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Trail Map
Trail Map

Due to the very hight altitude skiing is possible all year round on the glacier. In winter you can usually expect very good conditions. For Swiss standards is can get quite cold, especially in January. Zermatt has fantastic off-piste skiing possibilities but it is dangerous to go without a guide. 


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Hohtälli bowl

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Pros: Views of the Matterhorn, huge expanse of terrain

Visted Zermatt for the first time this past Thanksgiving, travelling with a ski club from a US military base in Germany.

The Hotel.
Awesome. Very nice old-world European feel but with modern amenities.
Nice spa, with pool, sauna, and steam bath. Food was first rate...soups
and desserts a high point. Very nice breakfast buffet, which catered to
our American crowd with eggs, bacon, sausage, and ham, in addition to
the usual euro-fare of yogurt, cereals, and breads.

The Village.
Cool town...only accessible by train, no cars in town. Good system of
all-electric buses and taxis to get around. No "Aspen smog", a big
plus. The Matterhorn dominates the scenery, and you can see it from
pretty much anywhere. The morning sun hits the east face of it, and it
literally glows. Very nice. Fairly small and easy to get
around. Not a place to go shopping for bargains, but if you feel the need to buy a $30,000
Swiss watch, they've got you covered. These people clearly take their
timepeices seriously.

The Lifts.
I've never seen such a broad array of mechanical vertical conveyance.
T-bars, chairs, gondolas, trams, underground railroads, above ground
railroads....it's quite an adventure getting to the slopes. Takes
awhile to figure it all out, but once you do, it's pretty easy, and fun
to ride some unusual transport. The main trams can get pretty
crowded...nothing like sharing personal space with 140 of your closest
friends. But for chairs and gondolas, I never waited at all. Of
course, this was early in the season. The big tram stations are all
adorned with 30' x 30' ads for Rolex, Breitling, etc, I referred to the
midway tram station as "the land of the giant watches."

The Mountain(s).
The resort is really spread over about three mountains in two countries.
The lifts, railroads, etc tie it together pretty well, but if you're not
careful, you can get stuck on the Italian side after the lifts close,
which means a 200 euro cab ride! Pretty good variety of terrain, both
above and below tree line, and some stunning glacier views. There
aren't as many "trails" as I would have thought....especially at the
upper elevations, there are just a few broad pistes that get
intermediates down the mountain. But conditions permitting, you can
venture off-piste pretty much anywhere and find much more challenging
terrain. This early in the season, you have to watch out for rocks.
The Italian side faces south, so it gets more sun.

The Actual Skiing.
Day 1: Warming up to Spectacular Views.
Thursday, Thanksgiving Day, was blue sky and beautiful. Just the tram
ride up the mountain was pretty amazing. Warmed up on the major runs on
the Italian side. Had lunch at a little restaurant with amazing views,
and the visibility was great (pictures forthcoming.). Got a little lost
finding my way back down to the town, though...had to ski a closed
trail, and then detour for about 3 miles down an access road, past
houses and restaurants. Good news was, when I finally had to stop at
the edge of town and take my skis off, I realized I was at a bus stop,
and the bus pulled up 30 seconds later. I'd rather be lucky than good.

Day 2: Hunkering Down.
Weather turned poor on Friday, with most of the resort, including the
entire Italian side, closed for high winds and poor visibility. Skied
anyway, but with only a few pistes open, there wasn't much variety.
However, there was a silver lining. The storm that shut down the
Italian side had been quietly dumping new snow all day long, paving the
way for....

Day 3: Epic.
The forecast for Saturday called for a repeat of Friday, so my
expectations were low. Wasn't even sure I would ski. But looking out
the window at breakfast revealed lots of blue sky. Scampered back to
get my gear and caught the first train up to the Rothorn Paradise area.
(Underground train, on a 30 degree incline, straight up the mountain!).
After connecting via gondola and tram, I stepped off at the top with
about 5 other skiers, and the tram operator said "enjoy the run...you're
the first of the season.". YES! First tracks and bragging rights for an
entire season!! Launched off into for awesome cordorouy, with views
across the valley to a huge glacier. After a few runs, bumped into some
young folks from our ski club. The day just kept
getting better...worked our way from one end of the resort to the other,
bagging a few off-piste stretches of powder. Once we got over to the Italian side, we found the
motherlode...hundred acre expanses of barely touched powder! I was
knee-deep in a little bit of heaven. I didn't get any pictures that
really do it justice, unfortunately, but it was amazing stuff.

Bottom Line: I highly recommend Zermatt. It's a classic Alps destination, and for good reason!


