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Saas-Fee Resort Review, The perfect Swiss Town

February 8, 2011 in Resorts, Reviews, Switzerland

The perfect Swiss ‘chocolate box’ town, this resort is a favourite, especially in summer.

On the slopes Rating

Snow reliability ❄❄❄❄❄ Parks ❄❄❄ Off-piste ❄❄❄

Off the slopes

Après ski ❄❄❄❄ Nightlife ❄❄❄❄ Eating out ❄❄❄❄ Resort charm ❄❄❄❄❄

The Resort

The village of Saas-Fee does not feel, as many do, like a functional resort built purely to support the winter sports; it is a magical place that you can easily fall in love with. The unique atmosphere is traditional and romantic, and the entire town is surrounded by 13 imposing, 4000m peaks, including the highest mountain in Switzerland, the Dom (4545m above sea level).The traffic-free town and the chalet-style buildings contribute to the relaxing pace of this charming glacier village, and it manages to provide a varied and rich nightlife. In the winter the village can be very cold; conditions are best for autumn or spring skiing when there is plenty of sun and snow. Saas-Fee is also the perfect resort for summer skiing on the glacier.

The Mountains

Height: 1800–3600m

Ability Rating

Expert ❄❄❄ Intermediate ❄❄❄❄ Beginner ❄❄❄❄❄ maintained in the summer.

Saas-Fee - Getting about

Take two Alpin Express cable cars to Felskinn at 3000m. From here you can either enjoy some long, sweeping red runs back to town or take the highest underground funicular in the world, the Metro Alpin to the Mittelallalin glacier (3500m). When visibility is good you can apparently see the lights of Milan. It will take you around 40 minutes to reach the top.

Winter

There are 100km of marked pistes in Saas- Fee in the winter, most designed for the beginner/intermediate skier or boarder. The 32 runs comprise 13 blue trails, 14 red and 5 black. Saas-Fee has a great reputation for maintaining the runs in tiptop condition, allowing the intermediate riders a great base from which to push themselves to the next level. The unprepared mogul piste under the Längfluh chairlift puts those knees to the test.

Summer

The glacier provides 20km of ski slopes for summer skiing, geared to high-standard riding. It is best to get out early, as the glacier closes some time between 12pm (in high summer) and 2pm. The runs are pretty good, but if you’re not doing slalom training or hitting the park, you may end up twiddling your thumbs. If you are hitting the park, you will not be disappointed. Get used to the T-bars and draglifts; chairlifts are difficult to manoeuvre and so are not practical with the moving glacier.

The Park

There is a park in the winter, but it is far better now. It is one of the first resorts to put real money in to develop the park and skier/boardercross. It is, therefore, renowned for hosting many of the major competitions such as the Rip Curl Challenge and the World Cup Half Pipe events. Professionals often train here in the summer, and ski and board manufacturers are regularly spotted testing their products.

The park is changed regularly but always consists of a super half pipe, 3 big kickers ranging from 6m to 12m gaps and a huge range of rails. There are plenty of table-top jumps for learning and practising new tricks, before stepping it up to the bigger ones. The atmosphere in the park is superb; a DJ often plays at the bottom and photographers and cameramen are frequently spotted filming for the latest movies.

Off-piste and backcountry

It is wise to be cautious when exploring the off-piste around a glacier due to the crevasses and concealed dangers. However, this does not mean that there aren’t any off- piste opportunities to be had. There are 3 pistes that are marked as yellow or off-piste runs, but there are a few more. The absence of glacier on the Plattjen makes it a great place to find fresh tracks through the trees. The trees also shelter the snow, so it stays in good condition all day. Be warned though: this area can be quite challenging!

‘A great place to find fresh tracks through the trees’

The Maste 4 is another good place to keep you out of the way of crevasse dangers. It is a relatively easy powder run – a perfect place for cruising. From the top of the Alpin Express you can find the Morenia, great if you like the steeps, and it’s hardly ever touched. It is very important only to attempt this after a good snowfall and, even then, it must be done early in the morning. The Hannig, at the other side of town to the Alpin Express (used for hill-walking and sledging), is a great place for an early morning hike. There is a lift from the bottom of the resort, but they won’t let you on with your board or skis so it is a bit of a trek. If you fancy a backcountry adventure, set off early from Brittania Hutte and enjoy the legendary, 1.5-hour freeride down to Saas-Almagell. This is pretty challenging, especially at the beginning, and is only recommended with a guide.

