Zermatt is a spectacular location in which to spend a first winter mountain holiday, there are few more impressive venues and you’ll do well not to get hooked on ski holidays if you start here. But this is a ‘classic’ ski resort and it’s big, which means that it is not laid out in the ultra-convenient way of many newer, smaller, purpose-built ski areas. So you’re likely to have to spend time and effort walking and riding lifts up to the nursery slopes each morning from your accommodation.
Costs are also higher than at less well known resorts so these factors should be considered when booking a first ski holiday to Zermatt – on the one hand there are great facilities, it’s a wonderful location and if you are part of a mixed-ability group with some people who can already ski well, it’s a good choice to suit all ability levels. On the other hand, if you’re all beginners, on a budget, looking for a relaxed experience, it might be worth leaving Zermatt until a little later in your skiing career.
Beginners are well catered for though. There are nursery slopes in all the main sectors, particularly good ones at Trokenersteg and Sunnegga, the latter especially well equipped with easy-to-ride conveyor lifts. And of course there’s excellent ski school tuition and this is the only resort on earth where you can learn to ski 365 days a year!
Zermatt offers exceptional skiing for regular recreational skiers with fantastic long runs in each of its three main sectors and across the border in to Italy. The Rothorn sector, the summit of which is reached by a succession of funicular railway, gondola and cable-car, has a 1500m vertical with wonderful long reds back down to the village, the lower third in one of the few wooded areas. Or you can get higher still with a similar lift combination heading up Gornergratt to 3400m above sea level for1800m descents, with red runs descending from a little below the summit T Bars at the top of the cable car 100m below. Gondolas and cable cars will lift you to the highest point of all and the Klein Matterhorn at 3820m, 2,200 vertical metres above the village and again with incredible long scenic ski runs down to Zermatt or over to Cervinia in Italy via plateau Rosa with descents 10 miles in length possible.
Zermatt is on the ‘must ski’ list of all expert skiers, be it steep runs, long runs, powder slopes, off-piste, bumps – whatever the penchant, Zermatt has something to sate the appetite. Ski touring and heli-skiing are also both big attractions in Zermatt and can be booked through ski schools or the Alpin Center Zermatt (Bahnhofstrasse 58; +41 (0)27 966 24 60; alpincenter-zermatt.ch).
Some of the steepest runs on the mountain are the itineraries on Rothorn and on the Gornergratt below Stockhorn where drag lifts serve the famous Triftji mogul run, regarded as one of the world’s toughest and longest, and home of an international Spring Bumps competition for many years (bumpbash.com).
Snowboard / Freestyle Skiing
Zermatt’s big range of attractions for skiers – the huge ski area, big vertical, great free-riding and options like heli-boarding, are of course equally valid for snowboarders. The resort's terrain park, the gravity park, up on the glacier is a world class facility and one of the few that can be a permanent year-round facility thanks to the eternal snow cover up there. Its features include one of the world’s longest super pipes at a remarkable 200m in length as well as kickers of various sizes, a substantial selection of rails including twin rails, C rails and kinked rainbow rail and a wall ride.
Given the steep slopes that surround Zermatt it is perhaps not natural cross-country ski terrain, but there are 9km of mostly easy cross country runs which can provide entertainment for a day or two. These include 3km of high altitude tracks up near the glacier and a 4km trail at Furi. There is a larger sector of 12km around Tasch down below Zermatt. Jean-Pierre Mürith (Chalet Brunegghorn, 3929 Täsch; [email protected]) offers cross country ski tuition if required.
Zermatt Average Snow And Weather Conditions
With Europe’s highest ski slopes, open 365 days a year (the only resort in the world that attempts to do this – weather permitting), a specially imported snowmaking machine from Israel which can make copious snow in positive temperatures (one of only two currently operating in the world) and a large glacier ski area, it is hard to think of any ski resort that is more snowsure than Zermatt.
Indeed it tends to grow its market share when Europe as a whole has a poor snow winter and everyone heads to Zermatt to play safe. Officially the resort has quite a low average snowfall figure of three metres (ten feet) but thanks to the altitude of the runs, the snow that falls, stays, and it’s also usually cold enough for the area’s big snowmaking operation, which covers two thirds of the local runs, to operate even when warmer temperatures at lower elevations may cause problems at other resorts.