When driving from Visp towards Zermatt, in Stalden the alpine valley divides in two: the right branch is the Mattertal, climbing to Zermatt and the Matterhorn, and the left branch is the Saastal, nicknamed Free Republic of Holidays.


On the road from Visp to Zermatt, the valley splits in two at Stalden: the right branch is the Mattertal going up to Zermatt and the Matterhorn, the left branch is the Saastal, the valley of the "Saas" villages (Saas-Fee. Saas-Grund...) whose tarred road ends at the Mattmark dam.

Saas Fee, on a plateau above Saas-Grund, is obviously the best-known resort in the Saastal, but to be honest there is more authenticity to be found in the valley itself, with its villages with "Saas" names: Saas-Almagell, Saas-Grund, Saas-Balen...

A very nice excursion to make is to continue the road beyond Saas-Almagell, ever higher into the wilderness, to the Mattmark dam and lake, at 2197m. This is a rockfill dam and not a gravity dam like the Grande Dixence, so it's not exactly spectacular, but the setting is absolutely stunning!

The place is steeped in history: during the construction of the dam, a whole section of the Allalin glacier, overhanging on a cliff overlooking the site, collapsed on 30 August 1965 on the construction site, which was buried under some 300,000 m³ of ice, rocks and earth, causing the death of 88 workers.

Nowadays, Mattmark is a bit like Derborence and bears witness to the destructive power of the high mountains, with its spectacular scree and that little tongue of glacier up there that still threatens to collapse again...

This guide features more places in the same region, check them out!
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