Zermatt Skiing and Snowboarding Resort Review

February 6, 2011 in Resorts, Switzerland

Zermatt A cosmopolitan town with

amazing skiing, boarding and nightlife – love it!

On the slopes Rating:

Snow reliability ❄❄❄❄❄

Parks ❄❄❄

Off-piste ❄❄❄❄

Off the slopes:

Après ski ❄❄❄❄

Nightlife ❄❄❄❄

Eating out ❄❄❄

Resort charm ❄❄❄❄

The Resort

One of Switzerland’s finest resorts, Zermatt provides everything that you might want on a ski holiday. The chalets are all built in typical Swiss ‘chocolate box’ style and the town is car free, with only electric cars and buses whizzing around. There are hotels, bars and restaurants to suit all tastes and visitors come from all over Europe and beyond, creating a fabulously cosmopolitan atmosphere. Ski bums and billionaires – everyone feels comfortable in Zermatt.

On the mountain there are some great challenges with moguls, off-piste and heli- skiing on offer. There are also plenty of flattering blues and lengthy reds to suit the travelling intermediates. The lift system has been massively improved recently, linking the Klein Matterhorn and Gornergrat areas and making travel between the 2 areas far easier than it has been for those staying in Zermatt and also for visitors coming over from Cervinia.

Zermatt’s trademark, the 4478m high Matterhorn, and the other 37 4000m high peaks make for an impressive backdrop. Zermatt also offers the highest glacier palace

in the world – take the lift to the glacier palace, walking in through an ice tunnel that is almost 15m below the surface of the glacier.

Zermatt Piste Map

The Mountains

Height: 1620–3899m

Ability Rating:

Expert ❄❄❄

Intermediate ❄❄❄❄

Beginner ❄❄

Getting about

There are 394km of marked runs and acres of backcountry terrain.There is something for everyone, except perhaps for the complete beginner. In Zermatt alone there are 18 black and yellow pistes (70.5km), 33 red pistes (106km) and 19 blue pistes (17.5km); if you include the runs from Zermatt to Cervinia in Italy (mostly red pistes), you get a total of 394km of marked runs.

The slopes are well-groomed and there are many long, scenic runs, perfect for cruising. It used to be a big grumble that you could not always ride back to the resort, but snow cannons have now been installed all the way to the bottom so it doesn’t matter if it has been a little short on snow.

The lift systems in general are not great; on sunny days and weekends there are usually pretty nasty queues to get on to crammed gondolas that will leave you hot, flustered and unable to move. This would be a big setback but, luckily for Zermatt, the memories of the horrendous lift journeys are soon forgotten.

Zermatt consists of 3 separate areas:

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The Sunnegga area (including Blauherd and Rothorn) is reached by the underground funicular, located about 5 minutes’ walk from the station.

The Gornergrat area (including Hohtälli and Stockhorn) is linked to the Sunnegga area by a 125-person cable car linking Gant to Hohtälli. Gornergrat can be reached directly from Zermatt by trains (Gornergrat–Monte Rosa railway, GGB) that leave every 24 minutes and take 30–40 minutes. The views from this train are definitely worth a look if you’re not in a hurry. The red runs from Gornergrat and Hohtälli to Gant are beautiful and Stockhorn is home to 15km of mogul runs.

‘The red runs are beautiful and Stockhorn is home to 15km of mogul runs’

The Klein Matterhorn area (including Trockener Steg and Schwarzsee) is the highest region and includes the glacial area used for summer skiing. A huge bonus to the ski area is the cable car link between Furi and Riffelberg connecting the Klein Matterhorn and Gornergrat areas. This cost CHF19 million and can carry 2400 passengers per hour. The Klein Matterhorn also gives you access to Cervinia in Italy (see Cervinia chapter, page 140) – for which you need to buy an international pass or pay a daily supplement on your lift pass. The Klein Matterhorn glacier (now called the Matterhorn Glacier Paradise) is the highest summer ski area in the Alps. It consists of 36km2 of pistes, 6 in total, and is at a height of 2900–3900m. There are also 6 drag lifts and a cable car. The glacier is open until 2pm, depending on snow conditions.

