An enchanting autumn weekend in Saas-Fee

Simon and his friend Bel put our disability-friendly wellnessHostel4000 in Saas-Fee and the surrounding region to the test. These are their impressions.

This blogpost was created in collaboration with Swiss Youth Hostels and Simon Hitzinger.
The original blogpost can be found here.

On Friday, I take the train from Basel to Brunnen where I meet my girlfriend Bel. We then head off to Saas-Fee together. The weather is anything but good. Our view on the journey through the mountains is obscured by thick fog and low-hanging clouds. But we’re not too bothered as we’re both looking forward to the next two days so much.

We arrive in Saas-Fee at seven o’clock in the evening. The weather has brightened up a little and we’re excited about staying at the hostel. We’re greeted by a steep and a not-so-steep ramp leading into the wellnessHostel4000. Gliding down them is lots of fun. Travelling up is not quite as easy, especially with a heavy bag on your shoulders. The effort really gets my muscles working.

Top tip: If you’re considering visiting the mountain village of Saas-Fee in a wheelchair, it’s advisable to ensure that you and any travelling companions are physically fit. If you don’t have a companion with you, it’s a good idea to use a power assist device to help you negotiate the undulating terrain that is typical at an altitude of 1,800 metres. The wheelchair-accessible room in the hostel is good. The bathroom has a lowered mirror, a wheelchair-accessible washbasin and a toilet with handles. There is also a floor-level shower with a shower seat that does not have a backrest. The bed consists of two single beds, which can be moved to allow space for a wheelchair next to it. During the night, however, the beds slipped apart several times.

Day 2: A tour of discovery tour at Aqua Allalin

I’m looking forward to the breakfast buffet. The weather looks foggy and grey, so today seems the perfect day to enjoy the hostel’s spa facilities. The relaxation area and fitness room are located on the lower floor of the youth hostel. The wellness area is beautiful and spacious, featuring lots of dark stone. It has an invigorating ice shower, a rejuvenating hot water shower called a ‘Feuerdusche’, a cascading rain shower called a ‘Regendusche’, a whirlpool, a steam bath, a gentler sauna called a ‘bio sauna’, a Finnish sauna and a large hot stone.

The friendly Spanish lifeguard guides me around and shows me all the different facilities. I ask him whether there is a special wheelchair for wet areas, but he answers no. Nevertheless, I go into the bio sauna briefly, because it doesn’t get so hot in there, which is better for the tyres on my wheelchair. There is also a swimming lift for the swimming pool, which I use when I go swimming. The water is wonderfully clear and enjoyably refreshing.

Using the swimming lift makes it easy to get into the swimming pool. © Simon Hitzinger

Feeling relaxed and warmed, we leave the wellness area and return to our room. We then set off for an evening walk. The village centre is small and hilly, which makes the trip a bit strenuous. But we are rewarded with beautiful views.

The sun has already disappeared behind the Täschhorn and Dom mountains. © Simon Hitzinger

Day 3: Breathtaking views

At seven on the dot, I wake up without an alarm clock, give my girlfriend a kiss, jump into the wheelchair, look out of the window and get my camera. It’s the blue hour, just before sunrise. The light is subtle and balanced. The valley is still in the shade and the Feeg Glacier is glowing, surrounded by blue.

The trip was worthwhile for these moments alone. A few moments later, the first rays of sunshine reach the peaks of the Täschhorn and the Dom. At 4,545 metres above sea level, the Dom is the highest mountain in the whole of Switzerland. This was a fact I didn’t know before. The Dufourspitze is indeed higher, but the mountain straddles the border between Switzerland and Italy. I must say, the view is really impressive.

I have the feeling that in Saas-Fee everything starts a little earlier and ends a little earlier than I am used to. This means it’s worth getting up early. The breakfast buffet ends at 9.30 a.m. and check-out is at 10 a.m. The cable cars close at 3.30 p.m. or 4 p.m. It is striking how much everything is geared towards snow sports.

Nestled deep within the mountains, Saas-Fee is a sports paradise with breathtaking views. After checking out, we take part in the main sporting activity of the day: carrying our luggage back to the car! We’re quite exhausted when we reach the car. We load up our luggage and head back down to the Alpin Express. This is an excellent wheelchair-accessible cable car that is large enough to accommodate an electric wheelchair. We head off towards the revolving restaurant on the Mittelalallin summit.

To change to the Metro Alpin (the underground metro), wheelchair users must report to the ticket office downstairs so that someone can come and assist. Three men then help me on the train. The exit at the top still has a step but it isn’t too bad.

Once at the top, we are taken straight to the lift and enter the revolving restaurant.  We slowly circle around for an hour and enjoy the panoramic views. There is also a terrace underneath the restaurant. It’s accessible by lift and here you can enjoy the fresh air at an altitude of 3,500 metres and watch the snow sports enthusiasts enjoying the slopes.

There is a wheelchair-accessible toilet on the terrace level. To exit this level, I need the assistance of the train or restaurant staff who can operate the lift. Unfortunately, I can’t find anyone from there who can help.

So my girlfriend goes on a search – and finds what she’s looking for. We reach the metro and start the descent from the glacier. At the metro’s exit at the bottom, my girlfriend skilfully helps me navigate the sloping concrete step. After arriving in the valley, we take another stroll through the beautiful village and enjoy a coffee in the sunshine. Then it’s time for the long but scenic journey home with a stopover at Lake Grimsel.

I arrive in Basel at midnight, exhausted and inspired. I check how my plants are doing and then it’s off to my familiar bed. The power of the mountains has done me good. I would visit Saas-Fee again, but I would take my hand bike with me for support.

You can find more information about barrier-free travel in the Saas Valley here.

About the author

Hey, my name is Simon Hitzinger, but most people call me Hitzi. I am 30 years old and like to focus on the beautiful things in life. Photography helps me, so I guess that’s why I’m a photographer. After my accident in 2011, I learned that focus matters a lot. Suddenly, I couldn’t feel my body from my chest down. Do I focus on the light or the parts in shadow? I love being out and about and discovering new things with my camera.