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Zermatt: A First Timer’s Experience (3/10/16 -3/14/16)

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Thread Starter 

 

Note: This trip report picks up from where my Verbier trip report left off. I skied Verbier for a 2 1/2 days before heading to Zermatt. For additional insight on my experience skiing in Switzerland, please see my Verbier trip report.

 

If you’ve skied Zermatt before not much will be new to you, but I hope you enjoy some of the pictures.

 

As I’m most familiar with Squaw Valley, I’ll often use Squaw runs or size as comparison. I know it’s subjective, but it’s how I was, for me at least, able to put into perspective the vastness of Zermatt.

 

Note: All pictures were taken with an iPhone 6. I have a nice point and shoot and in retrospect I wish I’d used it because it would have better captured the amazing beauty of the Swiss Alps.

 

Some basic stats about me.

Age: 51

Days per year: 50+

Primary ski area: Squaw Valley

Ability: Comfortable on most terrain

 

Getting There:

After skiing Verbier for 2 1/2 days I packed up my things and prepared to get myself to Zermatt to meet my wife who was coming from Zurich.

 

I’d had such a great day skiing Verbier the day before, one of the best ski days in years, I seriously contemplated skiing in the morning and then catching a late afternoon train to Zermatt. But my wife was already on her way from Zurich and with the efficiency of the Swiss train system, I could easily meet her in Visp and we could ride the train together up to Zermatt, something that I was looking forward to doing. That, and usually when I’ve had an epic day skiing and I want just a bit more, I end up with stitches. So, I had breakfast in the hotel and on the way back to my room asked the front desk person to call a cab for me.

 

The front desk person said that cabs were very expensive, which I already knew, since I’d taken one from Le Chable to Verbier a few days before. She recommended that I take the gondola down instead. I’d forgotten about the gondola option and asked her if my ski bag would fit. She said it shouldn’t be a problem. I went to my room, got my bags and headed back downstairs. When I got to the front desk to checkout the owner of the hotel was now there and said she wasn’t sure my ski bag would fit on the gondola and recommended that I just take the bus down to Le Chable. The bus station was “closer and easier”. The tram was about a 500 meter walk uphill and the bus station was a 200 meter walk downhill. The last time a rode a bus was in college and it was a Greyhound bus. I vowed never to ride a bus again. But she insisted, drew me a diagram of the location, which was very nice of her and I headed down the street. The station was easy to find.

 

The bus station is actually located inside the post office. A full-size bus pulls in one door and exists the other. As I mentioned in my Verbier trip report, the only language barrier I encountered was with the bus driver and even this was a nonissue. He had a small LCD screen with various destinations on it and we were able to determine that I could buy a bus ticket to Le Chable as well as my train ticket Zermatt.

 

Waiting for the bus in the Verbier train station.

 

 

Waiting for the bus in the Verbier train station.

 

The ride down to Le Chable was easy and the views stunning. I was sad to be leaving Verbier. The train station was empty when I arrived with only a few people waiting to board. A young guy I had ridden the bus with asked me if this was the train to Martigny and I said that I thought so. The train had the same name as the one I’d ridden up three days before. He wanted confirmation and went inside to ask someone at the ticket window and they confirmed it was the correct train. (Note: There’s only one train that goes between Le Chable and Martigny.)

 

Boarding the train without issue I settled down and enjoyed the ride to Martigny. This being the first time traveling by myself in Europe I still wasn’t confident with my train traveling skills, but I now knew that even if I missed a train, or got on a wrong train, I’d still be able to get myself to Zermatt fairly easily. Knowing that felt good, considering only three days before I was nervous and overly anxious traveling alone, worrying about everything little thing.

 

The Swiss grow a lot of grapes. A lot. Every sunny hillside or open patch of land seemed to have vines on it. Many of these hillsides were fairly steep and you’d have to be in good shape just to get around.

 

Miles and miles of vineyards.

 

Arriving in Martigny, I unloaded my bags, headed to another platform and waited for the train to Visp.

 

Once aboard the train I again got settled in. Switzerland is a small country, but since you’re in the Alps it seems massive. The views are simply stunning.

 

Pulling into Visp I was excited to see my wife. She’d arrived from Zurich about 20 minutes before and was waiting on the platform. When I walked up she had some Swiss chocolate snacks ready for me. Yummy!

 

We loaded our bags onto the train, found some seats and enjoyed the incredible scenery on the ride into Zermatt. The train travels fairly slowly through the valley up to Zermatt with the ride taking about an hour.

 

The town of Zermatt sits in a deep, relatively narrow valley, with one main street and several side streets. My first impression of Zermatt was that it was bigger than I thought it’d be. There’s a lot of hotels and I was happy to be there on a non-holiday weekend.