Park

There are 2 parks in Zermatt, as well as a separate pipe at the Gornergrat that benefits from a bar in the shape of an igloo. The Gravity Park is above the Trockener Steg in the Klein Matterhorn area and the other

slightly lower down, used more in the winter as it can get very cold at the top. The parks contain some great rails from easy wide 5m rails to some 8m kinks. Unfortunately there aren’t many jumps, but the couple of table tops that there are are always in good condition.

Off-piste and backcountry

The glacier does limit the extent to which you can freely explore the backcountry terrain on the mountain tops but there are plenty of areas to check out.

At the top of the Höhtalli lift is an amazing area for freeride. This always has great snow, and you can get fresh tracks 3 or 4 days after a snowfall. The best moguls around can be found on the slopes between Höhtalli and Gant, at Triftji, where the Triftji bump bash is held each year, organised by the local pros. Above the Höhtalli and Triftji areas is the Stockhorn region, which has been designated as a freeride area. The runs are marked, but not prepared, and not checked at the end of the day. However, the Stockhorn area often doesn’t open until around February.

The Rothorn area has diverse terrain and there are loads of amazing and challenging faces to ride. There is a hidden valley in the Rothorn area, but you should hire a guide or local who knows it well if you are going to check it out.

A guide is definitely recommended if you want a full day of adventure on the Schwarzsee tour. It is a good 1.5-hour hike round the back of the glacier and 3–4 hours of non-stop riding back down.

‘Zermatt is also famous for its extensive heliskiing opportunities’

Zermatt is also famous for its extensive heliskiing opportunities with trips up to the Monte Rosa at 4250m (a fantastic run down through stunning glacial scenery to Furi), the Alphubeljoch at 3728m and up to the Plateau Rosa at 3479m.

Lift passes

Check the latest prices at www.bergbahnen. zermatt.ch

Instruction

Independent Swiss Snowboard Instructors 0041 (0)27 967 70 67 www.issi.ch

Stoked AG Ski and Snowboard School This school offers ski, snowboard, freestyle, telemark, guiding and progressive instruction. 0041 (0)27 967 70 20 www.stoked.ch

Summit Ski School

0041 (0)27 967 00 01 www.summitskischool.com

The Swiss Ski and Snowboard School 0041 (0)27 966 24 66 www.skischulezermatt.ch

Other activities

Bowling: There are 4 bowling alleys, darts and table football. Call 0041 (0)27 966 33 80. Cinema: This is located at Vernissage (see Bars and clubs).

Climbing: Ice climbing is available on a wall that is suitable for all levels or on a tour on steep ice for good climbers only. Alternatively, the Gorge Adventure is a dynamic secured climbing route in the Gorner Gorge. Contact the Alpin Centre (0041 (0)27 966 24 60, www.alpincenter-zermatt.ch).

Fitness centre: Contact the tourist office for more information. Heliskiing: Extensive heliskiing is available in the area (see Backcountry and off-piste). Ice grotto: The grotto at the Klein Matterhorn Glacier is the highest glacier palace in the Alps at 3810m. It contains various sculptures and information about glaciers, geology and climbing. Special events can be held in the ice grotto. It is open in both summer and winter. Ice skating and curling: There are both natural and artificial skating rinks and a

curling rink. Contact Obere Matten sports arena (0041 (0)27 967 36 73). Moonlit skiing/boarding: This can be arranged from the Rothorn area.

Night in an igloo: The igloos on Gornergrat are decorated with artistic sculptures by a local Inuit, and can be rented for the night (see Accommodation).

Night skiing/boarding: This requires headlamps and takes place from Schwarzsee. Paragliding: Contact Paragliding Zermatt (0041 (0)27 967 67 44, www.paragliding- zermatt.ch). Flights take off from Rothorn and land at Sunnegga, Zermatt or a mountain restaurant of your choice!

