The Pearl of the Alps ...

I skied a red piste without panicking! That is an achievement made thanks to the heavenly snow conditions at Saas-Fee at the weekend. No ice to be seen, only fluffy, soft and grippy snow - the kind that sends a little flurry up behind your skies. I find it little surprise that Saas-Fee was named Best Swiss Ski Resort 2012. Everyone is so friendly - from the owner of the Feehof hotel where we stayed to the very helpful girl I rented my ski equipment from at Cesar Alpin Sport.

If I have a gripe it is the claustrophobia I experienced in the 30-person gondola that carried guests to the Allalin ski area, situated between glaciers at an altitude of 3,500 metres above sea level. I suppose a lengthy gondola ride cannot be avoided when climbing to such an altitude, and the views at the top - after stepping out of the world's highest underground funicular (Metro Alpin) - were well worth it. We could see to Switzerland's highest mountain The Dom (4545m) and beyond the marshmallow-like peaks, down to Italy.

There were all kinds of people on the pistes - ski acrobats diving off jumps, ski clubs practising slalom, kids learning with their parents and the odd few beginners. The drag lift queues were sometimes lengthy - and barely resembled a queue - but I put this down to such a limited part of the ski area being open due to the early season.

Besides skiing, we made a trip into the world-s largest ice grotto - at the end of a 70m tunnel into the glacier. Inside, it looked all smooth and wet, almost like peering into a clear plastic bouncy castle, and was rougher where new ice crystals had formed. In the evening, we were ready to eat by 6 p.m and had the most divine pizzas at Don Ciccio - mine was dotted with aubergine, artichoke and courgette and layered in really creamy cheese. Of course, Tim and I had a tiramisu each for dessert - it was the creamiest one I've ever tasted.

The Feehof rooms were cosy, simple and practical - very centrally located, though this was a problem at night when the apres-ski bar down the road was blaring out music. But oh to awaken to that bowl of 13 peaks over 4,000-metres high that give Saas-Fee it's nickname of Pearl of the Alps.. magical. It's a shame a completely unprepared SBB rolled into Visp train station on Sunday evening when we returned to Zurich to collect twice as many passengers as it had room for. People were standing up the stairs and in the aisles for an hour until Bern - and at the prices they charge? Pathetic!
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