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Zermatt, Coeur des Alpes and/or Sass Fee?

Zermatt, Coeur des Alpes and/or Sass Fee?

Feb 19th, 2006, 10:18 AM
  #1  
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Zermatt, Coeur des Alpes and/or Sass Fee?

Hello---I'm planning for a family trip to Switzerland for hiking. We've been there three times before, and we have our favorite places, but I wuld like to add some new ones. We like to stay three or four nights at each place, and travel by train. I am attracted to Zermatt for the incredible scenery and great hiking, and also because I have heard good things of the Hotel Coeur des Alpes, and their website is very appealing. But every time I say "Zermatt", someone answers "Sass Fee". So my questions are these:

Has anyone stayed at the Coeur des Alpes, and what did you think? Would it work for a family of three?

Why does everyone who knows and loves Switzerland recommend Sass Fee over Zermatt?

If we decide on Sass Fee, either instead of or in addition to Zermatt, can you recommend a place to stay? A short-stay apartment (one that doesn't require a whole week) is usually our preference, or a small family-run 2 or 3-star hotel with family rooms and balconies. (I know, the Coeur des Alpes doesn't fit in that description, but it would be my birthday splurge).

Also, recommended places for dinner in both towns?

Thanks!
enzian is offline  
Feb 19th, 2006, 12:06 PM
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moving up.
enzian is offline  
Feb 19th, 2006, 01:06 PM
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Having been to both places and would prefer Zermatt over Saas Fee (watch the spelling!) anytime. However, if you look for a new experience, Saas Fee might be good for 2 or 3 nights.

I have stayed in the Hotel Europa and it was ok. It should be in your price range. Location is quite good, only a few minutes from the bus stop/parking and right next to the Hannig gondola, which is a good starting point for hikes.

Their own restaurant is quite good, but nothing special. We had opted for the half board (includes 5-course-dinner every day) which was quite inexpensive. One night we had a big and wonderful barbecue in their sister hotel Schweizerhof (upscale).

For a very special dinner try Hotel Restaurant Fletschhorn. Excellent. Irma Dütsch's food is well known all over Switzerland.
Ingo is offline  
Feb 19th, 2006, 02:05 PM
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I spent a week in an apartment in Saas Grund, which is at the bottom of the hill from Saas Fee. From there we could see the Dom towering about 10,000 feet above us. It is an incredible sight to behold.

That said, most of the trails around Saas Fee-Saas Grund-Saas Balen (and even Saas Tomaten) come in two varieties: steep uphill and steep downhill.

You can take a mountain cable line up to a spot about halfway up the Dom and walk along a prepared track over a glacier.
That path is transversal and relatively flat. I did not do it, but I have heard it is excellent. (Hearsay can be trickey of course.)

I think that the Saas valley is awesome, but unless you are a strong hiker, some of the trails are a bit much. The valley is very dry, so on the upper slopes there is not much vegetation.

If you can put up with the touristy aspects of Zermatt, I think it offers more hiking trails. I know that a good walk is to take the Gornergrat Bahn up to an intermediate stop and then walk to the view points that overlook the ice masses flowing off of Monte Rosa.

Also, on this same walk, if you have a clear day, the Matterhorn stands out like a signal beacon to the south.

All around you are some of the highest peaks in the Pennine Alps and I think you would marvel at how rugged the terrain is.

Saas Fee is pleasant; Zermatt is a little more.
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Feb 20th, 2006, 04:14 PM
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Thanks to both of you, and I apologize for the spelling---I know better, and was in a hurry. It sounds like neither of you is in the "Go to Saas Fee instead of Zermatt" camp, which is nice to know, because I am inclined firmly toward Zermatt---for the reasons that Brookwood points out (awesome scenery and more hiking opporunities).

