Local couple rekindles acquaintance with people of Saas-Fee, Switzerland

Tom Ross
Lukas Imseng poses with two members of a Swiss delegation to Steamboat Springs in 1989. Imseng performed with a singing group that traveled from Steamboat's former sister city of Saas-Fee
Courtesy photo

— Never one to be shy or reticent, Steamboat Springs resident Nancy Kramer and her husband, Lynn, made a detour during a September trip to Europe to see if they could reconnect with a long-lost acquaintance in a tiny Swiss ski village. Doing so brought back memories of the time when Steamboat Springs and Saas-Fee were sister cities.

If you’ve been hanging around Steamboat since the early ’90s, you might recall Swiss men and women in traditional costume singing and dancing, and even playing a trio of giant alpenhorns in the old community center downtown.

For about a decade, Steamboat and Saas-Fee (it’s a big ski resort but a much smaller town than Steamboat) had a formal relationship as sister cities. In addition to cultural exchanges, young adults from both communities spent portions of a winter working and carving turns at their sister resorts. Across a valley from much larger Zermatt, Saas-Fee is car-free, and thus, all visitors arrive by train. Its craggy Alpine peaks face to the north, permitting glacier skiing most of the year.

While preparing for her trip to Europe, Nancy Kramer distinctly remembered one of the members of a Swiss singing group who performed during the 1989-90 Winter Carnival — she just couldn’t recall the name of Lukas Imseng. They shared a professional interest in baking.

Kramer has been an athletic trainer, nurse, arts council executive director, member of city council and now, project coordinator for the Northwest Colorado Cultural Heritage Program. But for a good long time, she ran In-Season Bakery and Cafe on 11th Street in downtown Steamboat.

When the Kramers had a change of itinerary last month, Nancy realized they could grab a train from Zurich to Saas-Fee and perhaps, by showing a quarter-of-a-century-old picture around town, track down their long-lost acquaintance.

“I had his family name on a bakery bag for a long time but must have lost it,” Kramer said. “He and a friend were both bakers, and they visited me at In-Season,” to see how her business operated.

Upon disembarking from the train in Saas-Fee, the Kramers went to the tourist information center and showed the woman behind the counter an old picture of Imseng during a visit to Steamboat. He was immediately recognized as the proprietor of the Hotel-Garni Imseng with an attached bakery and bakery museum.

The Kramers walked in the front door of the bakery, and it only took a moment for Imseng to recognize them.

“He got it right away. He remembered my cheesecake,” Kramer recalled with obvious pleasure. “He makes cheesecake too, but it’s really more of a savory cheese tart with a crust.”

The Kramers lingered in Saas-Fee to hike among the high peaks and were struck by the similarities between Steamboat and the little resort town, where even in September, the local children pick up a pair of skis after school and train on the glacier.

“Family and children are a big priority in Saas-Fee,” Kramer said. “The kids were taking their skis up a tram that takes you to a subway that goes up to a big glacier.”

The Kramers visited the glacier themselves where they had a chance to introduce themselves to a Swiss ski coach who promptly asked them if they knew a former U.S. Ski Team downhill racer from Steamboat whom he had competed against. Of course they did.

The formal relationship between Steamboat and Saas-Fee may have run out of steam, but the people there have not forgotten Ski Town USA.

To reach Tom Ross, call 970-871-4205, email or follow him on Twitter @ThomasSRoss1

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