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Posts Tagged ‘Saas-Fee’

This is why we love to be in Saas-Fee…so much:

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1. 300 days of sun. That is probably the number one reason. When you live in The Netherlands, you want to make sure of one thing when you go places.: you want to see the sun and the deep blue sky. Because there ain’t such thing up North like a deep colour…apart from deep green maybe.

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2. There is ALWAYS snow and the ski-station is open all year round. How? The upper part of the resort is on a glacier. And on the top of this glacier, there is the highest turning restaurant in the world at 3500m. It has just been renovated and finally lost its 70’s groove. The food is very decent for a decent price (to Swiss standards).

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3. The mountains are specatacular. There are 47 mountains over 4000m in Switzerland and there are 14 of them just around Saas-Fee. It protects the resort from changing weather…hence the 300 days of sun.

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4. It is not the largest ski resort of Switzerland. Far from it. Around 100km of pistes and something like 30 lifts. But you nonetheless have it all. The easy slopes for kids and beginners, the bumpy runs, the steep runs, the wide runs for carving, the specatacular runs amidst the glaciers, the hard runs and the amazing off-piste (if you know to avoid crevaces).

5. Saas-Fee is a place with more than 100 restaurants. It prides itself of having a 1 star Michelin restaurant, The Fletschhorn. This restaurant has recently acquired a smaller restaurant on the slopes and you can enjoy gastronomic kitchen with your ski-boots on. Weird but a somehow a must-do. There are romantic restaurants like La Ferme but there are also of course plenty of Swiss traditional cusinie eateries with the expected smell of melted cheese. Nothing for dairy-allergic though.

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6. We of course love Saas-Fee because that’s also where we have our chalets

…doh… Fasan & Eichhörnchen are their names. Those are super cosy little chalet 1km away from the centre and the après-ski music at the edge of a larks’ forest where squirrels and wild goats can be spotted. http://www.atraveo.de/objekte/714124.php

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7. The kids love to stay up there. Its total freedom for them, they open the door and can disappear in the fields and the forest. The resort is car free, so no danger there either.

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8. We have a skate-skiing loop in front of our door. Its is a 5.5 km training course, with one lane for classic skating and one for skate-skiing. We call it our private house loop as not many people use it. My wife and I just love to exercise here. The loop goes 120m up, then flat, then down..it throws your heart out of the chest the first time you do it. After a few work-outs, you feel stronger and it becomes a matter of who is going to beat the loop record (24:30).

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9. And then, there is sledging. This is basically also a few steps from our house. A cable cars takes you up for 15min and you then have a joy ride for about 15-20min down a relatively steep course. Helmets recommended!

10. Last but not least, Saas-Fee is in Switzerland. This is where we come from. This is what we call home. And because we have enough beds (the chalets can accomodate up to 11 persons), the family is coming to visit us as well as friends. So it is a place where we celebrate and enjoy the company of those who are dear to our heart.

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Had we known that we would ride in a 35 degree furnace, battle head wind for 60km and for Joel to crash into a car 100m before the end of the ride, would we have started riding on that foggy Monday at 07:30, the 9th of May from Saas-Fee to the Grimselpass? Probably not, but that’s what an adventure is about, I guess (and that’s why I do not understand people reading the last pages of a book before actually starting to read it).

I had been thinking to ride to the Grimsel Pass for the past three years.  Joel – a training partner and founder member of our Windmill Warriors Triathlon Club – and I could not have picked a better day to do this ride.  It all started the evening before, with some serious carb/protein-loading with our families in front of the chalet. Joel, is a Masterchef when it comes to marinating meat and BBQing. We limited our beer consumption and went up to bed fairly early.

We started to ride with a 26km long descent from Saas-Fee (1800m) to Visp (500) before taking a right turn and started a 65km climb towards the Grimselpass (2164m). The climb was gentle at first along the river Rhone. We passed Brig and were surprised how fast the temperature was rising. It was 11 in Saas-Fee, 15 in Visp and already 23 in Brig. The first “hills” showed up after Brig. Quads were warmed up by then to tackle the first serious climb until Bellwald. 800 m elevation gain in 16km. Joel was quite surprised to hear, that this was the “easy” part of the climb. From then on his requests for short stops increased 🙂 . The real deal started after Oberwald. There is even a sign warning cyclists of the 1000m upcoming climb averaging at 7.6%. It is long and it is quite hard but the view is breathtaking and seeing for the first time from a “saddle perspective” the famous switchbacks of  the Grimsel were very rewarding.

And because every ride has its loads of surprises, we suddenly encountered, crossing the road, the first trains constructed to pass the Furka Pass (same road as the Grimsel).

We manages those switchbacks without problems and finally arrived to the Pass after riding for 4 hours and 1800m of elevation gain. It was a perfect day to be up there. No violent winds, no snow, nearly no clouds. Just Perfect. We quickly ate something before moving to our main activity of the day: photo-shooting.

Now that the battery of my camera was empty, we could get back on the saddle and ride down. Joel acquired his downhill riding skills in The Netherlands. Going down the Grimsel was slightly out of his zone of comfort, but after training twice down from Saas-Fee to Visp he managed pretty well (although it took him a while to unclasp his hands from the drops afterwards).

We thought we had done the hardest bit, but the weather decided otherwise. The wind picked-up together with the heat and every km we rode down we faced more heat and more wind. We ended up in the valley with the watch registering 35 degrees in the shade. I believe we each drank about 3 liters for the 6h45min ride. It was thougher than expected, especially for my fellow riders who challenged a car in the last 100m before our arrival to the bus station in Visp. Joel does not know exactly what happened. I was in the front, unclipping my shoes when I heard a metallic thump about 80m behind me. I hoped for the best but feared the worst. And yes, it came out to be the worst. Joel on the ground with a bruised shoulder. But the car was bruised too! A good dent in the side door and a broken mirror. Joel 1 – Car 1.

I have a bit of a reputation back where I train in The Netherlands. “They” call me the Swiss Assassin, because I provoked a fall of 2 fellow bikers by braking in front of the group without (a lot of clear) advance warnings. I just would like to clearly state, that Joel decided to take on this car on his own free will. Namaste.

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Ski Week-End in Saas-Fee with friends, Feb 2012.

Training is good, cross-training is better, but moving away from training and enjoy the outdoor on top of  it all is best. I never took training too seriously, I never followed a plan too strictly and I never calculated the risk of having fun that could jeopardize the big “race goal of the year”. I think the day I would do that, I would just know that there is no fun in training anymore.

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Today was for me my first “real” day of training. Today is the day I set as the start of the 2012 Season. We are spending a week in Saas-Fee with the family of my brother in law and I hope to integrate a few altitude work-outs next to skiing and sledging. I managed today to run 16km at minus 22C at nearly 2000m, followed a couple of hours later by a 8km skate-skiing course together with my brother in law.

I feel too heavy, but the cardio and the legs are supporting me very well even at this altitude. I don’t think I have ever been so fit at this period of the year. Hope everything goes as planned and no elderly lady plots to crash into me with an old Toyota Carina or something like this. While this accident in 2009 was probably the greatest gift I have ever survived, I hope not to get this kind of present again.

Here some impression of my “first” training day around Saas-Fee in Switzerland.

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