empty! We weren’t sure if it was because of the time of year or if it was normal but we hardly had to play the game of not running over other skiers. Lucky for me! That gave me plenty of room to take wide turns as we were heading down the steep runs and gave Ryan room to show off.
The afternoon was full of more skiing. We pulled nearly every minute we could on the slopes and ended the day with some gorgeous blues (the Swiss equivalent of greens). We took our time down the last run, trying to soak in the gorgeous views before reluctantly dropping off our rented gear. I say reluctant now because I would love another ski day. I should admit, though, that at the time my shaking legs and aching feet were saying something quite different.
After dropping our gear off, we headed straight to Aqua Allelin, the local sauna. We got a small discount because we were staying in the city for two days and Ryan loves very few things in life more than a sauna. We checked in and headed straight to the wellness center – a slate grey and wooden relaxation wonderland. We spent the next two hours wandering between saunas, steam rooms, and a hot tub, all complete with floor-to-ceiling windows that looked out over the mountainside. We watched the sun set while sipping unlimited peppermint tea and probably could have spent another hour there but our stomachs had other ideas.
Instead, we showered quick and then, to make our lives easy, we headed to the same restaurant across the street for the classic – Swiss cheese fondue. We said hello to the staff, who all greeted us and welcomed us back, and settled in for a half bottle of Gamay to pair with our cheese fondue. While we ate, we talked to one waiter who, although Italian, shared that he loved everything about America. He asked when we were going back and when we replied that we live in Germany, he said, “then I’m not interested. Germany is blah. I mean, I was born there.” Which, of course, we found laughable. It was another reminder that, all around the world, people want to explore “exotic” places and someone else thinks their birthplace is just that.
We stuffed ourselves with cheese and bread (is there anything better) and savored the last sips of wine before calling it a night. As we left, we wished our waiter luck on getting to Miami (his dream location) and he promised us he would make it there somday … as soon as his Italian mother was okay with him moving abroad. All around the world, parents also want their children to chase their dreams but they would rather have them be close by.
After dinner, we enjoyed the view of the stars peaking out over the mountain tops. We debated calling in sick for a few days and staying for another week but ultimately, we packed up and, after watching some more BBC, headed to bed before our drive home.
It was with heavy hearts that we had our last Swiss breakfast, checked out, and took the last walk through town. We considered the possibility of buying our own Swiss chalet and tried to scheme a way to get back here more often. Saas Fee has none of the glitz and glam of some ski villages. It has bars but the vibe was one of ski bums and retirees simultaneously escaping the world to enjoy the gorgeous views and simple life in the mountains. Even with the road trip there and back, the weekend away was the perfect jolt of rejuvenation that we always look for. Life won’t be the same when it’s more than a few hours away.