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Destination guide for Zermatt
Zermatt, Valais, Switzerland
A blend of the rustic and the chic, watched over by the mighty Matterhorn, Zermatt is a formidable combination of all that could be desired in a ski resort.
Its extensive, varied and lofty slopes provide wonderful skiing for intermediate and advanced skiers, and boarders. The altitude, and glacial area, gives good snow cover over a long season with a sophisticated lift system that is constantly upgraded. The slopes boast the world’s best mountain restaurants. The spa scene gets more impressive each season, and the range of activities, from ice skating to cinema, is among the Alps’ widest.
Cosmopolitan, traffic-free Zermatt is as busy in summer as winter. It has matchless charm and an extensive choice of après-ski bars, high-end restaurants and designer shops.
Switzerland’s southernmost resort, Zermatt lies at 1,618m in the Mattertal, in the canton of Valais, surrounded by some of the country’s highest peaks. It links with slopes in the Italian resort of Cervinia.
Everyone arrives by the rack railway – cars are banned (there are electric taxis instead). A mix of ancient farms, grand hotels and modern steel and glass buildings, the village straggles along the river, with ski lifts at either end of town.
When to go
Zermatt is high and the Theodul Glacier guarantees snow, usually with skiing available throughout the year. However, the terrain is rocky, which means substantial snowfall is needed to make the non-glacial slopes skiable and the area is quite dry.
But the altitude, with three of the four sectors having a top station above 3,000m, still guarantees a long season, from the end of November until the end of April. Extensive snowmaking, down to village level, and lots of north-facing slopes, helps matters. December and April are quiet months and with good snow can be great times to visit.
Getting there and away
Geneva or Zurich are the closest main airports, with some charters using Sion. The best transfer option is the train. Zurich is slightly closer than Geneva (journey time of just over 3 hours with one change).
Zermatt is car-free and cars must be parked at Täsch, one train stop away. From the airports, take the mainline to Visp and change for the fabulously scenic rack railway to Zermatt.
Car-free Zermatt is compact enough to get about on foot. With ski boots and skis, however, most people use the electric taxis or the ski-bus to reach the lifts – Sunnega underground funicular and the Gornergrat Railway at the north end, the Matterhorn Express gondola at the south. An impressive system of fast chairs, gondolas and rack railway links the ski sectors, with only occasional queues.