So if we don't go to Saas Fee, we have a 3-day opening in our trip, and I would welcome any suggestions as to where else we might go. We are in the "strong hikers" category---we like long traverses as well as fairly strenuous uphill hikes with 1000 meters or so of elevation gain. The best hike is one that ends at a lift that we can ride DOWN. The places we have stayed already, and could happily visit again, are the Grindelwald area, Mürren, Kandersteg/Oeschinensee, Lötschental, Goms, and Bettmeralp (Aletsch region). We have not yet been to the Engadine, Graübunden, Ticino, or to Engelberg, and could consider any of those. I don't yet know if we will be flying out of Zürich or Milan, so that could affect our choices, as I like to keep the trip fairly compact. This trip will be in early July.
enzian is offline  
Feb 20th, 2006, 06:47 PM
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I have been to Zermatt and Saas Fee many times and think both are beautiful. The advantage which Saas Fee has to me is that is that it is not filled to the brim with tourists, which the town of Zermatt will be in July to the point of annoyance. However, if you are really hiking in the hills above town, you won't find this such a problem. You will also be able to get to Saas Fee for a day or hiking if you want, they are less than an hour apart, and in July you will have like 16 hours of daylight so plenty of time to see the little town of Saas Fee itself which is also car-free and quite charming.

Zermatt of course is really a draw with the Matterhorn and has so many great hikes and the mountain will follow you everywhere.

For hotels, if you wanted to really avoid town and get to hikes immediatly, you could stay ON the mountain, take a look at:

Riffelberg, 3 star, have not been in the rooms, but lobby and restaurants are charming in Swiss style. Location is mid-way up the Gornegrat just below the Riffelberg station. http://www.matterhorn-group.ch. Great Matterhorn views. This group has other hotels in the town of Zermatt.

Klum Gornegrat. 2 stars, great location at the very top of the Gornegrat with stunning views. I have not seen the rooms, but the restaurants and public areas are nice. Run by the same group which operates the Riffelberg hotel.

The Hotel Alpina is a 2 star in town which gets good reccos on this site, take a look at http://www.alpina-zermatt.ch

Also take a look at:

karenbrownguides.com
alpineclassics.ch
relaischateaux.com
romantikhotels.ch
www.swisshotels.ch
summithotels.com

Also look at tripadvisor.com which ranks hotels based on reviews.

Ingo, I love the Fletschhorn too, but Imma Dütsch left at least 2 years ago. The new chef is just as excellent, IMO.

Cicerone is offline  
Feb 20th, 2006, 08:44 PM
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If you are that good at hiking, then let me suggest you obtain a copy of The Valais, A Walking Guide by Kevin Reynolds. It is a good guide to that area.

Read through the list of hikes and see if there is one you like.

Could you not go over to Saas Fee for a day? It is not that far.

When we went to Zermatt the first time, we drove over from Saas Grund, parked at Täsch, and had a nice visit. We rode the Gornegrat train and walked up from an intermediate station to the building/rail station at the end of the train line.

If you want to visit the Berner Oberland, a fantastic hike is the cross ridge traverse from Schynige Platte to a station called First (= ridge in German).

It is a fairly long hike, but not too much up and down. You will have the option to detour to the top of the Faulhorn for an incredible view of the whole area. There is no place quite like it.

The gondola ride down from First to Grindelwald is also a thrill because you get a very good look at the north wall of the famed Eiger.

Another neat little place is Zinal.
We went there, drove over to Lac de Moiry and hiked up to the alpine hut.
The trail provides awesome views of the Moiry Glacier.

It is also the scene of the world's most scary outhouse. It juts over the edge of the cliff and the bottom is about 2,000 feet straight down.

There are several places you can go from Zinal/Grimentz and vicinity. Reynolds' book on the The Valais will tell you about your options.

And don't forget the Turtmanntal.

When I start thinking about that country I regret I am no longer able to tackle the steep ones because of age-related health issues.

So my advice is to grab it while you can and GO.

Remember that that part of Switzerland is very compact and you can get from one place to the other fairly quickly if you have a car. For example we once drove from Lauterbrunnen to Zermatt for a day trip. The Lötschenberg Tunnel from Goppenstein to Kandersteg is a great time saver. You drive your car onto a flat rail car and ride the train through the tunnel.

Also, Luek is a good place. There are high trails around there, too.
brookwood is offline  
Feb 20th, 2006, 09:15 PM
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"So my advice is to grab it while you can and GO."

