Getting There: Saas-Fee and Zermatt are in southern Switzerland and the gateway airport is Geneva. Airlines which service Geneva, Switzerland from the United States include Delta, Swissair, United, Northwest, KLM, Lufthansa, Scandinavian, British Airways, and Air France. The 1-800 phone numbers and Web links are listed in this magazines Airlines page.
For Saas-Fee, International rail connections link up at Brig, Switzerland, with bus connections to Saas-Fee. For Zermatt, trains connect at Brig or Visp, where you change to a mountain railway for a 90-minute climb through the rugged Visp Valley. The Swiss Rail Web link offers schedules and fares.
If you drive, we recommend you rent a car from the United States before traveling. Most major car rental agencies service the Geneva Airport. The 1-800 phone numbers and Web links are listed in this magazines Autos page.
By auto to Saas-Fee, from Geneva, drive east towards Montreux (N-5), south through Martigny (N-9), east through Sion, and turn off at Visp. Continue to Stalden, then to Saas-Fee, where you must park at the edge of town, in the multistory car park or in the lot at the entrance to the village.
If driving to Zermatt, motorists can drive from Geneva to Visp and as far as Täsh, from where trains or minibus taxis operate a shuttle service for the remaining 4.8 km to Zermatt.
Staying There: Saas-Fee is closed to car traffic. There are more than 50 hotels, many chalets and apartments for rent in Saas Fee. Contact the very personal, helpful Tourism Office, CH-3906, Saas Fee, Switzerland; telephone 41-027-958 18 58; fax 41-027-958 18 60, or check out the Web sites below which list accommodations. The variety of restaurants throughout the village and in the hiking regions offer Valaisian specialties and gourmet dining. Pubs and discos offer nightly entertainment.
Zermatt hosts a wide range of accommodations, from over 100 hotels, apartments and chalets, including a youth hostel. Contact the Tourist Office, Postfach 247, CH-3920, Zermatt, Switzerland; telephone 41-027-967 46 41; fax 41-027-967 01 85, or check out the Web sites below. You'll find cuisines from Thai, Japanese, Italian, and everything in-between, along with good nightlifet. Recommended guidebooks covering Switzerland are Lonely Planet Switzerland and Rick Steves' Germany, Austria, and Switzerland, available via this magazine's Travel Book Store.
||A Variety of Climbs:
The Alpin Center in Zermatt offers a variety of activities and climbs, including daily seasonal climbs of Pollux; the Breithorn, 4165 meters, an easy tour on snow and ice; and Castor, 4228 meters, a snow and ice climb. Offered on a daily basis during the summer season are gorge adventures; a variety of glacier excursions; rock climbing; glacier technique classes; excursions to the Monte Rosa hut; climbs of either the Weissmies, 4023 meters, or Allalinhorn, 4027 meters; helicopter flight and ascent of the Alphubel, 4206 meters; and canyoning adventures.
Guided climbs up the Matterhorn, the Swiss Alps most impressive and famous peak, are offered with conditions. As guides warn, the Matterhorn "has unfortunately become more and more a fashionable mountain. That's why it must firmly be stated that climbing the Matterhorn still has to be taken seriously. Even for experienced climbers, hiring a guide is recommended. Non-experienced climbers are advised not to attempt such a difficult summit as the Matterhorn for their first climb."
[On a personal note, despite experience on high Cascades peaks throughout the Pacific Northwest, including Mount Rainier by three routes, and a climb of the Grand Teton, the reality of the Matterhorn seemed beyond my skill levels. Swiss climbing is done on rock and ice at levels foreign to most North American mountaineers and better suited for highly experienced rock climbers...Lee Juillerat]
The Alpin Center recommends that Matterhorn climbers be in top physical condition and spend a week or more acclimatizing and climbing in the Zermatt-Saas Fee area. Generally, the best times to climb are mid-July to mid-September. The high-season is Aug. 1-15.
Costs for the Matterhorn trip are 873.50 Swiss francs per person, not including transport costs up the gondolas and overnight fees in the hut. Climbs interrupted or canceled because the client cannot complete the climb must be paid in full while climbs interrupted by bad weather must be paid according to the length of the climb. Reservations are required at least two weeks in advance.Rental equipment, including boots, walking poles or ice axes, crampons and other necessities are available.
For information on various offerings contact: The Alpin Center Zermatt, Mountain Guides' Office, P.O. Box 403, CH-3920 Zermatt, Switzerland; telephone 41-027-966 24 60, fax 41-027-966 24 69. In Saas-Fee contact the tourist office. In the U.S., contact Martin Volken, Pro Ski Service, (206) 525-4425.
Useful WWW links:
Zermatt Tourist Office: Information, accommodations, photos, reservations
Zermatt.com: Information on sporting opportunities in Zermatt
Swiss Federal Railways: On-line Timetable