ZERMATT – PICTURE POSTCARD VILLAGE IN THE ALPS
Zermatt was a relatively unknown agricultural community until the 1860’s. Located at the upper end of the Matter Valley in the canton of Wallis in Southern Switzerland, it is surrounded by a wide array of mountains of more than 4,000 meters elevation, including the iconic Matterhorn. It was the first successful ascent on the Matterhorn in 1865, as well as the deaths of 4 of the 7 summiteers on their way down, that led to Zermatt becoming internationally known.
A year-round destination for skiers, climbers, hikers and sightseers, Zermatt is a beautiful, picture postcard village of wooden chalets, quaint shops and stylish hotels. The village itself is fairly small and flat enough that you can easily walk from one end to the other in a matter of minutes. Like many Swiss resorts, it is a carless village – so the greatest “danger” to pedestrians are the extremely quiet electric vehicles which zip around the village.
The ski area is huge with over 7,400 vertical feet of terrain, 52 lifts and 225 miles of runs. The area encompasses both Zermatt and Cervinia, on the Italian side of the border, so bring your passport when you ski or ride. From Zermatt village, the terrain is accessed from 3 different lift base areas: Sunnegga, Gornergrat and Matterhorn Glacier Paradise. All are in different areas of the village so, no matter where you stay, there is ski access fairly close by. You can get to all of the other lifts in the ski area from each of the three base areas in the village.
As soon as you cast your eyes on the Matterhorn, your visit to Zermatt is already a success. The mountain is unforgettably spectacular and dominates the skyline from almost every vantage point.
You should fly into either Zurich or Geneva. Zurich is slightly closer to Zermatt (135 miles) than Geneva (145 miles) but both have excellent train service directly from the airport railway stations. Both trips take approximately 3 hours and 40 minutes, are very scenic and require a train change in Visp. Visp is a very small station and the platform change is clearly marked and easy to negotiate.
If your clients opt for a private transfer service, they will be driven to the shuttle depot, which is adjacent to the Zermatt train station. Most hotels have electric shuttle vans which will pick up guests and take them to their hotel.
Useful things to know:
Navigating around the village can be a little confusing at first. Some of the streets are difficult to locate and all have very long, Germanic names. The best point of orientation is the Catholic Church. It is very centrally located and, if your guests can’t find it they should listen for a few minutes - the bells ring every quarter hour during the day. The main street is Bahnhofstrasse (Station Street) and the church is located at the corner of Bahnhofstrasse and Kirchstrasse (Church Street).
There is free resort shuttle service which runs in a loop from the train station, along the river, as far as the Matterhorn Glacier Paradise lift. Stops are clearly marked and shuttles run every 8 minutes.
The cemetery, located next to the church, is the resting place for many famous mountaineering figures and, together with the nearby Alpine Museum, is a really interesting diversion.
For après-ski, Elsie’s Bar (opposite the church) is an institution in Zermatt. Serving cocktails and tasty snacks since 1961, it is small but full of history. It opens daily at 4pm and fills quickly.
Alpenhof (4 stars superior): I love this hotel. From the moment you see the beautiful woodwork in the lobby, you know you are in a very nice hotel. It is located on Matterstrasse (on the river) and is basically right across the street from the Sunnegga lift. It is one of the larger properties in Zermatt – it has 62 rooms – so it will often have availability. Rooms are contemporary in décor and of very high quality. The Alpenhof is one of the few properties in Zermatt to have air conditioning. BB and HB (5 course dinner) are possible. Rooms are large. The junior suite (sleeps 4) is 650 sq ft, the superior room is 440 sq ft and the design room is 330 sq ft. The hotel has some nice features including a beautiful garden/deck area where they show movies during the season.
Albana Real (4 stars): Located on Schluhmattstraase (just across the river from Matterstrasse), the Albana Real is only 20 meters from the shuttle stop. It has 38 rooms, most of which are in the entry-level comfort category or in the superior (sleeps 4) category. They also have some larger junior suites. BB and HB (in the hotel restaurant) are possible. There is also a Japanese restaurant on property. Overall the hotel is nice and has good amenities such as pool, sauna, ski room etc. Walter, who gave us the tour, is very friendly and they are very flexible regarding length of stay for our guests.
Hotel Europe (4 stars): This hotel is slightly more difficult to find. Located on Riedstrasse (Church Street becomes Riedstrasse after you cross the river), it is in the Steinmatte neighborhood. The shuttle stop is a 3 minute walk from the property. The hotel has 38 rooms, of which 12 have a Matterhorn view. Rooms are situated in two different buildings – Traditional and Design. Overall, the hotel features contemporary décor and is very nice. A couple of things to note: the family room is the same price as the design room but is a little bigger; four of the design rooms have open bathrooms so you should check specific availability with the hotel if your guests might not want this type of set-up.