 

There are no cars in Zermatt, all the vehicles, mostly cabs, are small, narrow, boxy, electric vehicles. Actually, I did see two gas powered vehicles while in town, a police car and an ambulance.

 

Main Street.

 

 

Main Street.

 

 

Horse-drawn carriage

 

The horses were nice. You could hear them coming from a ways off. The electric taxis tended to sneak up on you.

 

Not knowing where the hotel was we got a cab. After arriving at the hotel, it might have been faster to walk, but it was still fun to take a cab. It was one of only two times we took one.

 

We checked into our room and I put our skis and boots in the ski room. (All the hotels seem to have a ski room). We thought about skiing half-day but it was already 2:00PM so we decided to explore Zermatt.

 

Hotel ski room.

 

The narrow main street of Zermatt contains mostly shops, restaurants and hotels. If you need a watch, it seems every other store is a watch shop. I only peered through the window of one watch shop, but the most expensive watch being displayed was $48,500. That’s not a typo.

 

As we walked along the main streets I saw that one of the shops was advertising various skiing adventures including helicopter skiing and ‘first tracks’. I went in to enquire about ‘first tracks’. For $42.00 you get to take an early tram up and ski the fresh corduroy for about 45+ minutes before everyone else. The price also included breakfast. After experiencing the unbelievable groomers in Verbier I told my wife we should do it. The sales person said that their office could only sell tickets until noon each day, but if we showed up at the tram building at around 7:20AM we could buy a ‘first track’ ticket from someone at the tram station and then head up the tram at 7:40AM with the other ‘first trackers.’

 

We then continued up the street and made our way to the tram building where a ticket office was located to get lift tickets for the next two days. My wife and I both have Squaw Valley gold passes and before leaving on our trip my sister-in-law brought it to my attention that you get two free days of skiing in Zermatt if you have the gold pass. The ticket person first tried to charge me, but after explaining the situation, she checked with a coworker, and then handed us our lift tickets. Score!

 

After buying lift tickets for the following days we took a selfie with the Matterhorn in the background.

 

We weren’t that hungry so we found a place to have a light meal and called it a night.

 

Our light meal at a cafe along main street.

 

DAY 1:

The hotel knew we were heading to the mountain early because we had made arrangements for a cab the night before. They had insisted on opening up for breakfast 15 minutes early to accommodate us. It was very nice of them and it was good to have a little something to eat before skiing since we only had the light dinner the night before.

 

The cab picked us up promptly at 7:00AM and took us to the tram station. After milling around for 15 minutes and asking others if they were there for ‘First Tracks’ we found the person selling the tickets and got on the tram to head up the mountain. Knowing the process now, you could show up at 7:30AM and easily get a ticket.

 

Waiting at the bottom to buy our ‘first tracks’ ticket.

 

We boarded the tram with about 30 other skiers and headed up the mountain. We then boarded another tram. (I don’t know if both trams are named Furi, but I believe one is.) Once at the top we were given brief instructions on what we could do. Unfortunately, the gentleman giving the speech had a heavy German accent and I didn’t understand much of what he was saying. From what I gathered, you could hang out and drink tea and coffee and then go skiing, or go skiing right away and then meet for breakfast at the top of the Matterhorn Glacier Paradise tram at 9:30AM. We opted for skiing and headed out the door, following some Brits that we had met on the tram ride up.

 

Heading out for our ‘first track’ runs.

 

It was a lot of fun cruising down the piste runs. Unfortunately, we weren’t sure which way to go since the trails split several times. We waited and followed some other skiers down. Getting back to a mid-mountain tram we waited to head back up. What we found out later was that the ‘First Track’ tram had already taken off so we were now waiting for the first public tram from the bottom of the mountain to arrive. I was bummed to have missed the tram, but I wouldn’t hesitate to repeat the experience if it happened the same way.

 

Heading back up the mountain with a mostly full tram we could see the other lifts were now running. We were still up there with almost no one else so it was great.

 

We were one of the first chairs to load on the Furggsattel lift and had perfect groomers all to ourselves. It was fantastic.

 

Heading over to the Furggsattel chair.

 

 

View from the chair.

 

 

View from the top of chair.

 

 

View from the top of chair.

 

After several incredible piste runs off of the Furggsattel chair we boarded the Matterhorn Glacier Paradise tram to have breakfast with the other ‘first trackers’.

 

Although I got pictures once I reached the top, I can’t believe I didn’t get a picture of where the Matterhorn Glacier Paradise tram docks. All I can say is impressive engineering! Here’s a picture from Wikipedia. The tram docks towards the top of that pointy peak:

 

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Klein_Matterhorn#/media/File:KleinMatterhorn_edit.jpg

 

 

View from the top of the tram.

