Ski Guide: Zermatt, Switzerland

This picture-perfect alpine skiing village has a convenient ski area high in the Alps, where the winter weather is ideal and the skiing is world-class.

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Huddled at the foot of the Alps’ Matterhorn and Weisshorn peaks, Zermatt, Switzerland, is the classic, picture-perfect alpine skiing village. Its developed, convenient ski area is the highest in the Alps, where the winter weather is ideal and the skiing is world-class.

Only at Zermatt
Zermatt’s high altitude means skiing continues throughout spring and into early summer, but it doesn’t mean the slopes are reserved for expert skiers only. It’s quite the opposite. Beginners can practice their turns on the gentle slopes of the Klein Matterhorn glacier (skiable year-round) and Gornergrat peak. Unlike the designated beginner areas at many other resorts, these bunny slopes don’t lack scenery or views—novices here can enjoy real alpine country.

A 12,500-foot-high cable car carries skiers and snowboarders to the vista at the top of Klein Matterhorn. From there, you can cross a ridge (and the border) and ski down Italy’s Cervinia. Advanced skiers can enjoy expert terrain in the Sunnegga and Gornergrat areas as well as the moguls on Stockhorn and Rote Nasse. The off-trail options are virtually endless, an outdoor playground equipped with high cliffs and deep powder.

Best-Kept Secret
Experience Zermatt’s glacial paradise by the light of the full moon. With the help of an experienced guide, ski the Matterhorn, Rothorn or Gornergrat peaks as the sun sets and the full moon rises. The Matterhorn moonlit ski run begins with dinner at the Matterhorn restaurant, followed by a ski back to Zermatt over the Trockener Steg and Furgg.

Where to Sleep
The Hotel Alex is a favorite spot for tourists on a modest budget. It’s set in the center of town and offers a number of rooms with unobstructed views of the Matterhorn. For dining and après-ski, the hotel features the Alex Grill, the Alex lounge bar and the Bodega Bacchus wine cellar. Click here to view their winter rates. For a full list of hotels in Zermatt, click here.

Zermatt is also home to numerous furnished apartments for rent. Often, the apartments are less expensive than hotels, making them ideal for larger groups or families. Click here for a list of holiday apartments available for lease in Zermatt.

Where to Eat
Take the Sunnegga chairlift to the first stop, and take a short hike to Findlerhof for lunch. Located in the quaint village of Findeln, the Swiss classic menu offers dishes like quiche with leeks, onion and cheese for 25 francs. Reservations strongly recommended.

The popular Hotel Alex is home to the polished basement restaurant, Alex Grill, where chefs create Swiss entrees prepared with market-fresh ingredients.

For a festive après-ski scene, head to Papperla Pub, where drinks are served against a backdrop of live bands belting classic-rock tunes. Raucous revelers often dress up in costumes, adding to the party atmosphere.

Where to Shop
Zermatt’s main street, the Bahnhofstrasse, is undisturbed by the sound and pollution of traffic. No cars have been allowed in Zermatt since 1947, which makes for superior air quality and a delightful shopping experience. Shopping here largely features luxury goods, like timepieces with 5-figure price tags by Breguet, Blancpain and Vacheron. State-of-the-art ski equipment is sold at Slalom Sport, Glacier Sport and Bayard Sport.

For the Non-Skier
Get to know the Matterhorn, the symbol of Zermatt, at the subterranean Matterhorn Museum. Exhibits feature a 3-D glass rendering of the mountain and a piece of the snapped rope that sent 4 climbers to their deaths on Edward Whymper’s historic climb to the Matterhorn’s summit in 1865.

Back outdoors, thrill-seekers can experience the Gornergrat toboggan course, full of steep drops and sharp turns. A less intense course is available for families on Rotenboden.

From Zermatt, you can also take one of Europe’s most scenic train rides. The Glacier Express takes 7-1/2 hours to traverse southeastern Switzerland, crossing 291 bridges and passing through 91 tunnels.

Biggest Bang for Your Buck
Discount winter and spring skiing packages are available for booking at Zermatt Tourism. Click here to discover how you can save on package deals that feature lodging, lift tickets and meals.

Travel Channel Tip
If you can’t afford a trip to Zermatt during the high ski season, consider visiting in either August or September, when Zermatt hosts the International Matterhorn Run Zermatt and the Zermatt Festival, respectively. The marathon is one of the world’s most beautiful mountain runs and the Zermatt Festival is a renowned celebration of classical music.

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