Lift passes

Check the latest prices at www.saas-fee.ch

Instruction

Eskimos Snowboard School

This is a well-known school with courses that range from basic to freestyle/carving. 0041 (0)27 957 49 04 www.eskimos.ch

Saas-Fee Ski and Snowboard School

This school comes highly recommended by locals – not that there is a huge amount of choice. All instructors speak a variety of languages.

0041 (0)27 957 23 48 www.skischule-saas-fee.ch

British Freeski Camps

These run for 3 or 4 weeks in the summer every year, and are organised by Warren Smith. You can sign up for the whole time or any 1 week. On the camp, you have the choice of hitting the park, perfecting the skier cross course or improving your technical skills. The top professional skiers in Britain gather together for these camps, some coaching (Andy Bennett, Dave Young, Pat Sharples, Paddy Graham and James Woods) and others training, so it’s a great place to introduce yourself to the British ski scene. 0044 (0)1525 374757 www.britishfreeskicamps.com

Popcorn shop

www.popcorn.ch For buying or renting snowboards or freestyle skis we highly recommend this shop/bar, located right in the centre of town near the clock tower. They always have the latest equipment and clothing and are also happy to offer their expert advice.

Other activities

Always ask if there is a discount with a guest card, obtainable from your hotel or apartment landlord.

Winter and summer Bobsleigh: The Feeblitz Bobsleigh is a 900m long toboggan run – great fun for all the family. It can be adapted to suit the adrenaline junkie – although not ‘officially’ recommended, it has been known for riders not to apply the brakes and keep their eyes closed. We didn’t tell you to do it though. Ice grotto: Visit the Allain Ice Pavilion – the biggest ice grotto in the world. It can be accessed from the Metro Alpin top station hall at 3500m above sea level. Mountain climbing: The mountain climbing schools offer a number of activities for keen climbers, or those who fancy giving it a go. Rock and ice climbing, canyoning, glacier trekking and mountaineering are available for both beginners and advanced climbers. For a James Bond-type activity, the ‘Alpine Gorge’ is an opportunity to be seized. This is a mountain descent from Saas-Fee to Saas- Grund, where you make your way down with the aid of a guide, fixed steel ropes, ladders, 3 Tyroliennes and a suspension bridge. A final option is to conquer 1 of the 3 Via Ferratas (secured climbing routes). The Mittaghorn is fairly easy and good for families, the Jägihorn is pretty difficult and should be undertaken with a guide and the Via Ferrata del Lago is recommended as a 2-day tour.

For further information contact Saas-Fee Guides Climbing School (0041 (0)27 957 44 64 www.saasfeeguides.ch) or Active Dreams (0041 (0)78 825 82 73, www.weissmies.ch). Tennis and badminton: There are 2 indoor tennis courts and 4 indoor badminton courts available.

Wellness centre: If you’re looking for a good way to while away a bad weather day look no further than the Bielen Wellness Centre (0041 (0)27 957 24 75, www.super-dome. ch). There is a 25m swimming pool, as well as a sauna, solarium, whirlpool, steam bath, solar sun bathing, fitness room, table tennis

and table football. The 5-star Hotel Ferienart contains the Paradisa wellness centre (0041 (0)27 958 19 16, www.ferienart.ch) where non-residents can pay for a day’s spa pack- age. We’d love to tell you what it was like but we couldn’t afford it.

Summer only Adventure forest: You can swing from tree to tree using rope swings and zip wires and walk across hanging bridges. Crazy golf: A fantastic way to pass an hour or so! Not a course to be sniffed at, it really is quite difficult and should be taken very seriously. Golf: A 9-hole alpine golf course can be found just behind the Kalbermatten sports field. Hiking: There’s loads of hiking to be had in and around Saas-Fee. Contact the tourist office for all the details. Mountain biking: Bikers will be in their element in the summer, as there are around 70km of trails. The marked trails suit a range of abilities. Contact the tourist office for a detailed mountain bike map. Sports: The Kalbermatten sports ground offers football, basketball, volleyball, a mini skate ramp for skateboarding and in-line skating and tennis courts. Pit-Pat (a weird combination of snooker and crazy golf) is located nearby, at the Hotel Waldesruh.

Winter only Heliskiing and snow touring: These are definitely worth checking out later on in the season. Contact Active Dreams (see Mountain climbing for details). Husky tours: These run several times a week and can be booked at the tourist office. Ice skating: The natural ice rink is open 8am–10pm from mid-December to the end of February. Sledge run: A 5km sledge run can be found at Hannig. On Tuesdays and Thursdays (6–9pm) you can sledge at night. There is also an 11km run in the nearby town of Saas-Grund. Snow shoe trekking: This is organised daily. Contact the tourist office.

