Looking for year round skiing? If so, then there’s no better place to take advantage of the conditions than Zermatt! Though it’s snowy and barely above freezing, this small, picturesque mountain village is packed full of warm surprises! Located in southern Switzerland’s Valais Canyon, Zermatt is overlooked by the world famous Matterhorn.
Reachable only by train or taxi, travel to Zermatt is relatively easy. Most visitors fly into Zurich or Geneva and take the railway to Visp where they transfer trains to Tasch, and then on to Zermatt. Along the journey from your gateway city, you can expect an occasional glimpse of the famed Matterhorn, but once you arrive (and hopefully on a crystal clear day) gaze upward to the mesmerizing peak of the Matterhorn and all it’s glory! 1 transfer, easy enough, right? Well, if the train or taxi is not your cup of tea, consider a limousine or helicopter to make your grand entrance!
Zermatt is home to 5,800 residents, however, only ONE is allowed to own a personal car…the village physician! To prevent air pollution, which could obscure the town’s prized view, Zermatt is a combustion-engine, car-free zone. You will see use of modern day electric buses and taxis, but the only other form of non-human powered transportation is of the 4 legged variety. For example, these horse drawn carriages belong to two of the villages finest hotels and are used to transport guests to/from the train station.
December to March is considered ski season, although just north of Zermatt at the Theodul Glacier (3,883m elevation), skiing, snowboarding or freestyling can be done an astonishing 365 days a year! However, in general, the best time to venture out is during the early mornings, before the sun is strong. With an average high temp of 40 degrees, you may also find yourself rubbing shoulders with any number of celebrities or Olympic skiers and hopefuls training for the upcoming season. Boasting 25km (11mi) of trails and 8 chair lifts (operable times – depending on the area) year round, this is truly a skier’s playground and home to Europe’s highest freestyle park, Zermatt Snow Park at Plateau Rosa/Glacier Park.
Where to Stay
Can you say options? Since Zermatt is considered to be a luxury resort village, it is expected that much of the lodging options will be 4 and 5 star. Whether you are considering a hotel, chalet, apartment or Airbnb, you will have no shortage of options. Two of our favorites are Unique Hotel Post and Mont Cervin Hotel as both are centrally located on the Main Street (Bahnhofstrasse), yet offer totally different vibes.
Unique Hotel Post – 4 star
The Unique Hotel Post is very centrally located in the heart of Zermatt, only a few minutes’ walk from the train station, lifts and bus stops on Zermatt’s “Hauptstrasse”, Bahnhofstrasse. In order to make arrival and departure as comfortable as possible, the hotel offers free transfer service via their doorman and their electric vehicle from 7 a.m. to 5 p.m daily. This hotel is often the most popular choice because in addition to its three restaurants, it also houses a pub and four “discos”! In short, anyone looking for something extraordinary in Zermatt is guaranteed to find it here! The small, fine spa of the Unique Hotel Post pampers not only the body, but also the soul with an in-house sauna, steam bath, large jacuzzi, and sensory showers! (Reservations can be booked directly on their website)
Mount Cervin Hotel Zermatt – 5 star
All the comforts of a private residence, all the variety of a resort. Comfortable chalet or elegant Alpine style, all with fantastic views of the Matterhorn or the snow-capped four-thousanders. Renovations of all rooms at the Mont Cervin Palace from the 1st to the 4th floor. (The floors above were renovated in 2004 and 2010). When the hotel opened 168 years ago, everything was new and contemporary. The execution of the six-month renovation in 2012 was completed with that in mind. This hotels also boasts a luxury spa, along with several different restaurants and bars. So many options that on Wednesdays, groups ranging from 6-15 can enjoy the “Dine Around” experience where you can gain insight into a selection of all of the restaurants the hotel has to offer. Visit Mount Cervin for more details!
Where to eat
From simple local food stands to Michelin rated restaurants, the village does not disappoint. Choices range from classic Swiss fondue, to French, Italian, Japanese and even Indian cuisine to name a few. Most hotels include a daily, complimentary buffet breakfast and some offer after ski snacks and teatime, which leaves only lunch and dinners at your expense. Here are a few options to consider:
Fine dining: Chez Vrony – Swiss, International
A must-see, ski-in/ski-out jewel! Located in Findeln, you will enjoy the most dreamy, majestic views of the Matterhorn! Besides the great views, you will be treated to fresh, organic, locally sourced produce and Alpine grass (ONLY) fed livestock products. This award winning restaurant has been family owned for over 100 years, with spectacular service that has been fine tuned from day one. Reaching this location if you’re not skiing will take determination (via the train and a bit of a walk), but is well worth it!