 

 

View from the top of the tram.

 

 

The tunnel you walk through to get to the slopes and restaurant.

 

We were a bit late for breakfast and most of the other ‘first track’ people heading back out to go skiing. Breakfast was a good typical Swiss breakfast with cured meats, cheeses, breads, juices, coffee, etc,. You could also order omelettes. I had an omelette with a side of bacon. Considering the ‘First Track’ price of $42.00, with breakfast included, I thought it was a good deal. A similar breakfast in Zermatt would probably have been $25.00 or so.

 

After breakfast we decided to ski to Italy. Why not?

 

View from top of tram building.

 

 

View from top of tram building.

 

In the above picture you can see a several t-bars below. We opted to take the t-bar and enjoy another long and very well groomed run. Only a few people were on these runs. On numerous occasions throughout our trip, if someone was skiing in front of me I’d wait for a minute and then have a couple hundred yards of open piste skiing all to myself. It was fun.

 

 

Skiing down to the t-bar.

 

After the t-bar we started skiing into Italy.

 

Italy or Switzerland?

 

 

Looking back towards Switzerland.

 

 

Mid-mountain stop in Italy. You can see the long piste trail we skied down at the top of this picture.

 

My wife wanted to take a break, mostly so she could say she drank prosecco in Italy, so she stopped at the top of one of the gondolas and found a small bar and I headed farther down into Italy.

 

Heading down into Cervinia.

 

 

Heading down into Cervinia.

 

The run down to Cervinia was mellow, but fun.

 

Mid-mountain in Italy. My wife is somewhere way up there.

 

After a couple of gondola rides back up I found my wife enjoying the view.

 

Prosecco in Italy.

 

She finished her glass of prosecco and we spent the early afternoon skiing various piste runs and enjoying the incredible views.

 

Me.

 

 

Another long, long, piste run.

 

My wife was ready to start heading down so we split up and I went exploring. After 5+ hours of piste skiing I was looking for something different. While riding up a chair with an instructor from Britain I saw some off-piste terrain. I asked the instructor how to get there. She said I’d have to ski down to the “Gornegrat” and I could access it from there. Unbeknownst to me the Gornegrat is a train. Albeit a slow train, (which uses gog tracks) but still a friggin’ train high up on the mountain in the middle of a ski area. Too cool.

 

One of the mid-mountain Gornegrat train stations.

 

There was a ticket office and RFID turnstiles. I thought I might have to buy a ticket, which I would have just for the experience, but my lift ticket worked and I waited for the train to arrive. About five minutes later a train slowly pulled up and I boarded.

 

At the top, there’s an observatory as well as shops and a restaurant.

 

Final stop on the Gornegrat train.

 

 

View from the top of Gornegrat.

 

I knew where I wanted to ski was on the other side of the observatory, but no one else was walking up the path with skis so I left my skis and started up the path to check it out. After several hundred yards I came to an opening in the walkway with a small metal barrier. It would be easy to climb over, but I wasn’t sure I was allowed to. Turning around, I saw a maintenance worker putting some tools away in a small shed and went over to ask him if it was okay to ski there. The conversation went something like this. Note: the worker spoke very little English and I speak no German.

 

Me: “Is it okay to ski there?” (Pointing in the direction of the off-piste run.)

Worker: “No. Ski over there”. (Points to the piste run.)

Me: “But I see tracks. People have skied there.”

Worker: “No. Closed. Ski there.” (Points to the piste run.)

Me: “Okay, but when does it open? Can I come back tomorrow, at say 10:00?”

Worker: No! Closed. Must ski piste!”

Me: “No more piste! Please, no more piste!”

Worker: Puts hands to his chest and shakes his head and basically says, “okay, but it’s not on me if you ski there.”

Me: “Thank you.”

 

I started down the pathway to get my skis, but I was hungry and I knew I was going to bonk soon. I found a small gift shop and looked for some energy bars. I couldn’t find any but they of course had amazing Swiss chocolate. I bought three chocolate truffles and walked back down to get my skis.

 

Heading back up, I ate two of the truffles, climbed the rail and put my skis on. The run was by no means steep, maybe like the lower part of Siberia Ridge at Squaw, but there was still untracked snow and it hadn’t snowed in at least seven days.

 

I entered to the climber’s left of the observatory.

 

Even though I hit a few rocks it was fun to ski something besides a piste run.

 

I skied a few more piste runs and headed down the mountain to meet my wife.

 

View of the Matterhorn at the end of the day.

 

In one of the tram buildings I came across this ad for Canada Goose clothing with Squaw Valley’s Palisades as the backdrop.

