Zermatt is one of the most iconic and well-known ski resorts in the world, made famous through the climbing exploits of the British mountaineer Edward Whymper who was the first to successfully scale the Matterhorn in 1865. Since then it has become a hugely popular ski resort as well as summer climbing hot-spot.
Location: Zermatt is high in the Swiss Alps in the Valais canton and borders Italy with Cervinia within skiing distance
Getting there: Rail – The ‘romantic’ way to travel, make the most of Switzerland’s legendary rail system and relax on a scenic journey by train. Zermatt is easily accessible from Zurich or Geneva, with trains leaving directly from both airports and with only one change. From Zurich it takes 3 ½ hours, from Geneva 4.
Car – One of Zermatt’s many charms is that there are no cars allowed in the village aside from the golf-buggy style electric carts. This means that if you do travel by car to Zermatt then you need to park in Täsch (there’s a multi-storey car park at the station) and then trundle up to Zermatt in the local train.
Where to stay: Value – A slight oxymoron when Zermatt is concerned as the chocolate box village and incredible panoramas do come at a price! Zermatt is not the place to head to on a budget but for a reasonably priced option, check out Hotel Perren. It offers very comfortable living, buffet breakfasts to get you going and half board; five course dinners await you at night.
Money No object – if you are looking to push the boat out (and why not, this is the perfect place to do just that!) then look no further than the Heinz Julen Penthouse. Designed and built by the Zermatt legend Heinz Julen – who is an eccentric and hugely talented designer born and bred in Zermatt – this place cannot fail to impress!
Highlights: Where to start…probably the highlight of Zermatt is the panoramic views that assault your senses from all angles. The Matternorn dominates the sky-line but there is a cluster of other 4,000 + metre peaks that provide a spectacular backdrop to the skiing.
Downsides: Zermatt was not purpose built so at times it can be frustrating logistics connecting between ski areas. But the lift system has been vastly improved in the last 5 years so accessibility has opened up.
Best piste run: The National (just down from Blauherd) is a Zermatt classic famed for hosting the down-hill races. It’s a steep, rolling run through the trees and is best tackled non-stop to really get the thighs burning.
Best mountain restaurant: Franz & Heidi’s is a wonderfully rustic farm building, with a magnificent view of the Matterhorn. It serves up a delicious mixture of local ‘Alpine’ food such as rosti with lamb, garlic soup and some more contemporary dishes such as their special, (my favourite) with asparagus, prawns and beef Carpaccio – heaven on a plate!
Best restaurant in town: The Gitan Grill feels like it hasn’t changed in years. The wonderful Silvio is the head waiter who oozes charm and has been a feature at the Gitan for as long as we can remember. The restaurant (part of the Darioli Hotel) is intimate and snug, with cave like walls and a big open fire as its centrepiece. You can’t go wrong with anything from the grill but the rack of lamb for two is a house speciality worth attempting.
Best après bar: It has to be the one and only Hennu Stall – or Chicken Hut. Situated on the side of the piste, just before you hit Zermatt (skiing down from the Matterhorn / glacier side), you can’t miss it. Prepare to dance like your dad to the live band and party with locals and punters alike.
Best off piste run: The back bowls of Triftji offers some easy access powder skiing when the conditions are right. You can usually ski a number of great pitches of un-tracked powder if you get up early and are ahead of the crowds. As ever, we recommend skiing off piste with all the right kit, and preferably with a guide (see below).
Best guide: Anjan Truffer is a fantastic local Zermatt guide with oodles of international experience. Although Anjan spends a big chunk of time as a heli ski guide in Canada and many other of the top heli ski destinations in the world, he always spends time guiding a lucky few in and around his home mountain in Zermatt.
Looking for an off piste skiing adventure in Zermatt? Let us know! We can help plan every aspect of your off piste skiing and all that comes with it. Contact the heli skiing and off piste skiing experts at Pure Powder!