Snow tubing and air boarding: This and occurs several times a week. The snow tube lift in Saas-Grund is open 3–5.30pm and 8–10pm.

Events

Saas-Fee is a very popular venue for a wide variety of events because the height of the glacier pretty much guarantees snow all year round. The FIS World Cup in November has been held in Saas-Fee for many years, with disciplines for skiers and boarders in the half pipe and skier/boardercross. The Dutch and British Championships have also been held here over the years. The Saas-Fee Ride takes place every summer, usually at the end of July, and many of the best freestyle skiers in Europe turn up for the event. If you fancy your chances at entering the competition or if you just want to improve your style, why not book on to the British Freeski Camps (www. britishfreeskicamps.com) that take place in the few weeks running up to the Saas-Fee Ride.

The Ice Climbing World Cup in February is one of the biggest events in Saas-Fee. The world’s best ice climbers strut their stuff on a 30m high wall of ice in the car park of Saas- Fee. At the end of April is the last event in the famous TTR (Ticket To Ride) tour.

‘The world’s best ice climbers strut their stuff on a 30m high wall of ice’

Saas-Fee Accommodation

There are a variety of packages available to suit all budgets. Renting an apartment is often a good option. Bear in mind that the north end of the village is a bit of a hike from the lifts, so always make sure you check the location before you book.

For a funky, unique, well-placed and friendly hotel call the Dom Hotel (0041 (0)27 957 77 00, www.uniquedom.com). The PS2s in every room and the friendly staff make this hotel our top pick for the younger clientele. The rooms are minimalist and funky

with wooden floors, and the balconies have stunning views. The hotel also contains the hugely popular Popcorn bar and the Living Room, a stylish chill-out bar.

If being near the slopes is of utmost importance to you, check out La Gorge Apart-Hotel (0041 (0)27 958 16 80, www. lagorge.ch). It has a beautiful location sitting above a deep creek and contains a charming restaurant. It is only 100m from the lifts and is also close to all the facilities of the town. The rooms are fairly basic but contain a little kitchen so you can save money on food.

For a luxury apartment at a decent price check out the 5-star Shangri-La Apartments (0041 (0)27 958 15 15, www.rhone.ch/zumlerch). The apartments are huge (47–83m2) and contain Sky TV, a DVD player, internet connection, a coffee machine, a dishwasher, a washing machine and a massive balcony, and there is a sauna and whirlpool room for the use of guests.

If price is no object and you enjoy fancy hotels, it has to be the 5-star Hotel Ferienart (0041 (0)27 958 19 00, www.ferienart.ch). It has all the charm and splendour and prices that you would expect, with 6 restaurants, a piano bar, dance hall and beauty spa. The spa and beauty salon are very nice.

‘Dramatic views that can be enjoyed from comfy deckchairs’

Eating out

On the mountain

The world’s highest revolving restaurant is at the top lift station on the Mittelallalin glacier. It spins all the way round about once an hour. The views are stunning, the food is tasty and we think it’s pretty good value too. It’s definitely worth doing at least once and you should book if you want a table by the window (0041 (0) 27 957 17 71).

Other restaurants to check out are the popular, rustic Gletschergrotte, (0041 (0)27 957 21 60, www.gletschergrotte.ch) halfway

down from Speilboden and the more trendy hangout, Popcorn Plaza at Längfluh (0041 (0)27 957 21 32), which has dramatic views that can be enjoyed from comfy deckchairs on the huge terrace.

In town La Ferme (0041 (0)27 958 15 69) is a superb restaurant in the centre of town. It has a traditional, rustic and charming atmosphere and all the staff don the traditional dress. It’s not cheap, but is good value as the food is fantastic.

The Bodmen restaurant (0041 (0)27 957 20 75, www.waldhues-bodmen.ch) takes 10–15 minutes to walk to along a beautiful woodland path and is well worth the trip. It’s a beautiful place to sit at lunchtime in the summer as the huge terrace has marvellous views and goats scuttle in-between the tables. In the evening it’s not too formal and has great food, from fondues to fillet steak. If you wish, you can request the table next to a glass panel with views into a barn so you can see lots of chickens and other farmyard animals strutting their stuff while you eat. It’s not advisable to ask for this table if you fancy tucking into a chicken dish. To find the restaurant, walk past the Alpin Express lift station, in the opposite direction to town, and you will see a sign pointing you towards the Bodmen.

