One of the best ski towns in the world with fabulous skiing, scenery, hotels, restaurants and bars.
To describe Zermatt merely as a ski resort is to sell it short: this is an alpine village – small town, in fact – which is as alive in summer as it is in winter. There has been a settlement here since the Middle Ages and its first three tourist beds opened up for summer visitors in 1838. The Matterhorn itself is sufficient reason to visit Zermatt. This distinctive pyramidal peak has become Switzerland's trademark around the globe. No other mountain has such power to mesmerise. Wherever you are on the slopes or in the village, you cannot resist regular glances to see how its appearance is changing according to the light and the cloud conditions.
Magical Zermatt has always been car-free, so visitors have to be prepared to walk a bit, but enjoy breathing clear mountain air. In any case, nowadays free electric buses connect all the main lift stations on the valley floor and there are plenty of milk float-style electric taxis for hire. The lack of cars also helps to give this large, sprawling resort a very human feel. Wander off the main Bahnhofstrasse and you will quickly be walking beside ancient wooden “mazot” huts filled with farm animals and hay.
Incidentally, in the 1980s and the early 1990s some British visitors were deterred from choosing Zermatt and other Swiss resorts because of a perception of very high prices. Whilst it cannot be denied that the resort is, once again, expensive, it still represents great value for the exceptional experience that is Zermatt. Many of these people have now seen the error of their ways and realised that Zermatt and similar Swiss places deliver an alpine ambience and all-round quality of ski holiday that even the best French resorts cannot match. Furthermore, a family holiday in a four-star hotel here can often work out considerably cheaper than an equivalent one in the French Alps. One explanation for this is that family lift pass discounts are more generous than those normally found in France.