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Vail or Zermatt?

post #1 of 19
Thread Starter 

I'm going to Zermatt for the first time this year, and I wanted to know how it compares to Vail. I'm an advance skier, and I mainly have to stay on piste. Is there any difficult on piste terrain in Zermatt? Which mountain is harder and overall better? 

post #2 of 19

Zermatt no question.  You can ski where ever you want on the mountain and if you get hurt you can't sue them!  Beyond that; Zermatt real town, Vail is created; Zermatt is wide open terrain where killing yourself is very possible, Vail has regulated terrain and if you are caught off-piste you could loose your lift ticket. In Zermatt you can get lost very easily on the mountain, if Vail you really have to work at getting lost.

 

Frankly this is like comparing apples & oranges; they are both fruit and that's about it.....

post #3 of 19
Thread Starter 

Zermatt sounds way worse in that discription.

post #4 of 19

Zermatt has plenty of terrain for ALL levels of skier. There are incredible long, easy groomers, long, challenging descents; you name it, it's there.

 

As far as "better", it's a personal opinion, but I much prefer Zermatt. Bigger, crazy off-piste, European food.  I'll agree it's hard to compare the 2, very different places.

post #5 of 19

http://www.epicski.com/forum/thread/89239/zermatt-not-my-kind-of-skiing

 

>Which mtn is harder and overall better?

Zermatt is certainly better, it is huge.  Try to take all the cable cars and most of the lifts and the surface train to Gornergat.  It's an overall outrageous skiing experience.  How are you getting there, the train ride up the valley is pretty neat.  Zermatt is tucked about 20-30 miles up some valley at the base of huge mtns.  The vertical drop is 7200ft!  Also, make sure you take the cable car to the top that goes right into the rock on top of the mtn, then you take an elevator up to a high point.  Hopefully you'll have a few clear days to view the Matterhorn. I'm just guessing but there may something like 100 miles of skiing, or likely more. 

 

Map - http://www.piste-maps.co.uk/Portals/0/Piste-Maps/Switzerland/Zermatt-Piste-Map-Large.jpg

The real experts area is below Stockhorn, but it wasn't open when I was there, a liftie said it doesn't open until Febuary, until the sun gets higher and starts to loosen it up, apparently it is very steep and build up big bad moguls.

 

If you haven't skied Europe you might be surprised that all of the skiing is between these orange poles spaced 100 ft apart on every single run.  This is called the "piste".  "Off-piste" is an entirely different matter.  Apparently, although there are not liability issues or fine if you venture outside the orange poles, you are not covered by the ski patrol and you would get a hefty bill to be rescued, even a short ways out of the poles.  When I was there I didn't venture outside the poles.  It is a glacial mtn with rocks all over the place off-piste, big ones, and you really shouldn't venture off-piste w/o a guide, because you would likely get trapped somewhere or put yourself in danger.  Because up on top you are skiing on a glacier, there could easily be unmarked crevasses and mortal danger. 

 

When I was there, there wasn't one single mogul field on the entire mtn.   There were some steep patches in places, but overall most of the slopes were wide and groomed flat.  Just about everything was open, even though it was only mid-December. 

 

Don't take my report the wrong way.  It was great to ski there and I completely enjoyed my 3 day stay. I was just surprised at the lack of more advanced skiing and no mogul fields.  You will enjoy your stay too!  If you have a few extra bucks and days it would probably be worthwhile to hire a guide and ski off-piste for a day or more.  But my stay was too short to have time to bother with that, I wanted to explore the entire mountain and I did.


Edited by SnowbirdDevotee - 11/11/10 at 2:19pm
post #6 of 19

Vail was designed after Zermatt, hence the narrow streets and no traffic in Vail. If you are looking for the bumps, they are on the Triftji lift which is off the Gorgergrat cable car. Word to the wise, I did make the "mistake" of skiing hard all day & then deciding to ski from the top down to the village. Yep, 7,200 vert is a long way for the last run of the day.

 

Hard to say which one is better since it really depends on what you are trying to get out of the trip. Also, for almost any ski trip, a fun & great trip usually equates to how much snow you got when you were there. Zermatt dwarfs Vail with the amount of terrain available. You can  then ski over the sadle into Italy & Cervina for at least a day. In terms of beauty, you've got the Matterhorn right there, along with tremendous views from the top.

