Swiss summer glaciers
Saas-Fee has been a resort well known to snowboarders for many years. With its high altitude glacier, Saas-Fee also provides a mountain where you can ride fast and hard in the summer months, indeed for some, this is the only time worth visiting. The summer area and terrain park opens on July 4th
The pisted area open in the summer has around 20km of slopes, mainly suited to intermediate riders, are nice and wide, and can be steep in places. The whole area is serviced by 3 t-bars.
From the top of the funicular you follow a cat-track down to the glacier, there’s no facilities so bring anything with you, as it can be a bit of a walk to get back. However once the glacier has closed head to the restaurant at the top for a beer in the sun.
From the main pisted area head left into the park. At the top is the great half-pipe which is shaped to perfection every night and has a great transition.
Further down there’s a small chill-out area with good views of the large kicker line. There’s usually 2 parallel lines of 2 kickers. Below the chill-out area is the jib area which has a good number of rails of various sizes and difficulties.
Away from the park and pipe there is a boarder-cross circuit, with four gates and a series of hits, banked turns and some small rollers all of which could be taken at speed.
You’ll need to get up at the crack of dawn to make the most of it. It takes roughly an hour to reach the top and lifts open from 7:30am. At around 12:30-1pm the lifts start to close and things start getting too slushy anyway, so take a well earned beer on the balcony before heading back down.
If you manage to get the first lift you’ll be guaranteed to be jostling along with the French/GB/Swiss national skiing teams. They all tend to setup slalom courses on the steeper pistes for the first hour while the snow is bullet ice, and then they bugger off.
Away from the glacier there’s a good number of activities to get involved in – Golf, Tennis, Swimming, Walking, Mountain-biking they have the lot, and you can also play Tarzan in the forest. For the rest of us you’ll be pleased to know most of the bars are open, and whilst not exactly kicking most of the activity still revolves around the Popcorn bar.
The glacier opens in early July until September a lift pass will set you back 65CHF a day and 6-days 329CHF
Zermatt is one of the remaining where you can still board every day of the year. High up on the Klein Matterhorn, Zermatt has the largest summer boarding area in Switzerland. The glacier opens in June until September and there are around 20kmof mainly intermediate runs and a terrain park with halfpipe all serviced by T-bars.
It takes a good hour from the village, with 2 gondolas and an amazing cable-car ride over the glacier, separating you from the 3800m peak. On a clear day it is worth taking the oxygen sapping stairs to reach the viewing platform and the incredible views of the Alps. Also checkout the summer terrain and note the crevasses not far from the roped off areas.
From the cable-car head through the tunnel to the other side, strap in and head down the initial red to the main area. That old tea shed at the end of the tunnel has now been superseded by a self-sustainable new restaurant built into the side of the mountain. The food is mainly Asian and very tasty.
The main area is served by 3 t-bars and you’ll rarely have to wait in line. The runs are pretty steep initially for a red run but mellow out towards the bottom. Halfway down you can cut across and head over to where the Cervinia cable-car joins the glacier, and to get back up to the Zermatt cable-cable involves another t-bar along the top-ridge.
In the summer the terrain park moves further up the glacier and you enter it near to where the piste splits. The Gravity Park has a couple of whoops and boxes to get you started, and then splits into the halfpipe, kickers or jib line.
The 120m halfpipe is beautifully shaped and icy in the morning but by midday its getting too slushy to ride. The kicker line divides into intermediate and advanced runs, with around 5 jumps of between 6-12m. The rail setup is two runs of various jibs including a flat-down and C-rail and a few easier ride-on straight rails. At the end is wallride and a small chill-out area. Bring a bag and some water and dump it here, as its a pain to get to any of the restaurants.
A lift pass will cost you whopping 78CHF (6-days 312CHF), but the area is only open from 7:30 to 1:30pm so you need to get up early before it starts getting slushy. In the afternoon you can take a look at the World’s highest ice pavilion at 3810m, if you’re that way inclined. You can save a heap of cash by staying in Cervinia in Italy and buying their lift pass.
Stoked are running 3 camps this year - July 12th - 18th, July 19th - 25th and October 4th - 10th . A 6 night package including tuition, video analysis, accommodation and lift pass will set you back 999CHF, however there is a cheaper option for 599 CHF but you’ll need to sort your own accommodation out. You’ll be taught by a number of pro riders which has included Olympic Gold Medallist Gian Simmen. For more info take a look at www.stoked.ch