Saunas, solariums and massages: These are on offer at a number of hotels at various prices. Hotel Arca (0041 (0)27 967 15 44, www.arca-zermatt.ch), Hotel Christiania (0041 (0)27 966 80 00, www.christiania- zermatt.com) and Mont Cervin Palace (0041 (0)27 966 88 88) are good places to start looking. Zermatterhof’s wellness centre, Vita borni (0041 (0)27 966 66 00) includes a pool, whirlpool bath, sauna, steam bath, fitness room and private spa for couples. It is open to the public if treatments are booked. Sledding: There are 2.5km of sledding runs. Sledding can also be done at night, with a number of additional options such as a party at a mountain hut or a fondue party. Squash: Call the Hotel Alex (0041 (0)27 966 70 70).

Swimming: There are indoor swimming pools at various hotels including Hotel Christiania (Roger Moore’s hotel of choice! – see above) and Hotel Eden (0041 (0)27 967 26 55, www.hotel-eden.ch).

Tennis: Both indoor and outdoor courts are available. Torchlit skiing: Ski at night by the light of flaming torches, then move on to a fondue party.

Winter hiking: There are 30km of prepared paths.

Summer only Climbing: Contact the tourist office for more information.

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Hiking: There are 400km of marked hiking paths. Mountain biking: There are 80km of mountain bike trails.

Sports field: Football, volleyball, basketball, tennis and unihockey can all be played here. Contact Obere Matten sports arena (0041 (0)27 967 36 73).

Events

The Triftji Bump Bash mogul competition (www.bumpbash.com) is held every year on the infamous mogul runs.

Accommodation

In 1838 the local surgeon opened the first guest house that could accommodate 3 people, called the Hotel Mont Cervie (which was later changed to Monte Rosa). Zermatt can now accommodate 14000 guests in 112 hotels (6800 beds) and around 2000 holiday apartments. There are 3 5-star hotels, 36 4-star, and 45 3-star. The other 28 hotels are 2-star or less.

You should take care when choosing the location of your hotel/apartment as the resort does sprawl a long way. The best location is probably near the Gornergrat and Sunnegga railways, as here you are close to 2 of the lifts and the main street. You will need to take a bus to the Klein Matterhorn lift from here unless your hotel offers a free shuttle.

On a budget there are few decent places to stay. There is a youth hostel in Zermatt (0041 (0)27 967 23 20), located about 400m from the main lifts in the centre of town. This is fairly cheap and offers half- board accommodation.

The Admiral Hotel (0041 (0)27 966 90 00, www.hotel-admiral.ch) is a very friendly 3-star hotel, with lots of character and charm. The rooms are cosy and have fantastic views of the Matterhorn from their balconies. The hotel is located right next to the Sunnegga-Rothorn lifts, and 5 minutes’ walk from the centre of town. The bus stop for the Klein Matterhorn is a few seconds’ walk away.

The Omnia (0041 (0)27 966 71 71, www.the-omnia.com) is gorgeously modern, elegant and a member of www.designhotels.

com Weirdly, rooms are not numbered, but listed A–Z. For sheer luxury, book yourself into the stunning, 5-star Mont Cervin Palace (0041 (0)27 966 88 88, www. montcervinpalace.ch) in the centre of town.

For a bizarre experience, stay in an igloo village (0041 (0)41 612 27 28/0800 11 33 55 (in Switzerland), www.iglu-dorf.com) below the Gornergrat, at 2700m! There are romantic suites for 2 people, or group igloos sleeping 6. There is also a whirlpool to relax in whilst enjoying the awe-inspiring views above Zermatt.

Eating out

On the mountain

There are 38 restaurants on the mountain, with nearly every one having a reputation for serving excellent food. It is also difficult not to have beautiful scenery on the mountains of Zermatt – even the couple of ugly concrete restaurants have stunning views. At Findeln, below Sunnegga, are several busy, rustic and atmospheric restaurants. Of these, Chez Vrony (0041 (0)27 967 25 52, www. chezvrony.ch) is the most widely esteemed. Between Furi and Zermatt is another hamlet of restaurants including Simi (0041 (0)27 967 26 95) and Zum See (0041 (0)27 967 20 45, www.zumsee.ch), which are both fantastic. Also at Furi, the Farmerhaus (0041 (0)27 967 39 96) is a beautiful, traditional rustic chalet with a big log fire inside. Outside you will find a large terrace with a bar and pizza hut. This place really comes into its own after 4pm for après ski when the live music starts. The food ranges from pizzas and crepes to pastas and steak. To get to this cluster of restaurants you need to take the red run from Schwarzsee to Furi. This is a very scenic route through the trees and there are cannons to make sure that there is always decent snow cover.