 

Me pointing at my Palisades nemesis - The Tube.

 

 

DAY 2:

After breakfast in the hotel and wanting to explore other places to ski, we pulled out a trail map and asked the front desk person what the best way was to get to the Alpen Metro, which is a funicular.

 

We asked if we should take a cab and the front desk person said, “no, it’s only a ten minute walk.” It turned out to indeed be only a ten minute walk and an easy one at that. But I was hesitant at first because whenever you asked a Swiss person how far something was, the answer was always, “it’s only a ten minute walk.”

 

The funicular was really cool.

 

The tunnel you walk through to get to/from the funicular.

 

I didn’t get any pictures of the actual funicular so here’s a Google link:

 

https://www.google.com/webhp?hl=en#hl=en&q=zermatt+funicular+images

 

After skiing several piste runs we headed over to the Gant tram. The plan was once we reached the top I would explore the face and I’d meet my wife back at a restaurant/bar called the Blue Lounge in a few hours, which was at the base of the Rothorn tram. I don’t know how big the face of the Gant tram is, but  I think it’s realistic to say it had the same skiable terrain as 30+ Headwall chair faces. (Squaw Valley Headwall.) The vastness of the terrain off of just one tram was impressive.

 

 

The top of the Gant tram is on the center peak in this picture.

 

Although I hit an occasional rock, it was amazing to me that even after 7+ days I could find pockets of untracked snow.

 

Gant tram.

 

I took the Gant tram four times that day. Two runs on the left of the tram towers and two runs on the right. For two of those runs I didn’t see anyone above or below me. I’ve never been in such an open space on skis before and had no one around me. On the two other runs, each run I only came across two other people skiing. Not many people ski off-piste in Zermatt.

 

I took a gondola back up to the Blue Lounge to meet my wife. We’d had lunch there earlier and a great cover band had been playing all afternoon.

 

View from the gondola - The Gant tram towers off in the distance.

 

 

This was an ad in the gondola car. 

 

 

Enjoying a beer and listening to great music.

 

 

These guys were from Britain and did a great job. The weather was perfect with no wind. They performed for hours, played just about any artist you requested and covered them well. One of the waitresses stop serving for a few minutes and joined them. And wow, she could sing.

 

I spent some time listening to the band, being introduced to some fun, friendly people that my wife had met earlier and then headed out by myself for a casual afternoon of mostly piste skiing.

 

It was a fun, fun day.

 

Day 3:

My wife was looking forward to a lounge day, so after we had breakfast I walked to the funicular to make my way up the mountain. My plan was to head to the Rate Nase tram which loaded at the top of the Gant tram.

 

It’s pretty amazing that you can take a funicular, an escalator, a gondola, an elevator, another gondola, a tram and then another tram before ever really making a turn. That was my journey getting to the top of Rate Nase tram.

 

While waiting to board the Gant tram I was eavesdropping on a conversation between what I thought was a guide and two American skiers. They were discussing where they were going to ski next. I debated with myself on whether to ask the person if he was a guide, but opted not to. (I was considering getting a guide the next day to show me around). After reaching the top of the Gant I noticed that they too were headed over to board the Rate Nase. When we reached the top and everyone was putting on their skis, i changed my mind and went up to the gentleman and asked if he guided. He said no, but that he frequently skied with some guide friends and knew the mountain fairly well. I struck up a conversation with him and the two American’s, Sue and Sam. Sue, Sam and Andre´ invited me along and I happily joined them.

 

All three were very good skiers. Andre´was on telemark skis. We traversed skier’s left. They had been in the area before and were searching for untracked snow. We soon found it.

 

We traversed in from the far left of this picture. The top of the Rate Nase tram is just out of view on the left-hand side.

 

 

Sam is in the foreground, Andre´ is far below.

 

 

Andre´making turns and enjoying the sunshine. You can see Sue back near the horizon.

 

 

Sue making beautiful turns as Andre´scouts the next line.

 

 

Me.

 

Sue and Sam had been in Zermatt for a week and were leaving later that day so they were working their way down the mountain. They invited me to join them for some piste skiing, but I wanted to head back up so we parted ways. To Sue, Sam and Andre´, thank you. My run with you was a highlight of my skiing in Zermatt.

 

It was amazing to me that there was still untracked snow after 8+ days since the last snow fall. At Squaw the mountain is completely tracked out in 2 hours.

 

After saying goodbye to Sue, Sam and Andre´ I headed back up the Gant tram.

 

View from the top of the Gant tram.

 

 

View from the top of the Gant tram.

 

Most of the powder stashes Andre´and Sam had found were accessible from the Gant tram so I skied from there and found some more untouched snow.

 

My tracks.

