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I was last in Saas Fee in late April several years ago when the sun shone and after a day of ski touring, the apres ski was long and the memories hazy. I returned last weekend, to complete the Super 3, the series of Swiss amateur ski races in which I have been taking part in this winter.
Saas Fee hosts the Allalin-Rennen, the third in the series after the Belalp Hexe in Belalp and the Inferno Rennen in Murren.
Tagged as the highest amateur glacier ski race, for this 36th Allalin-Rennen race we headed up to try and make a recce of the course from its glacier start on the Thursday before the Friday team event. Unfortunately with limited visibility and high winds, there was no access up past the top of the Spielboden lift at 2870m.
So skiing the course blind on Friday morning was ‘interesting’ but the weather was clear.
The very top 100m was still not open, knocking around 40 seconds and 1km off the full 9km course.
Starting just below the revolving restaurant at Mittelallalin, at 3500m, in my team of four, I let the three guys take the lead spots and tried to tuck in behind. A long schuss starts the race followed by a blind steep drop with a compression at the bottom. Local Alex had told us to stay in the tuck, and with that I just held my breath and went for it. I’d lost sight of the boys so just weaved from left to right down the steeper section through the red gates, sharp left at the bottom, another steep section then in to a final right hand bend, avoiding the orange netting and in to the final long schuss to the end at the village level.
With fresh snow on the course, the pistes were in great condition and our team ‘Mallow Racing’ finished in 57th place (out of 70)
One of just two British teams, the other made up of two other super 3-ers and our local new friend Alex.
Alex suggested Waldhaus Bodmen for dinner -a 10 minute walk out of Saas Fee along a snowy, icy track and we came across this old traditional chalet, perched on the side of the mountain overlooking the lower village of Saas-Grund.
At one end of the restaurant is a huge animal pen full of rabbits, guinea pigs and chickens. I chose lamb for my main, just to save one of those little mites…altho to be fair I think they are there for entertainment value only…here’s hoping! The food is delicious, the setting stunning and the walk back an opportunity to digest the huge portions.
Individual race day and the weather had once again socked-in. With a lower start, from the Morenia restaurant, we were able to stay dry and head out just before our individual start numbers. The challenge was to stay low in the tuck, make all the gates in the tricky visibility and stay out of the netting. The fastest time was, 1min 59. My time was 3 mins 12, 6th place in my category, and winning me a basket of local cheese and sausage!
Jonas Bumann Allalin Rennen Race Director adds, “we had over 1000 racers for the 36th Allalin Rennen this weekend. It was a shame we could not start up on the glacier for Saturday’s main race but the Team event on Friday gave most skiers the chance to ski almost the full course. Next years event takes place over the 5/6 April 2019 and we hope to welcome even more skiers from around the world!”
I now have my Super 3 medal, and feel proud to be one of just 23 women to race the triple series this winter and the only British woman to take part.
Leaving on Sunday morning, the skies cleared offering stunning views of the cascading glaciers and pistes in the huge bowl and ski area above the village.
Link to Alex’s Team Allalin-Rennen https://youtu.be/ojt6Sr3i48M