 

A guide is a good idea as they will be able to take you quickly to the best snow for your ability.

 

post #7 of 19

I last skied Zermatt in 1980.  From what I gather, nothing has really changed.  It is unique in ski areas.  Everyone knows there are no vehicles allowed in Zermatt so, if your spouse or girlfriend are with you, it can be a very romantic trip. You can walk to most everything or taxi's, (horse drawn sleighs), are available. One huge difference in skiing Europe is if you ski from the top of the Klein Matterhorn all the way to the village, it is a long-g-g-g-g way.  Snow quality is far better in Vail. Nothing can touch the scenery of a Swiss village.  Oh I almost forgot, the pastries are out of this world.  You should have a wonderful time.

post #8 of 19

Wondering if you all thought Zermatt would be a fitting mountain to go to for mid-late twenty year old men who have never skied in Europe before? We are all advanced level skiers and would be looking to ski a bit, party a bit, and take in some culture. Obviously there are many choices, how does Zermatt compare to others? If we were not able to do another trip to Europe for 10 years or so, where would you suggest? Broad question I know....any comments would be helpful...

post #9 of 19

hire a guide for at least one day.Its very different than US.The only way to go off piste for a newbie and will  show you the best eats as well as the best lines.

post #10 of 19

Rootsar had some great advice that I forgot to mention.  A guide if you try to ski off-piste.  We skied at an area in France and came upon a cliff with a drop of over 600 ft.  No ropes!  The great thing about Europe is the culture, especially at areas like Zermatt that have such a rich history.  You will find a younger clientle though at someplace like Grindlewald or some of the lesser known areas. St. Moritz, Zermatt and the older areas are generally frequented by an older crowd. I am old-fashioned anyway so when I was in Zermatt in my twenties, I loved it.  Innsbruck, Kitzbuel, etc are also other areas with history.  Go to Alpe-Duez, (not sure of the spelling) in France. It took two trams and a platterpull to get to the top and a 45 minute run to get to the bottom.  The vertical in Europe is astonishing but the snow is still better in the American West especially Utah.

post #11 of 19

SkiThaTrees: I think Zermatt would be fun, but also check out St Anton in Austria, which is known for having one of, if not the best apre ski in the Alps. Chamonix would be good bet as well.

post #12 of 19
Quote:
Originally Posted by SkiThaTrees View Post


Wondering if you all thought Zermatt would be a fitting mountain to go to for mid-late twenty year old men who have never skied in Europe before? We are all advanced level skiers and would be looking to ski a bit, party a bit, and take in some culture. Obviously there are many choices, how does Zermatt compare to others? If we were not able to do another trip to Europe for 10 years or so, where would you suggest? Broad question I know....any comments would be helpful...






Ski wise - sure. Atmosphere wise - meh. It is more German. Cham is a sort of glitzy alpine French. Verbier is just a bunch of kick ass. If it were late 20's Verbier is where I'd head. Better terrain IMHO and scene. Not just nightlife but the whole vibe. But really, you can't go wrong and I LOVED Zermatt.
post #13 of 19
Quote:
Originally Posted by JHoback View Post

SkiThaTrees: I think Zermatt would be fun, but also check out St Anton in Austria, which is known for having one of, if not the best apre ski in the Alps. Chamonix would be good bet as well.



 



Quote:
Originally Posted by Que View Post





Ski wise - sure. Atmosphere wise - meh. It is more German. Cham is a sort of glitzy alpine French. Verbier is just a bunch of kick ass. If it were late 20's Verbier is where I'd head. Better terrain IMHO and scene. Not just nightlife but the whole vibe. But really, you can't go wrong and I LOVED Zermatt.



