Tucked at the head of a valley in the far South of Switzerland, Zermatt is one of the world’s most famous mountain resorts. Dominated by the iconic Matterhorn, the town’s architecture ranges from ancient wooden barns to opulent Victorian-era hotels to cutting-edge contemporary chalets. Dotted around the hills above the town are several picturesque satellite hamlets including Findeln, Furi and Zum See where you can eat in some of the Alps’ best mountain restaurants.
The skiing in Zermatt is some of the best in the world. The three main ski areas of Sunnegga, Gornergrat and Schwarzee/Klein Matterhorn are interlinked by a state of the art lift system and an “International” ski pass gives you access to the Italian resorts of Cervinia and Valtournenche. The 22-kilometre run from Klein Matterhorn down to Valtournenche is not to be missed. Also not to be missed is lunch in one of the many excellent restaurants on the Italian side, especially if you have had your fill of hearty Swiss mountain fare, however excellent.
Zermatt and Cervinia’s network of pistes is enough to satisfy many holiday visitors. Less well known is the resort’s extensive and challenging off-piste skiing. One word of advice – avalanche risk and glaciated terrain make this a potentially hazardous area so hire a guide or hook up with a local to find the best powder in safety.
Zermatt is also a mecca for ski tourers and alpinists and the town is often just as busy in the height of summer as in winter as climbers, walkers and mountain bikers come to enjoy the giant mountain playground.
Just taking in Zermatt and Cervinia’s best mountain restaurants would be worth a week’s holiday in its own right – though perhaps with most of the skiing done in the mornings. Zum See, Chez Vrony, Findlerhof, Bontadini and Chalet Etoile to name just a few serve up a delectable range of traditional mountain fare and modern European dishes. The Mediterranean is just a few hours by road or rail from Cervinia and the fresh seafood in some of the restaurants on the Italian side is out of this world.
Zermatt has a range of watering holes to suit every taste. The Hennu Stall on the resort run down from Klein Matterhorn offers a truly memorable après ski experience and the Papperla pub is always busy in the late afternoon and early evening as season workers, ski instructors and tourists get stuck into the offerings from the indoor and outside bars.
For those in search of a more sophisticated drinking experience, the Snowboat bar down by the river or the Vernissage lounge next to the ice rink serve up drinks and cocktails in stylish surroundings. The Snowboat has a sunny rooftop terrace and the Vernissage – designed by the ubiquitous Heinz Julen – also has a cinema which doubles up as a live music venue.
When snow conditions are good there is great freeride skiing and boarding to be had in the “Garten” area below the Matterhorn, in the trees below Schwarzee and over on Sunnegga to name just a few. For the intrepid skier prepared to don touring skis and skins, the Schwarztor route off Klein Matterhorn down to the Gornergletcher is a classic run, especially later in the season, but watch out for crevasses and holes in the glacier. There is also some excellent off-piste on the Italian side – Bontadini couloir will demand your full attention and there is wonderful tree skiing above Cervinia itself.
If all that isn’t enough there are limitless heliskiing opportunities in and around Zermatt and snow parks at Trockener Steg and Bontadini if you fancy youself in the halfpipe or off a big kicker or two.[SinglePic not found]
If you’re looking for a stylish, centrally-located place to stay which won’t break the bank then Chalet Gmatchi is hard to beat. Alternatively, if you are looking for the best accommodation, catering and service that money can buy try Chalet Les Anges up in the exclusive Petit Village area.
For a memorable relaxation and pampering experience try the spa at the Mont Cervin Palace hotel which offers every treatment imaginable and has a sauna, steam room, swimming pool and even an ice grotto.