Absolutely! This will be my 60th birthday trip, and I am grateful that I can still do these strenuous hikes. I am sorry if that is no longer possible for you, Brookwood. I actually thought my serious hiking days were over (bad knees), but then I discovered hiking poles, and also increased my fitness with ski mountaineering. Now I want to go every summer while I still can. I do have the Kev Reynolds Valais and Bernese Alps hiking guides, as well as the Cicerone guide to the Valais. The biggest problem is picking the hikes (they all sound great) ---and finding the weather to make it posible. Last summer we were shut out of most of our hikes until we got to Chamonix.

Cicerone--I will check out all your suggestions in Zermatt. The Gornergrat sounds particularly nice for the views.

Brookwood---that hike up to the Faulhorn is one of my favorites, and I'm still thinking of putting Grindelwald on the itinerary so I can take my family there---they weren't along last time. The pear strudel at the Faulhorn Hütte is the best! We did get stuck on the First lift for an hour on the way down.

It turns out that after I asked this question about other places to go, I discovered that the Swiss Open will be going on during our stay, and that would be a real treat for our tennis-playing teenager. I'm sure Gstaad is out of our budget, but I'm wondering if you have any thoughts on nearby towns with train access to Gstaad---Zweisimmen, Saanen, or even Lenk.
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Feb 21st, 2006, 04:08 AM
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Hi enzian,

I've been to Saanen and Gstaad once each and have fallen in love with that area; I think you'll really enjoy your time at the Open.

I have stayed in 4-star places in both towns so don't have any personal recommendations for a 2- or 3-star hotel for you. But I can tell you that I'm looking seriously at the Bon Accueil in Chateau d'Oex (www.lebonaccueil.ch) for a future visit. Chateau d'Oex is in the French-speaking section of the country, so you'll get to experience that; it's close enough to Saanen that you can bicycle there in less than two hours (or take a 10-minute train ride . . .).

Saanen, Gstaad, and Chateau d'Oex also offer apartments and b&bs that you can check out on the websites: www.gstaad for Saanen & Gstaad, and www.chateau-doex for Chateau d'Oex and Rougement.

If you feel like a splurge dinner, I can recommend both the Chesery in the center of Gstaad and La Bagatelle in Hotel Grand Chalet above Gstaad.

Enjoy your trip!

s
swandav2000 is online now  
Feb 21st, 2006, 04:10 AM
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ps,

Forgot to mention that there's a very charming-looking four-star b&b in the town of Erlenbach (Simmental). If that's not too far, check it out.

s
swandav2000 is online now  
Feb 21st, 2006, 04:12 AM
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How embarrassed am I?

Here's the site:

http://www.bnb.ch/index.php?p=page&id=246

s
swandav2000 is online now  
Feb 21st, 2006, 05:17 AM
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Another vote for Chateau D'oex. It's very close to Gstaad by train and is a beautiful village. We stayed in a lovely apartment there recently (for skiing) and loved it. Contact the tourist office or check the website. They were extremely helpful.
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Feb 21st, 2006, 06:43 PM
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Hi and thanks---Chateau d'Oex looks perfect for us---17 minutes from Gstaad by train, but a lovely town, and lots to do besides watch the tennis. My husband will appreciate the French---he's tired of having to rely on me in the German-speaking regions! And the Bon Accueil looks perfect---I printed out their information, and am trying to figure out how far they are from the railway station (we will be on foot). I guess I can just e-mail them and ask. They actually mention the Open on their website as something of note. (It should be an even bigger deal this year with both Roger Federer and Martina Hingis as worthy competitors). If that one doesn't work, the "Roc et Neige" lodge says they are just 5 minutes from "la gare".

So Chateau d'Oex it is. Thanks again.
enzian is offline  
Feb 22nd, 2006, 08:23 AM
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Hi enzian,

I envy you -- you'll enjoy Chateau d'Oex and Le Bon Accueil, I think.

About their location -- you can find a map if you click on "Chateau d'Oex" and then the first blue link called "Plan d'accueil de la Commune . . ." It's a tiny map, but it looks like the hotel is pretty far from the train station (when I cycled through town, I remember that the gare was UPhill, grooan). Of course, you can always take a taxi.