Pros: Challenging terrain, international crowd, quality experience

Cons: Can be pricey

My Olympia, WA buddies and I decided to ski Europe for the first time this year and we chose Zermatt and Mürren for contrasting experiences. Zermatt is one of the Swiss high end ski resorts located on the Italian border in the shadow of the Matterhorn. It has a vertical gain of 7,220’ and dozens of lifts and trams. I went on to Mürren near Interlaken with my non-skier wife for the picturesque scenery the next week and to experience a more traditional Swiss mountain village setting. Due perhaps to some good karma, the Swiss Alps delivered in a big way for us. This season started in the Alps with a bang and then a dry spell held on from Christmas until the week of March 9th when we arrived in Zermatt. Over the next two weeks enough snow fell every other day to freshen up the conditions, and a big storm was on its way when we left Switzerland March 20th.  Zermatt is an amazing but expensive place with a resident population of 2000 Swiss-Germans. We found lodging and lift ticket costs competitive with large US ski resorts. Because dining out was expensive due to the low dollar, we chose to cook dinner in our apartment every night via buying food at the Coop or Migros which are the two Swiss grocery store chains. Even then food was expensive, but of very high quality. Swiss beer was surprisingly disappointing. We didn’t see any good German or Belgian imports, at least at the liquor and grocery stores. Zermatt has 35 bars and you had better like inhaling cigarette smoke inside them and the restaurants. The on-mountain restaurants are expensive, but where else can you have a bowl of asparagus soup and a beer on an outside patio and look at the mighty Matterhorn?  Perhaps due to the cost at Zermatt, the average skier age was older than you see in western US resorts. Most surprising was the high number of women skiers. The vast majority of skiers were intermediates.  You have to be aggressive in lifts and tram lines and throwing an elbow to get on a bus or gondola ahead of others seems to be standard procedure. I brought my own skis along and the tops didn’t get scratched as I had feared might happen. Maybe 1-2% of the skiers go off-piste, and our last day we skied untracked snow until 4:30 pm. Hardly any snowboarders at this resort or at Mürren. At both resorts people seem to start skiing later and end later in the day. The lifts turned until 5:00 pm. I skied 8 days and never saw a ski patroller with an identifiable uniform on, ever. The resort staff certainly did avalanche control as we heard them bombing in the mornings, so someone must monitor the mountain.  Zermatt has some good exposures to ski when they get adequate snow which seems to be an issue. The top reaches 12,792 feet. You have to hit this resort at maximum snow pack or a good skier will be bored. We did many laps on the Gant 150-person tram with its northern exposures that have a 3600 vertical at the north end of the Gornergrat portion of the resort. We didn’t hit the Stockhorn area with its advanced skiing because of riding a T-bar is not my idea of fun, and we could see the icy bumps from over two miles away. The south area called Schwarzee Paradise is the other portion with challenging terrain, but you need a guide due to the glaciers. We observed a skier-induced slide and it’s easy to get cliffed out. We wanted to ski over to the Cervinia, Italy portion for the novelty, but high winds (which are typical) prevented that until the last day there and the terrain is rated red (intermediate) so we didn’t pursue this option. I have skied nearly all the western US ski resorts (Jackson Hole, Whistler, Tahoe, Taos, Colorado) and feel that the whole package at Zermatt was the best I’ve experienced. That being said, I probably won’t be back unless I win the lottery. The town is very international and has lots of energy, there is a nice mix of historic buildings (dating to the 1400s) and new construction, and the level of service was excellent. Flexnet ski rentals seem to be the best, to get a fat ski you have to ask for “free ride skis” or they won’t know what you are talking about. Our hosts the Karin and Brigette Perren twins at the Jolimont Apartments were a wonderful to deal with. The town is “car-free” with scores of electrical carts flying around. You quickly learned to keep an ear out for these vehicles, the taxi drivers were like circling sharks--they drive like hell and could teach a New York City cab drive lessons.    


Our party was very impressed by the Swiss train system and we didn’t drive a car for two weeks. If you go get a Swiss Flex pass to pay for your major travel days, and you get 50% discounts on all of the trams or private trains on the days you stay in one location if you want to see the historic and visual beauty. The best way to get there from Seattle is on a LONG Scandinavian Airlines (SAS) to Copenhagen, then transfer to Zurich—you fly over northern Canada, Greenland, and Norway. The SAS staff were great, and the customs and airport at both Copenhagen and Zurich were far superior to the service we found at Sea-Tac.


Pros: Totally beautiful place , you can ski from Switzerland over the Matterhorn into Italy and back in one day

Cons: Not a place to take beginners.

Lovely village, a little pricey but worth going to. For a high intermediate or advanced skier there is unlimited amounts of terrain to ski and you can ski from Switzerland to Italy in a day, have lunch in Italy and head back to Zermatt. There are long wide runs, run that wind down through villages and as I mentioned you can ski in 2 countries on the same day.  However for a beginner it is a challenge as to even get to the beginner slopes you need to be able to ski down a blue run and to get to classes you must take the Funicular Railway, is a 4 minute ride up inside the mountain and a difficult walk up wide stairs to get on the train, with 100s of people pushing and trying to get a place. Hard to navigate for a beginner with boots on and carrying skis and poles. I went with a group of advanced skiers who left me to my own devices and as a beginner found it very challenging. Now that I have improved I would love to revisit. 


Only other downside is we went from UK to Zermatt by train and it took us 6 trains get there. Better to fly straight into Switzerland and make your way from there. 


Pros: Great, long runs, amazing views, lovely town

Cons: Expensive, Pricey, Costly, need a guide off piste

Zermatt is the place to go if you only want to ski in one place in Europe, just to say you've been there. Don't get the Cervinia pass to ski for the entire week in Italy, just get a 1 day supplement and do it once. It takes too long to ski there and back to make it worth it (you'll waste half the day riding trams if you want to ski a few runs down and up).

Zermatt is wonderful and expensive. Everything you could imaging. The runs are long long long. Not really the best for snowboarders because some of the long runs have flats to them. But on skis it was always a breeze.

The only downside is if you love off piste, in Zermatt you really need a guide and you can only go in later in the season when the glaciers are covered in plenty of snow. Otherwise there is too much risk of falling into a crevasse. The place is very dangerous off piste. But everywhere you look, including the village is a post card.


I've spent 3 separate weeks there and loved each of them.