Further down the mountain is Hennu Stall (0041 (0)79 213 36 69, www.hennustall. ch), another great place for loud live music during après ski. The hotel restaurant at Schwarzsee (0041 (0)27 967 22 63, www. zermatt.net/schwarzsee), right at the foot of the Matterhorn, has a massive terrace with incredible views of the Matterhorn and glacier. Booking is recommended.

In Town

There is no doubt that Zermatt is an expensive place to eat. If you are on a strict budget then you should hit the supermarkets (or even McDonald’s – not that this is particularly cheap). However, as there are around 100 restaurants in Zermatt with a huge range of cuisines, it would be rude not to indulge a little.

Grampis (0041 (0)27 967 77 55, www. grampis.ch) is right in the centre of town; you can’t miss it for the sparkling fairy lights. It has a funky bar/club downstairs and serves good pizzas and pastas upstairs at decent prices. The Brown Cow Snack Bar (0041 (0)27 967 91 31, www.hotelpost.ch) in the Hotel Post serves good burgers and sandwiches and always has a busy, fun atmosphere.

Hotel Albana Real (www.hotelalbanareal. com) contains 2 restaurants: Rua Thai (0041 (0)27 966 61 81) and Fuji (0041 (0)27 966 61 71), a Japanese restaurant where teppanyaki dishes are prepared in front of you. For something very different, Restaurant Al Bosco (0041 (0)27 966 05 07, www.riffelalp.com) at the 5-star Riffelalp hotel produces pizzas in the shape of the Matterhorn – 10 points for originality go to them.

The 5-star restaurants have posh nosh if you fancy it. Try Prato Borni in the Zermatterhof (0041 (0)27 966 66 00, www. zermatterhof.ch) and the restaurants at the Mont Cervin Palace (0041 (0)27 966 88 88, www.montcervinpalace.ch). These restaurants are no doubt a gourmet treat but are the same as other 5-star restaurants that you would find anywhere around the world. For superb food in very smart but cosy surroundings, Le Mazot (0041 (0)27 966 06 06, www.lemazotzermatt.ch) is the place. The owner’s pride in the restaurant and dedication to service make it really stand out above the rest. The cuisine is dominated by lamb, the restaurant’s speciality. To complement the dishes is a menu of 150 different European wines. You should book a few days in advance.

Bars and clubs in Zermatt

Zermatt has 44 bars and a buzzing, year- round nightlife.

For a good après ski scene, try Papperla (0041 (0)27 967 40 40, www.papperlapub. ch) where the club downstairs is popular with the workers. The Country Bar (0041 (0)27 967 31 74, www.elite-zermatt.ch) offers the internet, karaoke and a game of pool. If you fancy drinking and eating with the seasonaires, The North Wall bar (0041 (0)27 966 34 10, www.northwallbar.com) hosts numerous fancy dress nights (Faschnacht). Sunday and Tuesday are the nights to be with the locals, while Saturdays are more touristy.

The bar hosts numerous ‘

fancy dress nights ’

For getting drunk quickly, Z’Alt Hischi (0041 (0)27 967 42 62, www.hischibar. ch) pours the biggest measures ever. For drunken partying later in the evening, Hotel Post (0041 (0)27 967 19 31, www.hotelpost. ch) has loads of bars and restaurants to check out, but the main partying tends to occur in the cave-type club at the bottom of the building, the Broken Bar. Everyone should go to the über-cool Vernissage (0041 (0)27 967 66 36, www. vernissage-zermatt.com). Its bizarre décor really works, with chandeliers made out of chains, loads of candles, and comfy sofas. It serves food at night and downstairs you will come across an art gallery and cinema! You can take your drinks downstairs for the film and later on the chairs move away, a DJ gets on stage and it turns into a club.

