Lying at the foot of the iconic Matterhorn mountain in Switzerland, Zermatt is everything an Alpine ski resort should be. It’s a car free village, boasts traditional good looks and the old meets the new in the form of a modern lift system and a great choice of accommodation.
There’s a huge vertical and access to more than 350 kilometres of slopes both in Zermatt and nearby Cervinia across the Italian border. It caters best for families and intermediate skiers, with snowsure slopes open from November until the end of April, plus glacier skiing in the summer.
Being located in Switzerland means that Zermatt is at the pricier end of the skiing spectrum, with lift passes being the main culprit. However, there are accommodation options to suit most budgets, from modest B&Bs through to luxury hotels. And the under 10s ski for free, which keeps things affordable for families.
The traditional Alpine town is car free, which means strolling around with the pedestrians and cyclists is a real pleasure. The part of Zermatt behind the Monte Rosa Hotel is well worth a visit, it’s a warren of narrow alleys and classic Alpine chalets.
There’s a good selection of facilities too, with the usual assortment of nightclubs, restaurants and bars, as well as a library, Alpine garden, museums and cinemas. It buzzes with activity throughout the season, with a cosmopolitan atmosphere and real international crowd.
As well as skiing and snowboarding, Zermatt is a hub for mountain sports. With a Peak Pass, hikers and mountain lovers can explore the trails and pristine environment for three days, making use of the cable cars to access the highest peaks. There are 38 summits above 4,000 metres in the vicinity and some spectacular scenery. It also includes travel on the Matterhorn Gotthard Railway which runs between Randa, Tasch and Zermatt.
Zermatt ranks among the best and biggest ski resorts, with ample terrain for beginners right through to advanced levels. The slopes are snowsure, with a big vertical and high mountain stations keep things open until the end of April. In fact, Zermatt really comes into its own from February onwards, where the longer days mean you can be skiing from 8am right up until 6pm. There’s even some glacier skiing available all summer.
The lift system is slick and modern and gives excellent access to the more than 350km of slopes (which includes the linked resorts of Cervinia and Valtournenche in Italy). And each year the lifts seem to get better.
Although Zermatt’s size means there are other, perhaps more suitable resorts to learn the ropes, novices are well catered for. Beginner areas at Sunnegga and Trokenersteg have easy to ride conveyor lifts and excellent ski schools. And it’s the only ski resort in the world where you can learn 365 days a year.
Zermatt is superb for intermediate skiers with huge sections of red and blues to cruise. The Rothorn area is excellent, with a vertical of 1,500 metres back down to the village. Or head up higher to Gornergrat which at 3,400 metres provides 1,800 metre descent.
Advanced skiers and boarders can choose between steep runs, powder, moguls, heli-skiing and ski touring options. There are some very steep slopes on Rothorn and Gornergrat, including the Triftji mogul run, supposedly the world’s toughest.
Freestylers can hit the gravity park up on the glacier, which is open all year round. It’s home to one of the world’s longest super pipes at more than 200 metres, as well as kickers of all shapes and sizes, plus a choice of boxes and rails for all abilities.
There is extensive freeride terrain in Zermatt, with large areas of untouched snow waiting to be explored. Thanks to the high altitude and abundance of north-facing slopes you can still find powder several days after snowfall. It’s well worth hiring a guide and always head off-piste with avalanche gear and know how to use it.
Top off-piste areas to explore include Rothorn, with around 1,000 metres at 35%. Get off at the top of the Rothorn station and leave the crowds behind to explore the untracked snow on the north face. Or for a gentler introduction to off piste, explore the east side of the mountain with arand a 25% gradient.
Stockhorn and Gant also offer exciting off-piste. The area under the Gant cable car is perhaps too well known, but if you take the drag lifts to Stockhorn and walk along the ridge for around half an hour, you’ll find around 1,000 metres of rolling terrain.
It’s also worth checking out Trockener Steg, Klein Matterhorn and Schwarztee where you’ll find powder suitable for first time freeriders right up to serious 45% gradients in the Schwarztee trees.