I was in Zermatt last week, and it was the best of my 4 Euro ski trips.
Detailed TR's with lots of pics:
Feb. 9: high overcast with sunny breaks, skied Rothorn and Hohtalli: http://www.firsttracksonline.com/boards/viewtopic.php?f=5&t=11340
Feb. 10: bad weather day on Gornergrat, Zum See lunch: http://www.firsttracksonline.com/boards/viewtopic.php?f=5&t=11348
Feb. 11: sunny, skied Klein Matterhorn and a pristine deep powder run down to Plan Maison in Italy, Chalet Etoile lunch: http://www.firsttracksonline.com/boards/viewtopic.php?f=5&t=11349
Feb. 12: sunny but cold and windy up top, skied Schwarztor with guide: http://www.firsttracksonline.com/boards/viewtopic.php?f=5&t=11353
Feb. 13: snowy day, started Gornergrat, moved to Patrullarve, Chez Vrony lunch: http://www.firsttracksonline.com/boards/viewtopic.php?f=5&t=11354
Feb. 14: overcast powder day, skied all 3 sectors, got up higher when clouds lifted late, missed last lift out of Gant and had to hike out: http://www.firsttracksonline.com/boards/viewtopic.php?f=5&t=11355
Those reports are from the perspective of advanced skiing with lots of uncontested powder. Nonetheless you'll also see the scenery and 3 of the world's finest on-mountain restaurants.
We had no crowd issues whatsoever, and I suspect most people won't as long as you stay away from the holiday periods (Christmas, mid-Feb through early March, Easter week).
Cervinia and Zermatt link together. Cervinia is MUCH better for the intermediate.
Percentage wise Cervinia is mostly intermediate, but it's much smaller than Zermatt, so the reality is that there will be many more pistes at Zermatt for you to enjoy. Any groomed piste (blue, red or black) should be no problem for you judging by your comments about what you like at Telluride. All of these are groomed every night; only the yellow marked "skiroutes" are left in their natural state.
The connection between Zermatt and Cervinia is over 11,000 feet and very exposed to wind and white-outs. The days the connection was open at all, it didn't open until after noon. If you're staying in Cervinia, you'll have almost no chance of skiing the Gornergrat or Rothern sectors of Zermatt (the most extensive varied skiing), and be able to get back to Italy at the end of the day.
The other place I've been that you would like is Lech in Austria.TR from day I asked there.
It's a more intimate atmosphere than Zermatt (or St. Anton) and I highly recommend the Sandhof hotel there, good quality and value for an upscale resort. Grooming seemed better in Switzerland (both Zermatt and Davos, where I also skied last year) than in the Arlberg resorts in Austria. But pistes have better snow in Lech than St. Anton, which is busier and more south exposed with less natural snow. Nonetheless if you're in Lech for a week you definitely should use the easy free bus connection to ski St. Anton and the quiet, mostly north facing Stuben for a couple of days.
As noted mid-February to early March should be avoided for various national school holidays, even though it's the core, most reliable part of the season. The Arlberg gets more snow than most places in the Alps but has a,lot of sunny exposure and the slopes only go up to 8,800 feet. Thus you should go to Lech before the school holidays in late January/early February. Zermatt has the opposite profile, lower snowfall, mainly north exposure, with much skiing from 8,000 to up over 11,000 feet and Europe's highest lift topping out at 12,736. So there you should go mid-March to early April, after the school holidays but avoiding Easter Week.
Edited by Tony Crocker - 2/21/14 at 8:54am