 

After two great long runs I was ready to explore other parts of the mountain.

 

The man in the yellow jacket is blind, his guide is in the red jacket. This is off of the Gant tram on one of the main piste runs where it “opens” up for a bit. The guy was making short, quick, turns, staying in the fall-line. Farther on down the mountain, when the run really opened up, they both tucked it, with the guide slightly holding onto the man’s yellow jacket. They were easily 40+mph, laughing loudly and having a great time. And I’m afraid I’ll stub my toe on the foot of my bed at night if there’s not a night light.

 

I never got tired of looking at the Matterhorn and found myself stopping often to take another picture.

 

Matterhorn.

 

One thing that I loved about skiing in Verbier and now Zermatt, is that there seems to be endless on-mountain food and drink options. At Squaw you basically have two options - Gold Coast and High Camp and they’re both terrible. I don’t know why U.S. ski areas don’t at least try and do what these Swiss ski areas do and offer good food in unique locations at various spots on the mountain. At Squaw, a small wine and cheese bar at the top of Red Dog, or Granite, or Shirley, or even something tucked away somewhere off of Solitude would be so very cool.

 

Picture of random on-mountain restaurant. There are dozens of these little restaurants all over the mountains of the ski area.

 

Skiing along I came across a sign for the ‘World’s Biggest Igloo’. It seemed touristy, but I needed a break and decided to stop.

 

'World's Biggest Igloo'.

 

 

'World's Biggest Igloo'.

 

The Volvo igloo was indeed a bit touristy, but still fun see. After the igloo I grabbed a seat and enjoyed the view.

 

View from ‘Worlds Biggest Igloo’.

 

After drinking a half-frozen beer I headed back out. I didn’t get a picture, but the bar stored their beer in a small igloo.

 

I skied piste runs for a few more hours, often finding nice off-piste bumpy sections between connecting trails.

 

At the end of the day I met my wife at the bottom of the mountain and enjoyed the setting sun and the Matterhorn.

 

Cool shadow in the sky caused by the Matterhorn.

 

Day 4:

I wanted to get an early start, so after breakfast I headed out and would meet my wife later for lunch. I made my way to the Rothorn tram.

 

Helicopters came and went all day from the top of the Rothorn.

 

Helicopters at the top of the Rothorn tram.

 

 

Helicopter taking off.

 

 

View from the top of the Rothorn tram.

 

 

View from the top of the Rothorn tram.

 

 

View from the top of the Rothorn tram.

 

 

View of the Gant tram area from the top of the Rothorn tram.

 

 

I’ve taken maybe five selfies in my life and three of them were on this trip.

 

 

This run was 4 miles long with most of it above tree-line. The lower part of the run was basically a cat track through the woods, but it was fun enough that I did it twice.

 

 

No one was above me or below me when I took this picture. I took off again and after making three or four big GS turns, I heard a small roar behind me. A bright red helicopter buzzed down the valley just off to my left. It was gone in a flash.

 

It was nearing lunchtime so I headed back to the top of the Rothorn tram to meet my wife. The day before, off the backside of the Rothorn, I had skied by a full-sized restaurant, named Fluhalp, which was basically out in the middle of nowhere. I’d tried to have lunch there but it was too busy. I was hoping that we could eat there that afternoon.

 

After meeting up with my wife we skied down to the restaurant.

 

You can see the restaurant on the right side of this picture down in the valley.

 

 

Fluhalp restaurant.

 

We had a short wait for a table, but they happily took a drink order while we waited.

 

Enjoying a drink while waiting for our table.

 

 

You can even stay there in the summer. Very cool.

 

I would say that there were easily 100+ people having lunch and or drinks. You have to ski a mile or so down a piste run to get to the restaurant with no other way to access it that I could see. Although, I did see people in street clothes, but I have no idea how they got there. You’re in this huge valley with the Matterhorn in the distance. The ambiance and views couldn’t have been better and the food was incredible.

 

Our appetizer.

 

 

Raviolis in a truffle cream sauce. This dish was phenomenal. The only problem was that it was cold outside so the dish was getting cold sooner than it normally would. Fortunately, that wasn’t too much of a problem because as soon as my wife put her fork down I swooped in.

 

 

The pasta with grilled shrimp was very tasty, but I’d give the edge to the raviolis. (I believe the fettuccine noodles were dyed with beet juice.)

 

Having worked in the restaurant business many years ago, I was amazed at the quality of the food being served in the restaurant considering its location. You’re at over 8,500 ft eating an incredible meal, with no infrastructure to easily get supplies and with absolutely nothing else around you. It was an amazing meal. Heck, just to get that much water to boil at that altitude for so many pasta dishes is a small feat.