Again, have fun!

s
swandav2000 is online now  
Feb 22nd, 2006, 09:07 AM
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Hi Swandav--I saw that map, but it's too tiny for me and I couldn't figure out how to enlarge it. I think I'll just e-mail them and ask. I hope German is OK; my French in not up to the task. Or maybe just English would be better? I don't know how sensitive the French-speaking Swiss are about their language.

We'll be back and forth to the train a lot to get to the tennis matches. A kilometer or so of walking is fine, but I don't want to repeat what happened last year. In the past when I've stayed at Oeschinensee we stored our luggage at the Kandersteg train station, and just took up day packs. But last summer the teenage girls couldn't part with their luggage for 3 days, so I said I thought it would be OK to wheel our bags up---we're hikers, right? But it was longer (2 km) and steeper (about 1600 feet of climbing) than I remembered, and a hot day to boot, and I thought everyone was going to kill me before we got there. So now I try to determine how far a place is from the station before I book. I guess we could take our luggage with the help of a taxi, and just walk after that. The Bon Accueil certainly looks like it's worth the effort!
enzian is offline  
Feb 22nd, 2006, 09:54 AM
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Hi Again,

Yes, I think English would be fine -- I usually explain that my French is awful (or I don't know German . . .).

Yes, Le Bon Accueil looks great! I may have to cancel my own trip this June, so you can understand my jealousy! I hope you post some photos when you get back!

s
swandav2000 is online now  
Feb 22nd, 2006, 05:21 PM
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Er....we're not actually going until next year, 2007. I have to start planning way ahead and give my adult kids (whom I hope will join us) plenty of notice. Now I just have to decide how far in advance to make the reservations for a nice place like that during the Swiss Open. But apparently it's not as big a tournament as I thought---Roger didn't even play last year. That actually makes it all the better for us---smaller crowds, a better chance to get seats at a good game. But this will give me plenty of time to research hikes and other things to do in the area for the non-tennis buffs, since it's a new area for us. I hope to have a group of nine or so from my family and friends. At this point I think I can tell them the itinerary is: 3 nights Murren, 4 in Zermatt, 2 at Oeschinensee, and 3 in Chateau-d'Oex. Do you know to pronounce that "d'Oex"?
enzian is offline  
Feb 23rd, 2006, 04:01 AM
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Hi again,

Yes, it's pronounced "duuh," or if you're in a hurry, just slur the word "day." For a hoot, and if you have the time, some characters in the old tv-movie "Lace" attend school there/grow up there. If you tune in to the first 90 minutes, you'll hear it pronounced a lot.

Oh, I'm SO sorry it's not this year! Quelle bummer!

For hikes in the area, also check out the Gstaad website, which lists a lot of hikes. Go to www.gstaad.ch, then "summer" then "sports," I think or something like that. I think there are a dozen or so hikes listed, some mountain biking (not all on mountains), some golfing.

Have fun!

s
swandav2000 is online now  
Feb 23rd, 2006, 10:48 AM
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S, I think the pronounciation is closer to "day". I always thought it were like the German umlaut "ö" but I was wrong.
Ingo is offline  
Feb 23rd, 2006, 12:38 PM
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Thank you both. I think I can pronounce it with some confidence now. The possibility of mountain-biking will interest my sons, and I have found some websites with hiking information. It looks greener and gentler than our usual, but that will be restful after Zermatt. This is great---a new area that none of my mountaineering friends has visited yet, I think because of the "cache" of Gstaad (beautiful people and tons of money). My husband originally was reluctant to visit Switzerland, which he thought of as the land of big money, Big Pharma, and too much cheese (he's a doctor, if that explains anything). But within days of our arrival last summer, he was thoroughly won over---awed by the beauty of the mountains, charmed by the kindness of the Swiss people, and very pleased with the quality of the food and wine. And he was shocked to find it was not nearly as expensive as he imagined----I promised him $75 pp/pd and kept it under that. Our little stop in London on the way home cost 3X that. So now he's a believer, and one of our teenage daughters (my step-daughter) keeps drawing "I love Switzerland" on everything, and practicing her best train announcement imitation voice ("Nachste Halt/Prochain Arret") whenever possible. (She can say the French better than the German). It IS a bummer we have to wait another year, but I console myself by doing all this planning.
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