But walk a little bit further — or hop on an electric bus — and Saas-Fee's family appeal becomes more clear. It's an authentic, dual-season and utterly scenic car-free Swiss mountain village with plenty to amuse non-skiers from wine tasting, golf and tennis to public pools and toboggan runs.
Old chalets and barns, cosy bars and restaurants and a lively après-ski scene mean it has multi-generation appeal, but with all the safety and civility you'd expect in Switzerland. After dark so-called Shush Police roam the village fining exuberant revellers £130 on the spot for being too noisy as they wander home.
Saas-Fee sits at 6,000ft, surrounded by 14 peaks topping 13,000ft, and is loved by snowboarders, skiers and climbers. This is one of Europe's most snow-sure resorts, where the Allalinhorn and Dom glaciers provide the Alps' second-longest season and the resort is used by international ski teams as a summer training base.
"Saas-Fee is special because it has skiing at high altitude on slopes open for 10 months of the year," says Simon Malster of Investors In Property. "There are five-star hotels next to cheerful popcorn bars filled with snowboarders.
"Best of all, local authorities are thinking big, looking at replacing existing lifts with high speed gondolas to create Europe's highest lift system."
"In Saas-Fee, lifts currently take you to 10,000ft in 25 minutes," says Malster. "The local lift company has announced ambitious plans to build a high-speed gondola up to 12,800ft to link with Zermatt, which would dramatically lift Saas-Fee's profile."
Investors in Property has a three-bedroom resale chalet at Mountain Village in Saas-Fee from £519,700. The refurbished south-facing chalet is in a quiet area at the back of the village.
A one-bedroom apartment above the village is £313,800 and a three-bedroom off-plan apartment in The Peak is £915,000 for 1,320sq ft.
Chalet Ridge, a built-to-order four-bedroom chalet opposite the beginners' slope at the front of the resort is £1.314 million. Malster says that under planned Swiss legislation (see buying rules below) this will be the last new build opportunity in Saas-Fee.
Newly built Chalet Dom, close to the Dom Hotel in the centre of the resort, has three apartments, but only one is available to non-Swiss residents. The four-bedroom top floor home is £986,000.
Swiss developers SDG have two new chalets available to British buyers. The three-storey homes cost £1,175,000 and have a modern design, with expansive glass and wood, and a full concierge service.
In Zermatt’s Shadow
With so much going for it Saas-Fee should be better known, but it has always been overshadowed by Zermatt, its illustrious neighbour seven miles away. Both resorts are pretty, car-free villages with access to high skiing and snow-sure slopes but only Zermatt has the Matterhorn, one of Europe's most iconic mountains.
Property prices in Zermatt are double those in Saas-Fee, and non-Swiss residents face severe restrictions on owning property there, with almost nothing available on the open market.
A three-bedroom apartment at the Orgon residences, five minutes from the village centre with easy access to the Matterhorn Express lift station, is £2.45 million through Alpine Homes. A similar-sized resale chalet on the east side of Saas-Fee available to non-Swiss residents is £1,274,000.
The Buying Rules
Though it is easier for Britons to buy a home in Saas-Fee than in Zermatt, available property is still strictly limited. At present only 16,500sq ft of new construction is allowed each year, equivalent to one apartment building or three new chalets.
In March the Swiss public voted to prohibit all new construction of second homes from January 2013 in areas with more than 20 per cent of second homes. If this becomes law it would further limit the supply of available property for foreign and Swiss buyers.
Malster says: "The exact details are not clear but new developments with building permits will go ahead over the next two or three years but once this stock is exhausted no more new properties will be built in any Swiss ski resort."
CONTACTS AND FACTFILE
* Investors in Property: 020 8905 5511; investorsinproperty.com
* Alpine Homes: 020 7016 3740; alpinehomesintl.com
* Swiss Development Group: sdg.ch
* Saas-Fee is within three hours of Geneva, Zurich and Milan airports: and is in the Valais region, where buying costs are some of the lowest in Switzerland. Allow 2.5 per cent.
* Foreigners are not permitted to resell property: within five years of purchase in the Valais.
* A six-day ski permit in Saas-Fee also allows you to ski for one day in Zermatt.