 

With a tummy full of pasta we headed out for some more skiing. I headed to the Gant tram and my wife went off to explore some long piste runs.

 

About 3/4 of way down the face of the Gant tram I stopped and took a picture of the restaurant were we had just eaten. If you look closely you can see it just to the right of center in this picture.

 

Fluhalp restaurant off in the distance.

 

After the Gant tram, I headed skier’s left to do some more exploring. After almost seven days of skiing in eight days my legs were getting tired. These long piste runs were fun and almost no one was on them.

 

Random piste run.

 

 

Random piste run.

 

Many of the cat track like runs crossed back and forth across the mountain. It was easy to ski short off-piste sections and then get back on a piste run.

 

Piste and off-piste skiing.

 

As planned my wife headed back to the Blue Lounge to meet our new German friend we had met a few days before. This guy was great and a lot of fun to hang out with. I was talking to him a few days before and he said, “I ski a lot in Austria, but I find myself coming back to Zermatt several times a year. I just can’t get enough of that,” and points to the Matterhorn. The Matterhorn it indeed impressive and we were fortunate to have unobstructed views of it during our entire trip.

 

Our new friend - one of those people you meet half-way around the world and know that you’ll see again someday.

 

I arrived an hour later. We all sat on the deck, met some new people and enjoyed the views. The restaurant and bar was shutting down for the day and the last of the paragliders were launching.

 

Paraglider.

 

 

Paraglider.

 

 

View from the Blue Lounge. Bottom of Rothorn tram area.

 

When we were getting ready to leave we noticed two guys with toboggans, beer in hand, setting up to head down the mountain. I never saw them leave, but it was already 4:50PM. I hope they made it down without spilling their beer.

 

Two guys getting ready to head down on their toboggans.

 

We said goodbye to our new German friend and started our last run down the mountain, a 4+ mile mellow piste run.

 

As I mentioned earlier, you’ll be skiing along and suddenly come across a little restaurant or bar. We skied by several on the way down, but couldn’t pass this champagne bar up.

 

Champagne bar on the side of the trail.

 

 

Champagne bar on the side of the trail.

 

The manager of the champagne bar was from Cuba and had been working at the bar for 6 seasons. She was a very cool woman and a lot of fun to visit with. We had a glass of champagne and continued down the mountain. It was a great way to end four fantastic days of skiing.

 

Cheers to an incredibly cool time in Zermatt.

 

Conclusion:

We had a quiet night in town and went to bed early. The next morning we had breakfast, packed up our things, walked the streets of Zermatt one last time and headed to the train station, our luggage in tow.

 

Getting ready to board the train in Zermatt.

 

We caught the 11:37AM train to Visp and then transferred to another train to head to Zurich for our flight home the next day.

 

Skis on the train.

 

 

Duffle bags on the train.

 

 

Heading back down to Visp.

 

After an easy connection in Visp we had a two hour train ride to Zurich. I really enjoyed traveling by train, much more than I thought I would. The train we were on had a cafe so we headed upstairs for for a light snack. At least that was the plan until I saw basil cream raviolis on the menu. 

 

Coffee on the train.

 

 

Cheese plate on the train.

 

 

Basil Cream Raviolis.

 

 

Riding the escalator at the Zurich train station.

 

We spent a quiet night in Zurich and headed to the airport mid-morning the next day. I had such a fun time in Switzerland and in many ways it felt like a trip of a lifetime. I know we got extremely lucky with the weather, which always plays a roll, especially on ski vacations.

 

Simply put, I loved Switzerland. The Swiss are gracious hosts and I’m already looking forward to returning someday. Hopefully, soon.

 

Random Thoughts and Observations:

I wish I would have explored Italy more but two of the four days Italy was socked in. It was as if someone had drawn a line at the Matterhorn. Everything on the Italian side was in a thick cloud, everything on the Swiss side was bright and sunny. I’m sure with the ever changing weather in the Alps, the scenario is often reversed.

 

I really enjoyed Zermatt, but preferred the skiing in Verbier - In Verbier there was easier access to off-piste terrain and the off-piste terrain you had access to seemed more varied. Verbier was an outdoor enthusiast’s destination, Zermatt was more of tourist destination. Both were incredible, but as someone that was there to primarily ski, I enjoyed the skiing in Verbier more.

 

Also, and I was told this before I got to Zermatt by someone in Verbier, the runs in Zermatt were narrower. In many cases they felt like wide cat tracks. Overall, they were also flatter. I will most definitely ski Zermatt again, but next time I would bring a front-side carver ski. When in Rome…

 

Staying in a hotel in Zermatt was convenient and great way to experience the town. However, next time we would seriously consider a chalet high up in the mountains. The German gentleman we met was staying at one of the numerous on-mountain chalets and it seemed like an incredible, true Swiss way, to experience the Alps. He said your luggage was brought in by snowmobile, there where two restaurants within walking distance of his chalet and you woke in the morning, put your skis on and simply started skiing. It sounded wonderful, and incredibly peaceful.