As these guys said, St. Anton or Verbier. Great skiing and lots of partying.

post #14 of 19

I prefer Vail for pure skiing and quality of snow. The off piste skiing at Zermatt was marginal when I was there. Skiing down these marked lanes was boring at Zermatt. The cost was out of control. I cant believe I am saying that Vail was by far the better value. If you want the Europe experience then its ok but dont expect the quality of ski to be all that great. 

post #15 of 19

Cross over from Zermatt to Cervinia for a day to get a taste of Italian style.

post #16 of 19

Both places will empty your pockets, although from what I hear Zermatt will make Vail seem cheap in comparison.

post #17 of 19

If you are not comfortable off piste, Vail would probably be a more enjoyable experience.  U.S. groomed trails are much different from European pistes.  As mentioned before, in most of Europe, you are skiing on a rock-hard ribbon packed in with thousands of other skiers while powder sits untouched next to you.  The groomed terrain at Vail and most U.S. mountains is a much nicer experience.  Recommendation: Go to Europe (Zermatt, Chamonix or St. Anton) when your skills have advanced to the point you are comfortable on steeper, ungroomed terrain.  If you are locked into your trip, however, accept the ski terrain limitations and go for the experience of the vastness, spectacular scenery and the different food and culture.  Good luck!

post #18 of 19

To the OP, I have done both on piste and guided off piste in Zermatt.  I was somewhat disappointed by the on piste offerings.  The huge vertical is somewhat misleading as the highest terrain is mainly blue cruisers and the last 2,000 feet down at the end of the day isn't much fun - glorified catwalks that get crowded and iced up.  The best terrain at Zermatt tends to be serviced by poma lifts, which is an inconvenience.  The lift system at Zermatt could use updating.  The overall Zermatt experience is great, however.  Should be on every skier's bucket list.

 

Some other posters offered alternative suggestions.  One name not mentioned is my favorite place in Europe (indeed, the world), Val D'Isere, France.  

post #19 of 19

Just to note: the OP in this thread was almost two years ago.

 

I've skied several days at both Vail and Zermatt.  I'd gladly go back to either if the opportunity presented itself.  They're quite different in terms of the skiing.

 

Quote:
[In Zermatt] You can ski where ever you want on the mountain and if you get hurt you can't sue them!  ...Zermatt is wide open terrain where killing yourself is very possible, Vail has regulated terrain and if you are caught off-piste you could loose your lift ticket.

 

This is really misleading.  European areas do almost no avi control or patrolling 'off-piste', so venturing off the beaten path can be a fun adventure... or a good way to get yourself killed if you don't know where you are going and what you are doing.  Even pitches between marked trails are technically 'out of bounds'.  Guides are highly recommended, but not cheap.

 

US resorts do have areas that are 'closed' (some permanently, some day-to-day based on snow conditions), and you aren't allowed to ski in those.  But Vail has ENORMOUS (thousands of acres) areas of patrolled, avi-controlled 'off-piste' terrain where you can ski to your heart's content.  It's not a good idea to ski alone off-piste due to hazards like tree wells, but you don't need a professional mountaineering guide to explore most of what Vail has to offer.

 

Zermatt can get some great snow (and it's glacier near the top on Klein Matterhorn, so there's always snow up there), but there's more consistent powder in Colorado.

 

Zermatt has a huge advertised vertical, but as pointed out above, several thousand feet of that near the bottom are either icy cat-tracks or green trails.  It's also REALLY spread out, and kind of a pain to get from one area to another, often requiring several lift rides and trips down cat-tracks.  In practice if you want a bunch of runs you'll be picking one area and lapping the upper half of it.  If you're sticking to the pistes at Zermatt then IMO there's no comparison in the skiing.  Vail has enormous, wide-open bowls on the backside and a crazy variety of groomed terrain.  Plus there are half a dozen other fantastic resorts within an hour's drive in CO.

 

Zermatt is also crazy expensive, especially with the current exchange rates.  The Swiss Franc is very strong right now.  Staying in Vail Village is also pricey, but you can also find cheaper housing at a reasonable distance.

 

Even with all that, Zermatt has picture-postcard views and historic buildings everywhere.  The village is a real town and not a strip mall with condos -- even if most of the working stiffs have to commute up the valley by train because they can't afford to live in Zermatt itself.  Feels a lot more authentic, and the food's definitely a lot better.

 

As mentioned above, it's something for the bucket list, but if your focus is on SKIING you'll probably get a far better value in the Western US.  If you want a luxury European vacation in the mountains, well, that's another story.  smile.gif

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