For the more discerning drinker, Pink at Hotel Post (0041 (0)27 967 19 31, www. hotelpost.ch) has live jazz music every night and a great atmosphere. It’s also in the same building as the cheesy parties, so when you’re done being civilised you can join in the carnage. Elsie’s Bar (0041 (0)27 967 24 31, www.elsiebar.ch), opposite the church on the main street, is tiny but atmospheric. It tends

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to attract the 25+ age group, who have enough cash to splash out on a decent bottle of plonk. Elsie’s also serves as a restaurant with fresh oysters every day.

Getting to Zermatt

By car:

The drive time from Calais is 10 hours (1070km). From Geneva, take the N1/N9 via Sion to Sierre. Then take the E62 to Visp, where you will turn and head towards Zermatt via Stalden.

Cars have to be left in a car park in Täsch in open-air or covered car parks. A shuttle train runs from the car park to Zermatt every 20 minutes (www.mgbahn.ch). If you would prefer a taxi to pick you up from the car park there are a number of options – try Taxi Eden (0041 (0)27 967 64 44) or Taxi Schaller (0041 (0)27 967 12 12).

By plane

Geneva (244km) Transfer by bus (around 4–5 hours) or train (4 hours, see www.rail. ch), or car (3.5 hours). Zürich (248km) Transfer is 5 hours by train, 3.5 hours by car.

Milan (234km) Transfer is nearly 4 hours by train, 3 by car. You can take trolleys on to the train up to Zermatt and wheel them off the other end, which can save a lot of hassle. Your hotel should arrange an electric car to pick you up from the station; just give them a call on the free phones at Zermatt station. If not, taxis are available (see opposite).

By train

Take the Eurostar from London St Pancras to Paris, then an overnight train, changing at

Zürich and Brig to arrive at Zermatt station in the resort. Contact Rail Europe (0870 830 4862, www.raileurope.co.uk) or European Rail (020 7387 0444, www.europeanrail. com).

Useful facts and phone numbers

Tourist office

T: 0041 (0)27 966 81 00 F: 0041 (0)27 966 81 01 W: www.zermatt.ch

Emergency services

• Fire brigade: 118 • Police: 117 • Ambulance/rescue service: 144 or Air

Zermatt ambulance service: 0041 (0)27

966 86 86 • Police station: 0041 (0)27 966 22 22

(community police), 0041 (0)27 966 69

20 (cantonal police) • Mountain Guide’s Office: 0041 (0)27 966

24 60 • Avalanche situation: 187 (excluding

foreign mobile phones)

Doctors

• Dr Ch Bannwart: 0041 (0)27 967 11 88 • Dr P Brönnimann: 0041 (0)27 967 19 16 • Dr E Julen: 0041 (0)27 967 67 17 • Dr D Stoessel: 0041 (0)27 967 79 79 • Hospital in Visp: 0041 (0)27 948 21 11 • Hospital in Brig: 0041 (0)27 922 33 33

Electric taxis

• Taxi Zermatt: 0041 (0)848 11 12 12 • Taxi Schaller: 0041 (0)27 967 12 12,

www.taxischaller.ch

SkiAndBoarding GIve thanks and recognition to the following for this review:

This review is from the Which Ski Resort Book which can be found at: http://www.foulsham.com/product1201.htm

ISBN 9780572036317 and price £10.99.

SkiAndBoarding are extremely happy to work together with other Snow Enthusiasts to help bring you the best information and reviews online!

Here is some information about the book:

Which Ski Resort? – Europe

This review is taken from Which Ski Resort? – Europe, a useful and comprehensive book containing reviews of 50 top resorts for both skiing and snowboarding. As well as information on the style of the resort, the mountains and the skiers it caters for, you’ll find all the practical data: phone numbers, how to get there, and so on. Plus there are run-downs on where to find instruction, the best accommodation, eating out and enjoying yourself. It also rates the top 5 results for apres ski, parks, guaranteed snow, romance  and various other categories. Click here to get your copy.

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