Zermatt is commonly regarded as one of the best ski towns in the world, offering fabulous skiing, stupendous scenery and an extensive variety of high-quality restaurants and hotels. There has been a settlement here since the Middle Ages, with the first tourists flocking to the area in 1838. The town retains its traditional charm to this day with it being car-free, which creates a wonderfully relaxed and peaceful atmosphere and allows visitors to enjoy the clear mountain air. 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. Wander off the main Bahnhofstrasse and you will quickly be walking beside ancient wooden “mazot” huts filled with farm animals and hay.
The magnificent Matterhorn is sufficient reason in itself to visit Zermatt. This distinctive pyramidal peak has become Switzerland's trademark around the globe. 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. At an altitude of 3,883m, the Matterhorn Ski Paradise is Switzerland's highest ski area; guaranteeing fabulous conditions all season long which truly live up to the magic of the town.
Resort Altitude: 1,620m
Resort Skiing: 3,820m
Total Ski Area: 362km
Blue Runs: 72km
Red Runs: 226km
Black Runs: 64km
Cross Country: 12km
The Matterhorn Ski Paradise is comprised of 362km of runs which are connected by ultra-modern, high-speed lifts and cable cars, including the recently opened Matterhorn glacier ride. Skiers and boarder flock to Zermatt for miles of fantastically maintained sun-kissed pistes which are coated in unbeatable powder. The ski area is comprised of four key sectors; Rothorn, Gornergrat, Matterhorn Glacier Paradise and Schwarzsee, all of which are interconnected, and all except Schwarzee have top lifts reaching over 3,000m.
The vast ski area accessible from Zermatt provides plenty of varied terrain. The high-speed Sunnegga Express funicular links to a multitude of red runs, including the long cruise from Rothorn on to Gant. Advanced skiers will enjoy the south-facing itinerary Paradies freeride run in this area, which takes you from Blauherd down to Findeln. Another thrilling descent can be had on the Kleine Matterhorn, where you descend from Europe's highest pistes at 3,820km on a 21km track all the way back into resort.
The Matterhorn Ski Paradise is well suited to experienced boarders, who will enjoy features such as the SnowPark Zermatt on the Kleine Matterhorn, regarded as one of the best freestyle parks in Europe. In addition to this, there are 38km of freeride routes on offer, most of which are within the Stockhorn or Schwarzsee areas and offer plenty of couloirs and thrilling descents. The terrain best suited to beginners can be found in the Gornergrat area, which has a nice run leading back to the village.
Zermatt boasts a selection of nine ski schools to choose between, the largest of which is the original Swiss Ski School which offers private or group lessons to students of all abilities. Summit Ski School is a British establishment promising English speaking instructors and offering group lessons to children aged six to twelve on a half or full day basis. Matterhorn Diamonds is a small private school with instructors who have at least five years of experience teaching within the Zermatt and Cervinia area.
The Swiss Ski School run the Snowli Kids Village at Riffelberg for children aged three to five years, with a special Kids Train to transport them there each day from the meeting area at the tourist office. Children can learn to ski within a 3,500m beginners area offering fantastic fairy-tale figures, magic carpet conveyor belts, a merry-go-round and dedicated children's lifts.
Zermatt offers over 40 phenomenal mountain restaurants which have led to the resort being regarded as the dining capital of the Alps. Booking in advance is essential, especially when heading to popular destinations such as the Fluhalp on the Sunnegga side which serves culinary delights from its lively sun terrace, and Findlerhof which serves first-rate lamb fillet. Down in the town you will find plenty of choices, ranging from stupendous grilled meats at Le Gitan to exciting Teppanyaki at the Fuji of Zermatt.
Zermatt offers a varied and lively après scene. The packed Papperla Pub is a key meeting point straight off the slopes, especially on Tuesday nights when there is live music on offer. A classy hotspot can be found at The Vernissage, which is a modern bar-gallery-cinema designed by a local artist. There are plenty of late night drinking spots, ranging from the cocktail lounge bar at Hotel Alex to the disco at T-Bar in Hotel Pollux, which has ski-lift decor including wonderful old chairlift seats.
Zermatt is instantly appealing to non-skiers because it manages to combine the charm of a traditional Alpine village with the shopping and infrastructure of a small town. The main street, the Bahnhofstrasse, bustles all day long and is lined with cafes and restaurants complete with glorious sun terraces. Thanks to its mountain railway system, Zermatt offers non-skiers unparalleled access to the mountain terrain and restaurants, making it easy for groups to reconvene for a leisurely midday meal.