Described by some as the ulitmate ski destination, Zermatt certainly has a lot of allure. This charming town is car-free and a calm, relaxing haven - in the middle of some of the most amazing mountains in the world. Looming over the resort is the mesmerising pyramid of the Matterhorn, as well as 37 other intimidating four-thousand-metre peaks.
You can take a trip on one of the highest cableways in Europe to the top of the Klien Matterhorn, to absorb the view of the Swiss, Italian and French Alps from the top of the world, and visit the Glacier Grotto. 15 metres below the surface of the glacier, you'll find blue ice sculptures, crevasses and wine tasting.
The Matterhorn ski area canvasses Rothorn, Gornergrat, Matterhorn glacier paradise (Klien Matterhorn) and Schwarzsee paradise. It also connects to Cervina in Italy and Val d'Aoste. The skiing is on a vast scale. All three of Zermatt's ski areas reach tower above 3100 m, meaning super long slopes. The ski area has varied terrain for everyone, and is a good well- rounded resort, but intermediates and experts dominate. Fifty percent of the terrain is good for intermediates, particularly confident mid-level skiers who will love the wide range of reds.
There are also good wide sweeping blues through scenic pine forests for the less confident. Advanced skiers will rip into the steep gullies, moguls and chutes. One of the wickedest runs is 13 km of winter wonderland from the Klein Matterhorn to Zermatt in widely varied terrain. When it is sunny at Zermatt it's warm but in worse weather it can be freezing, so come prepared. The cobbled streets and horse-drawn sleighs give you a feel of quiet escape in the village, but they hide a raging après-ski scene, with all sorts of bars, pubs and clubs for everyone. It can be a little pricy though! Winter sports lovers will delight in Zermatt - not only is the skiing huge-scale and amazing, but the alternative high-altitude activities on offer are infinite.
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Zermatt for Different Ski Abilities
There are some good, broad, safe runs for beginner skiers at Zermatt, but it's not really a learner mountain. You'll get to take in the amazing scenery by cable car, but you'll miss out on the massive descents that make it so special. If you are a beginner who will push it to advance quickly the easier blue runs will suit.
Intermediates will be wowed by the length and variety of runs on offer for them here. There are big wide open valleys, tight tracks between trees, soft snow, and long interlinking blue and red runs all over the show. You can let lose and travel all over the ski area, and if you're a confidant intermediate you can even ski over to Cervinia in Italy. Try The long Kumme run down to Tuftern through the trees to the village, the sunny blue runs by the Gifthittli chairlift - and pretty much anywhere on the Klein Matterhorn, a wonderland for intermediates.
Advanced skiers will love the scale of the challenging skiing at Zermatt. The bumps of National, Gant, Aroleid, and Triftji will test your mogul legs and the chutes, gullies and steep narrow forest tracks are excellent. There are big areas of untouched off-piste to be found as well. Hit the steep, testing west face of the Unterrothorn, pitted with rocky gullies.
Zermatt Ski Schools
There are many good ski and snowboard schools at Zermatt, providing private, group and kids lessons.
European Snowsport is Verbier, Zermatt and St. Moritz' premier ski school. They provide private and group lessons with fun, professional instructors who know their resorts like the backs of their hands.
Adventure Zermatt offers an Adventure Kids Academy and Adventure Teen Academy in Zermatt/Cervinia. The Kids Academy is limited to six children per group so the team can attend to every single child. The Teen Academy is time for adventure, venturing into deep powder snow, onto mogul pistes into the half pipe and racing. They also offer personal guiding and helicopter skiing.
Après Ski and Off the Mountain Activities
It doesn't matter if you're tired after a long day on the slopes at Zermatt, the après-ski it just too good to resist. Most people head for a drink straight from the slopes at one of the mountain huts that let you soak in the scenery. There are dozens of nightlife venues - nine nightclubs and 35 bars open until 3:00 a.m. You can find chic sophistication and informal fun. Two favourite bars are Paperia and Elsie's Bar and the Pipe Bar, the T-bar, Grampie's, Papparello's and the Vernissage are also popular. You can relax at the more low-key David's Boathouse or party the night away at Pollux and Le Broken. Food lovers - you'll be pleased to hear that there are 100 restaurants in the village as well as 38 mountain restaurants. Hence a massive variety of culinary delights! There's the must-try traditional dishes of the Valais, Switzerland region that include specialties like asparagus, raclette, fondue, cheeses, sausages, dried meats, and rye breads as well as international food like Chinese, French, Italian, Japanese, and Thai. From casual pub food to upscale restaurants there's a big variety, but, like the bars, everything can be a tad hard on the wallet at Zermatt, one of the more upscale resorts in Switzerland.
off the mountain
Zermatt is a winter sports haven, with excellent snoeshoeing, ice climbing, ice skating and ice hockey, curling, tabbogganing, paragliding, cross country skiing and more. There's also the chance to visit an igloo village, take a trip to Sass-Fee, the Matterhorn Museum and a cinema. If you are still in the mood for more skiing, you can try a moonlight ski run at Rothorn paradise. You'll enjoy a cosy atmosphere and a delicious fondue followed by a romantic ski run in the moonlight. The ski run will be accompanied by the experienced Zermatt slope- and rescue service.
How to get to Zermatt
Zermatt sits at the foot of the Matterhorn in the Valais Alps in the south of Switzerland at an altitude of 1,600m above sea-level. The resort lies at the end of the Vispa Valley, which is reached via the town of Visp.
The closest international airport is Geneva (230 km), followed by Zürich airport. Both airports are fully integrated into the Swiss rail network. At both airports you can check luggage and skis directly through to Zermatt, and usually get on a train within an hour. Because Zermatt is car-free, arriving by train is often a convenient way to travel. Basel, Bern (and now Sion) airports also service some intra-European flights. Milan airport is also an option, at 4 hours away.
The Swiss Rail network is world famous for its efficiency and the trip to Zermatt is very beautiful. You can get a fast TGV train from Paris, or the ES from London via Paris (TGV). There are also regular connections from throughout Europe. Hourly rail connections run to Zermatt from all major gateways, including directly from Geneva and Zürich airports. From either direction, one straight forward change of trains at Brig or Visp is normally required. At Brig (or Visp) one changes to the romantic little BVZ (Brig-Visp-Zermatt) cog-wheel train for the 80 minute journey up the valley.
Train travel time to Zermatt is 4 hours from Geneva, 5 from Zürich.
As Zermatt is car free, you can only drive as far as Täsch. You can get a train the last 7 km, go by taxi. Coming from Zurich or Basel, take the Lotschberg tunnel from Kandersteg to Goppen-stein. You'll have to use the car-transporting train when passing through the tunnel. When you get off the train, drive to Visp and then follow the signs to Tasch. There is a large car park near Tasch, three miles from Zermatt.