The Fletschhorn restaurant (0041 (0)27 957 21 31, www.fletschhorn.ch) is highly recommended, is highly expensive and has 18 points in the Gault & Millau gourmet guide. Boccalino’s (0041 (0)27 957 17 31) is a great pizza restaurant on the main street serving pizzas, pasta and risottos. Probably the best value in town, this is a great place to eat if you’re on a budget.

‘This is a great place to eat if you’re on a budget’

Bars and clubs

Saas-Fee has a very good night scene. The laws are such that there is no specific time at which a bar should close; if it’s busy they will open until it’s time to hit the slopes again. Dangerous stuff.

The Popcorn bar in the Dom Hotel (see Accommodation) is definitely at the centre of the action with good après ski, European DJs, live bands and the odd ‘Diva Night’ when they play all the classic cheesy music. Dressing up is optional. It’s not cheap here though. The younger crowd tend to hang out at the Happy Bar (0041 (0)27 957 38 96), at the north end of town, where the drinks are cheaper, especially during happy hour.

If you are in the 25+ category you might favour the Living Room in the Dom Hotel (see Accommodation), which is more of a chill-out bar with sofas and candles. If the mood takes you later on, you can always head downstairs to the Popcorn for a drunken boogie. Poison nightclub (0041 (0)27 957 50 51) is popular and good fun. Again, it’s more for the 25+ age group. Opposite the Popcorn is the Alpen-Pub (0041 (0)27 957 38 28), which has live music in the winter and on quieter nights is a great place to have a cosy beer and a game of darts.

If you intend to do your partying indoors, watch out for the ‘hush police’ who parade the streets after 10pm and can collar you into a fine if they think you’re making too much noise.

Getting there

By car

From Calais, it will take around 10 hours to drive to Saas-Fee. Enter Switzerland above Lausanne and from there follow signs for Sion, and then Brig, where you are signed to Saas-Fee.

The village itself is car-free, so you will have to use the car park (open air or covered). The car park price per day decreases the longer you are staying and is cheaper if you have a guest card, which can be obtained from your hotel or apartment owner on arrival.

There are free phones in the unloading areas to call your hotel for a free lift or to call a taxi (free phone numbers are by the phone).

By plane

Geneva (234km) Transfer from Geneva is approximately 3 hours by car. If transfer is by train, change in Brig (or Visp) for the postbus, which takes you right to Saas-Fee. There are hourly connections from Brig from 06.15 to 20.05 and from Visp from 06.35 to 20.25. Reservations may be necessary with the post bus (0041 (0)27 958 11 45).

Zürich (246km) There are regular transfers to Brig or Visp. The transfer is approximately 3 hours.

By train

Take the Eurostar from London St Pancras to Paris, then an overnight train, changing at Zürich, to Brig, and then a local bus (57 minutes) to the resort. Contact Rail Europe (0870 830 4862, www.raileurope. co.uk) or European Rail (020 7387 0444, www.european rail.com). Bus tickets are purchased on the bus. (For people booking through European Rail to Swiss resorts, the rail fare includes the bus connection to resort, so there is no need to pay for a bus ticket.)

Useful facts and phone numbers

Tourist office

T: 0041 (0)27 958 18 58 F: 0041 (0)27 958 18 60 W: www.saas-fee.ch

Direct reservations

T: 0041 (0)27 958 18 68 F: 0041 (0)27 958 18 70 W: www.saas-fee.ch

Emergency services

• Police: 117 • Police station (by the car park): 0041

(0)27 958 11 60 • Ambulance: 114 • Breakdown service: 140 • Weather information: 0900 57 30 70

(CHF1.49/min)

Doctors

• Stefan and Stephanie Kuonen, Saas-Fee: 0041 (0)27 957 58 59

• Medical Centre, Saas-Grund: 0041 (0)27 957 11 55

• Pharmacy, Saas-Fee: 0041 (0)27 957 26 18

• Dentist, St Imseng: 0041 (0)27 957 20 52

Electro-taxis

• Ambros: 0041 (0)79 439 10 29 • Taxi Anselm: 0041 (0)79 220 21 37 • Bolero: 0041 (0)27 958 11 35 • Center Reisen: 0041 (0)27 958 11 33 • Imseng: 0041 (0)27 957 33 44

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.

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.

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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.