 

As I mentioned in my Verbier trip report, in my subjective perspective, skiers skied in control. In almost seven days of skiing I didn’t see one person being brought down in a sled, nor any patrolman on the mountain.

 

There’s cell-phone coverage everywhere on the mountain. At Squaw I can’t even get a signal at Gold Coast.

 

There’s Wi-Fi in every major tram building and restaurant on the mountain. Log in once, and every time you take your phone out you’re automatically logged in.

 

Equipment:

I took a pair of Kastle FX 94 (176cm). They were great for Verbier, but I didn’t like them for Zermatt. As mentioned above, the runs in Zermatt were narrower and overall, flatter. I have a pair of Head I.SuperShape Rally’s that would have been a much better choice for Zermatt.


Edited by ProLeisure - 3/21/16 at 10:22am
post #2 of 18

awesome trip report - thank you

post #3 of 18

Wow.  That's all I can say.  Amazing photos and the size (and infrastructure) of the ski area is beyond comprehension.  I so badly want to visit the Alps and ski them just to experience the cultural uniqueness compared to what we are used to here in the States.

post #4 of 18

Great report, always interesting to see the different perspectives. I am going to Zermatt in 2017, but now you have me second guessing myself with the glowing report on Verbier!

post #5 of 18

You've actually inspired my wife and I to consider a trip there next year, instead of what we did have planned (I think the Champagne Bar was what tipped the scale LOL). Would you share the hotel you stayed at so we can check into it?  Thanks

post #6 of 18
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by One21Fifteen View Post
 

Great report, always interesting to see the different perspectives. I am going to Zermatt in 2017, but now you have me second guessing myself with the glowing report on Verbier!

One21Fifteen, Zermatt and Verbier were incredible and I will return to both. For skiing I just preferred the terrain and ski town "vibe" a bit more in Verbier.

 

 

 

Quote:
Originally Posted by NJskier164 View Post
 

You've actually inspired my wife and I to consider a trip there next year, instead of what we did have planned (I think the Champagne Bar was what tipped the scale LOL). Would you share the hotel you stayed at so we can check into it?  Thanks

NJskier164, the Champagne Bar is a definite scale tipper. It was a fun, funky little bar and a great way to end day of skiing.

 

The hotel we stayed at was Hotel Garni Testa Grigia. It was nice and centrally located on the main street. My sense is that you can stay anywhere in Zermatt and get around easily. Everything is a 10 minute walk. When I go back I'll opt to stay closer to the Alpen-Metro (funicular) or the Blatten tram just because it's an easier walk in ski boots.

post #7 of 18

Thanks for the info.  That at least gives me a frame of reference for location and prices.  

post #8 of 18
This looks intriguing as a 30th anniversary trip for the wife and I next year. That would be early April, but On the Snow still shows good conditions. I always thought I'd just take my boots to Europe and rent skis for the available conditions. This seems to be a common approach in Europe. Did you consider this option and do you think it would work well? Lots of shops with affordable rentals near the lifts?
post #9 of 18
Quote:
Originally Posted by XLTL View Post

This looks intriguing as a 30th anniversary trip for the wife and I next year. That would be early April, but On the Snow still shows good conditions. I always thought I'd just take my boots to Europe and rent skis for the available conditions. This seems to be a common approach in Europe. Did you consider this option and do you think it would work well? Lots of shops with affordable rentals near the lifts?

Define 'affordable'...

 

top end skis will go for 150 Euro a pair for a week (7 days), give or take. In Switzerland, this might be a bit steeper, I think. And in Swiss Francs of course.

post #10 of 18
Quote:
Originally Posted by Cheizz View Post

Define 'affordable'...

top end skis will go for 150 Euro a pair for a week (7 days), give or take. In Switzerland, this might be a bit steeper, I think. And in Swiss Francs of course.

So $170-200 per week. I guess that would depend on the cost of baggage for a pair of skis flying from Philadelphia to Zurich, and the PITA factor as well. Just food for thought...
post #11 of 18
Quote:
Originally Posted by Cheizz View Post
 

Define 'affordable'...

 

top end skis will go for 150 Euro a pair for a week (7 days), give or take. In Switzerland, this might be a bit steeper, I think. And in Swiss Francs of course.

Ski rentals in Europe are cheap by any measure, it's brutally expensive stateside.

