- Highest Point: 3,883m
- Descent: 2,263m
- No. lifts: 21
- Lift Pass: 1 Day - CHF79 / 6 Days - CHF380
Zermatt (or "Matterhorn Ski Paradise" as it's officially known) is another one of Switzerland’s resorts that needs little introduction. The pretty village sits at end of the Matter Valley under the symbol of Switzerland, the majestic Matterhorn (a.k.a. the Toblerone logo). At 4478m, the Matterhorn is one of Europe’s highest peaks, providing an ever present backdrop as you ride the resort.
The town is a compact and attractive place. It has its own train station and is reachable from Zurich airport in 3½ hours. The centre is car free but with lots of amusing souped-up electric golf carts hooning it around – the police cars deserve a special mention! It is an expensive destination, with plenty of plush hotels and restaurants, but if you’re on a budget then there are two well-located hostels.
Zermatt, and Hintertux in Austria are the only remaining European resorts open 365 days a year, and summer is a great time to visit. It’s a good hour up to the glacier but there is a park and pipe and a reasonable selection of short, steep pistes.
The resort has made a conscious effort to re-brand itself as a ‘family resort’ (complete with their own mascot in the form of Wolli the black-nosed sheep) so riders with wee ones in tow should definitely give it a look.
The Parks - 3/5
In the winter the Gravity terrain park is located on the Furggsattel up on the glacier and is served by a six-person chair. The top section features two parallel kicker lines. The pro-line has some tables up to 15m in length, each with two launches. Running alongside is the much easier beginner line.
"Each area seems almost to have its own weather pattern, so if the conditions look dodgy then check the webcams as it could well be perfect somewhere else"
Next to this is the halfpipe, but it isn’t guaranteed and will only usually appear from February. Below the first section of the park, you’ll find a jib line and a small boardercross course running alongside. In total they run around 20 features in the park. There are a couple of beginner mini-parks on the Sunnegga and Riffelberg peaks, and they even have magic carpets to save you hiking up.
In the summer the park moves further up the glacier, and features a very similar setup to their winter park. The halfpipe is particularly worth a shred during that sweet spot between being super icy in the morning and slushy at 11am.
The Powder - 4/5
There are lots of bowls, couloirs and steep off-piste runs spread over this vast area, and you need to take suitable initiatives to make sure you beat the rush to the fresh snow. Each area seems almost to have its own weather pattern, so if the conditions look dodgy then check the webcams as it could well be perfect somewhere else.
There are 38km of official freeride routes, and off-piste is where Zermatt really excels as a destination. If the conditions are good, then the dedicated freeride routes serviced by the Stockhorn and Triftji lifts on the Gornergrat areas are excellent, as is the Schwarzsee area.
If you’re happy to ignore the environmental side of things, then heliboarding might not be as expensive an option as you might think. A day’s heli on Monte Rosa will cost about £260.
The Pistes - 4/5
The combined Ski Paradise area straddles the Swiss-Italian border, and offers a seriously impressive 360km of pistes. But although you can pop over to Cervinia easily if you fancy a proper pizza for lunch, Zermatt alone has plenty enough to keep you going.
Its 200km of pistes are split up into three main areas: the Rothorn, accessed by the Sunnegga funicular railway; the Gornergrat, accessed from the funicular next to the train station; and the Matterhorn Glacier Paradise, accessed via the gondola at the far end of the village.
The Sunnegga recently received a 12 million CHF facelift. Ascent time has been cut to under five minutes, with increased capacity and comfort, so it's even easier to access the Rothorn area.
The reds from Rothorn and Blauherd down to the Patrullarve chair are littered with small little drops just off-piste, but the pistes soon end up as cat track. The black run directly under the chair is probably the steepest in the resort. Beginners should head to the Gornergrat where you don’t even need to get onto a proper ski lift, as it’s an outdoor funicular railway all the way from the village. Learners can get a discounted pass which only covers a tiny area on the Sunnegga but is fine for those first few days.
The 'Matterhorn Paradise' is the main draw – accessed via the gondola in the village. The ride on the cable-car up to the peak at 3883m is stunning and has great views as it crosses the glacier. This glacial area at the top is all served by t-bars, but if you want to head over to Cervinia in Italy, or just straight down, then you don’t have to touch them.
How To Get There
Zermatt has easy rail links to both Geneva and Zurich Airports.
The Parties - 4/5
Switzerland has a deserved reputation of being a bit too clinical sometimes, but luckily Zermatt likes to let its hair down and party hard after a day on the hill. Things begin on the slopes, après style, at the Hennu Stall near the base which has a live band.
"The Papperla Pub starts early outside and moves inside when the band kicks off"
If you’ve spent the day on the Sunnegga then you’ll be hard pressed to miss the Snowboat Café, which is well worth a prosecco. It is situated on the side of the river near the funicular entrance.
At the Matterhorn end of the village, the Papperla Pub starts early outside and moves inside when the band kicks off. The bar is open until 1:30am but the party continues on downstairs at the Schneewittchen until 3.30am. On the main street, the Hotel Post has five bars and four restaurants.