- Ski resort
" Picture Perfect
By Robert Choquette, Co-founder and former Editor of Skier Magazine and Marilyn Griffiths, Special Contributor
We’ve always enjoyed travelling by train in Europe. It’s efficient, fast, and comfortable. So, when heading for Zermatt, there was no question how we’d get there from Zurich. And, even if we had wanted to drive, this little Swiss town happens to be a car-free zone. This means that, regardless of whether you take public transportation or drive your own vehicle, you must switch over to a train or taxi once you get to Täsch in order to make your way that last five kilometers up into a semi-pedestrian world (we’ll call it “semi” because of the prevalence of golf-cart-like vehicles buzzing around!).
By far the best-known ski destination in Switzerland, this picturesque town is dominated by the iconic, snowcapped Matterhorn looming above. It doesn’t matter whether you’re at the terrace of one of Zermatt’s numerous cafés and restaurants or if you’re on the slopes, the Matterhorn is right there in full view. Just like the postcard.
Our hotel rep was there at the train station with a miniscule electric vehicle to take us, and our bags, to our lodgings. Since we’d reserved our high-performance skis online, we didn’t have to worry about travelling with bulky ski bags. While our luggage rode, we chose to walk; a chance to take in our surroundings. Upscale boutiques, cafés and bars line Bahnhofstrasse, Zermatt’s main street, but we headed down narrow side streets to seep in the more traditional atmosphere.
Of the three distinct ski areas surrounding Zermatt, for our first day on the slopes, we decided to head for the central area, the Gornergrat. It’s served by a cog railway, taking about half an hour to reach the top. The terrain is not as extensive as the other areas, but its open snowfields are well worth it even if simply for the spectacular view of the glacier that’s visible from here. There’s also a good chance you’ll spot the resident wild mountain sheep too.
Every on-slope day should definitely include a lunch stop at an on-mountain restaurant. Sprinkled throughout the region, these individual establishments have a long history of providing good food to hungry guests. Blatten is a prime example of a long-standing traditional alpine restaurant that has been welcoming visitors since 1850. The Sunnegga, Zermatt’s second area, has the quickest slope access via a high-speed underground funicular. It’s the area to head to in bad weather since there are plenty of tree-lined runs to aid visibility.
On one particular morning of our trip, it dawned a perfect bluebird day. Just right for the third and largest area, the Klein Matterhorn. Here a cable car scoops skiers to the area around the Matterhorn itself. It’s at the highest altitude, has the most extensive terrain and the snow is often best here. We skied right across the top, out of Switzerland and headed down around the back of the Matterhorn into Cervinia, for a little lunch— Italian style. The trick here is to get back to Switzerland before the lifts close. On our way down, we skied into Hennue Stall, probably the most lively on-slope après-ski stop. Too tired to dance, we finished our pint, put our skis on and headed back to the hotel for dinner. We were early to bed, hoping also to be early to rise! After all, every day is a new adventure in this idyllic Swiss town!"
Author: Michel Côté