Most are familiar with Zermatt whether they’ve heard of the tiny village or not. Switzerland’s iconic Matterhorn mountain peak rises up over the village and its image has been featured in Ricola commercials and slapped on every Toblerone chocolate bar for years. There is probably no mountain on earth with a more picturesque peak.
Naturally, to see the mountain in person was on our bucket list and it had been ever since our first Toblerone as children. With that in mind, it was an easy decision to add Zermatt to the list of destinations in Switzerland on our European ski tour. Our arrival to the Swiss village was late in the evening, so when we opened our hotel room window and looked up to see the sun setting on the mountain peak it took our breath away.
In spite of traveling so much of the world, there are those moments that still make us go “whoa!” What made it all better is that we would spend the next three days snowboarding and skiing in Zermatt. Along with being a picturesque mountain village, Zermatt is known to have one of the best ski resorts in the world.
An Introduction to Zermatt
Ski and Snowboard in Zermatt
One of the main reasons people flock to Zermatt from all over the world is the incredible ski and snowboarding. Zermatt is the highest ski resort in Europe, envelops two countries, has 99% guaranteed snow, and is open 365 days a year. If you are a ski or snowboard enthusiast a ski trip to Zermatt should be on your bucket list.
We spent three jam-packed days skiing in Zermatt and I can say with certainty that the area is one of the most jaw-dropping and extensive ski areas in the world. It’s not common to be intimidated by ski resorts, but the mountains here are huge and butterflies in the stomach are common for every skill level.
Never fear though Zermatt boasts 360 km of groomed pistes, suitable for every level and showcasing a wide range of terrain. The Snowpark Zermatt is accessible via cable car and offers freestyle skiers and snowboarders unparalleled views of the Matterhorn with a world-class park. Ski touring, free-riding and heliskiing are all also popular activities in Switzerland’s most famous town. Zermatt is world famous for its long ski runs, and some point between 2500 and 3900 meters I wondered if I would ever reach the bottom of the run. It is a skiers dream with so many freeride possibilities and pistes. All of this unfolds under the watchful gaze of the Matterhorn that dominates the landscape.
Perhaps one of the most interesting and intriguing aspects of skiing in Zermatt is the fact that you can literally start your ski day in Switzerland and ski or board right down into Italy for lunch.Zermatt’s ski area expands across Switzerland and Italy.
Access to both the Swiss and Italian ski area is doable with the Ski Pass International which gives access to pistes in both Zermatt and Breuil-Cervinia ski resort. The other great thing about this two country one ski area thing is that you can save a little money on food! Everyone knows how expensive Switzerland is, and here you can ride right into Italy for a cheaper cappuccino or panini.
We made sure to take full advantage of this while boarding in Switzerland. One word of advice, make sure you are in the right country before they close the lifts otherwise you’ll be staying in a different country for the night. We had only three nights and two days in Zermatt, but I would recommend at least five to ski the mountain and not feel rushed. There is just so much to explore.
The Matterhorn rises up in a pyramidal peak 4,478 meters over Switzerland and Italy. Making it one of the highest summits in Europe. It’s a breathtaking mountain and has captivated all that have laid eyes on the mountain. It can be seen from Zermatt, the Italian town of Breuil-Cervini, and the Canton of Valais (we saw it from Mont Fort!). Almost every day there are people climbing it, but over 500 people have died while attempting the feat. For skilled climbers, it takes 8-10 hours to summit the North Peak.
I wish I could tell you first-hand information about climbing the Matterhorn. However, I prefer to keep my feet firmly on the ground or attached to a snowboard. You don’t have to climb the Matterhorn to enjoy the views. From many mountain huts and points in Zermatt, you can see the world’s most iconic mountain and there are many points where you can ski right next to it!
Apres Ski in Zermatt
If it’s not the Matterhorn, the car-free town, or the pistes that draw you to Zermatt then let me introduce you to the world of Apres Ski. According to Ditionary.com, the definition of Apres Ski is “social activities and entertainment following a day’s skiing.” And there are not many places in Europe that do Apres Ski better than Zermatt.
The village is known for its fun crowds and live bands. It’s considered one of the best party ski resorts in Switzerland. At the end of every day on the mountain skiers and boarders from everywhere come to gather at some of the many mountain huts at the base of the Matterhorn. Try out Hennu Stall, Cervo, or Elsie’s Bar!
The Zermatt Village
Young, old, skiers, or just casual vacationers in search of a charming Swiss atmosphere head to this mountain village. The village of Zermatt has been drawing people in since the early 1800’s. What was once a poor farming village is now one of Europe’s most posh places to vacation. The center caters to all and has everything you could need – boutique hotels, designer shops, Michelin starred restaurants, adventure sports shops, grocery stores, bars, and stunning views.
Walking around this car-free village felt just like a fairy tale and I feel spoiled to enjoy it on our first ski trip around the world. The town is walkable and well worth a daytime or nighttime stroll. Due to building ordinances, the modern town still feels like a journey back in time. We had fun searching for old-style Swiss homes and watching the ice skaters under the starry sky.
How to get to Zermatt
As mentioned before Zermatt is a completely car-free village to ensure a great atmosphere and fresh mountain air. However, there are e-buses and e-taxis to get people around. The buses are free while the taxis will cost you an arm and a leg. The best way to get to Zermatt is via train. Switzerland has an extensive rail network and the Glacier Express runs right into Zermatt.
It’s also possible to catch the train from just about anywhere in Switzerland via a number of transfers. Train travel is super easy in Switzerland and how we chose to get around, that way you can just look out the window and admire the views without a care in the world. If you choose to drive in you’ll have to park your car in a parking garage in Täsch and continue onwards by train.
Other things to do in Zermatt
Zermatt is a year-round destination and as popular as it is in the winter, I think it draws even more people in in the summer. Other activities besides ski include:
- Snowshoe trails
- 70 km of hiking trails
- Cross country ski
- Ice skate
- Visit the Igloo Village
- Moutain bike
- Climb 4000-meter mountains
- Enjoy 21 km of slopes still!
- Enjoy the alpine lakes
Zermatt – you have stolen my heart. How many Swiss Francs will it cost to get it back?
What to Pack for Switzerland
The fleece sweater is a perfect layer when combined with an outer shell to keep you warm. We purchased wool sweaters from independent retailers in Europe, and good ones were fairly easy to find for a decent price. For those with less time a little bit of online shopping for wool sweaters will suffice. Start here!
Hiking PantsTechnical pants like these are water resistant and dry quickly, not to mention they’re comfortable on long walks. These pants can be pretty ugly, but if you’re serious about exploring and hiking in Switzerland I would suggest picking up a pair.
Travel Water Bottle
Plastic pollution is a problem everywhere so it’s best not to contribute to the problem by buying plastic water bottles everywhere – plus the water from the taps in Switzerland is perfectly safe to drink.
We’ve shifted to using an insulated aluminum water bottle as it handles the hot sun well. However, we also love filtered water bottles in areas we’re uncertain of the water supply. Read more about favorite water bottles for travel in our post.
We don’t travel without travel insurance and neither should you. You never know what can happen in a foreign country and it’s best to be prepared. World Nomads provides good short term coverage.
Remember that Switzerland uses the Type J outlets, unlike the rest of Europe. Many adapters around Europe are interchangeable, so make sure you find a good one like the one I have to keep you charged. (This one works well in Switzerland).
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