 

Tremendous trip report, Pro-Leisure. great images, brought back memories, as then 10 year old took Dad to Zermatt, think we skied every single piste run there was and about 2/3rd of Cervinia. Great narrative, good writer you are indeed. 

post #12 of 18
Ski rentals at Aspen are $73/day before $5 damage waiver. That's from the Mt at Highlands. I think I paid 161 Ch Francs for 5 days in Verbier. -Atomic slaloms, K2 90 Rictor xti. The K2's were basically new, the slaloms not so much. (One was the worst tuned carver I've ever been on) They can get pricier I think at other stores.
In Chamonix it was like 31 Euros Kastle Fx85.

If you're used to the tuning standards of many VT shops- skis tuned every night, you will not get that in Europe based on my very limited experience. Now maybe there are places you can get it, don't know. I would take tuning gear if you do that normally. Aspens skis would get no prize in tuning either btw. Well except for attitude. ( The usual- customer is a moron)
post #13 of 18

Tignes val Claret - I mention in a now ancient trip report, unlimited swaps, excellent quality of carvers to powder skis, my skis were perhaps 35 EUR per day, and my boy's were 30EUR, I forget but half of general stateside experience. I don't know how to tune skis, and in Tignes-Val Claret, never thought of tuning anything, just rolled out of bed and was on mountain. So Tog, I am the 'usual' customer !-) and your experience like mine, ski rentals cost 50% less than stateside, lessons are the same, groups or privates and so on...

post #14 of 18

That's a long way to go and risk having a bad day while sorting out skis you don't like. I learned my lesson on that the hard way.  Unless it's a bonus day I manage to get on a business trip, my skis come with me.  That way I know what I've got from first run to last.

post #15 of 18
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by XLTL View Post

This looks intriguing as a 30th anniversary trip for the wife and I next year. That would be early April, but On the Snow still shows good conditions. I always thought I'd just take my boots to Europe and rent skis for the available conditions. This seems to be a common approach in Europe. Did you consider this option and do you think it would work well? Lots of shops with affordable rentals near the lifts?

 

XLTL, I did consider demoing/renting skis, but after hearing it was fairly easy to travel with skis, (If you have a roller ski bag) I decided to bring our skis and it worked out fine. I did enjoy skiing on skis I was familiar with, especially in Verbier.

 

I didn’t check pricing for demoing skis, but there were a lot of shops, many demoing high end skis like Stockli, that you could rent/demo from. I wouldn’t hesitate to travel with just my boots if I didn’t want or couldnt't travel with skis.

 

With that said, about the only regret I have, especially in Zermatt, was not demoing piste specific skis. I prefer to ski off-piste, and did mostly that, but we had great weather and some good piste conditions and spending a day or two on a pair of high performance carving specific skis would have been an absolute blast. In Zermatt there was a new Swiss manufacturer demoing their skis mid-mountain one day. (I believe they were new, I don't remember the name.) I should have taken advantage of the opportunity, but didn’t.

post #16 of 18
Was that manufacturer Exonde?

http://www.xo-ski.com/index-en.html

They also come in bright green and pink and maybe more.
Totem Pole in Ludlow, VT demos them and sells them. This year was too crappy and I never got time. Light, no metal. Relatively stout but flexible. That would jave been fun on piste in Zermatt.
Btw, if you rent in Zermatt...I had recimmended to me Ski Service. They're on the main st. But they alao have a place at Les Ruinettes. (that's a place on mt at the top of the main lift from town for those who haven't been) So you can take the gondola up and visit them. Leave skis up there at night or switch models. Nice folks.
post #17 of 18
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by Tog View Post

Was that manufacturer Exonde?

http://www.xo-ski.com/index-en.html

They also come in bright green and pink and maybe more.
Totem Pole in Ludlow, VT demos them and sells them. This year was too crappy and I never got time. Light, no metal. Relatively stout but flexible.

 

I'm almost positive those are them. (I only remember seeing the black models in the demo hut.) Now I really regret not demoing them.

post #18 of 18
Quote:
Originally Posted by Tog View Post


Btw, if you rent in Zermatt...I had recimmended to me Ski Service. They're on the main st. But they alao have a place at Les Ruinettes. (that's a place on mt at the top of the main lift from town for those who haven't been) So you can take the gondola up and visit them. Leave skis up there at night or switch models. Nice folks.

 

I think Ski Service is in Verbier <http://www.skiservice.com/en>. 

 

In Zermatt I've rented from Stoked and Bayard Sports. I checked out almost all the ski rental places and prices are very competitive, and a lot cheaper than most US resorts. At Bayard I rented Stockli AX and SX skis for CHF287 for 12 days. At that time the exchange rate was just about even, so $24 per day. 

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