Reservations are required for indoor seating, otherwise, grabbing a sheepskin lined seat or lounge with available blankets, on one of the three outdoor patios, can assure you front row Matterhorn views while you dine. Be sure to check the seasonal hours of operation, for example this Winter season it’s open Nov 30, 2019 – April 19, 2020 from 9:30am – 4pm. You can’t go wrong with the Ravioli or the Vrony hamburger, both classics and favorites! Visit Chez Vrony for more information!
Cervo Puro – The newly renovated Cervo Puro with it’s bright and friendly interior and large sun terrace has earned a Michelin plate award, as well as 14 Gault-Millau points. Conveniently located in Cervo Mountain Boutique Resort, a quick 10 minute walk from the center of Zermatt, the cuisine is alpine rich with hints of Northern Italy. There is heavy emphasis on fresh regional produce. They are open for breakfast, lunch and dinner. With the contemporary spin on original Swiss, the fondue and raclette are popular. Just as popular are the $14CHF Cervo fries (with truffle and parmesan) and Matterhorn views, both favorites among the mountain lunch guests! Though the dinner menu is not as extensive as other Zermatt restaurants, you can order a la carte or from a prefix 3 or 4 course menu including fresh caught choice, spare ribs, filet or pasta dishes and large wine list. Located at the end of the ski piste/run, it is a great place at the lounge for Apres ski on the large terrace with live bands.
Fuchs – A family owned bakery since 1965 with 3 locations, preparing bakery products by hand, from scratch. Using high quality, natural ingredients, their freshly prepared dishes, includes salads and various quiches, fine cakes and tarts, chocolates and fresh coffee from roasters in the Upper Valois. With hours from 7am – 6:30pm, they accommodate all day dining. Pop in for a quick early breakfast or grab sandwiches to go for lunch later in a park or on a mountain hike.
NOTE*** Marie’s Deli Zermatt and Petite Royal Cafe are great options as well!
Casual – Grampis – Located on Main St (Bahnhofstrasse 70) on the 2nd floor of Gee’s bar and pub, this restaurant provides authentic Italian cuisine and is in the heart of Zermatt. A fun, relaxing and casual atmosphere, this place has some of the best wood-fired pizza in Zermatt. Unlike some of the other Italian restaurants nearby, no reservation is required. This friendly wait staff not only serves up great pizza, but anti-pasta, pasta, meat/fish, deserts and a side of character until 1am. The highly recommended, black dough carbonella pizza is an unexpected twist on traditional pizza.
After an enjoyable day of skiing the slopes, head to any number of the happening Aprés Ski options. Whether you choose to stay on the mountain to unwind or traverse back to the village, this sleepy resort comes alive with bars/clubs open until 3:30-4am! On mountain, consider The Champagne Room, Hennu Stall or Olympia, depending on which area of the mountain you happen to be on. Remember to leave early enough for a safe descent into the village. In the village, your options are more numerous. From traditional Swiss, to pop/rock, to jazz, there’s someplace to whet anyone’s musical appetite. Some of the must-visit places are:
- Snowboat and Zermatt Yacht Club, where the elite are known to convene.
- Harry’s, a local favorite for years.
- Cervo Bar Lounge, a convenient ski-in locale from the Sunegga slopes.
- Any of the 5 bars at Hotel Post: Brown Cow Pub, Papa Caesar Lounge, Pink Live Music Bar, Broken Bar Club and Loft Club Lounge.
- Papperla Pub with live music from 4pm until closing.
- Davidoff Lounge @ Mont Cervin Palace
Zermatt is world renown for its mountain and aprés ski parties. We are positive you will find some form of celebratory gathering at almost any establishment you happen upon. However, before you party the day and night away, be sure to refuel and partake of the many global cuisines represented in this resort town.
Things to do
If skiing or snowboarding is not your druthers, there is a plethora of non-ski activities and day trips at your disposal. To start, you can still take the Gornergrat train up to the peak for sightseeing of the Matterhorn, beautiful Gorner Glacier and visit Kulm hotel which features a restaurant, observatory and shops. Other non-ski mountain activities include, sledging, snowshoeing, hiking and ice-climbing. Looking for things to do in the village? Visit the Zermatt Museum, take a city tour, go ice skating or curling, relax at one of the many spas or visit the various shops. You can easily keep yourself busy for a week without ever strapping on to ski or snowboard.
Yes, Zermatt is quite a distance from us here in the U.S….but if you’re into any type of outdoor sports, love great food and are looking for an incredibly picturesque backdrop, it’s a trip well worth taking!
- Zermatt is car free, but still easy to reach via the Glacier Express.
- The highest peaks of the Swiss Alps can be found in and around the town of Zermatt
- Because of it’s unique location, it has been known to either rain for days on end, or not at all. You should definitely be prepared for both!
- November and December are the coldest months, while July and August tend to be the warmest.
- Zermatt has 2 peak seasons…Winter (November through March, with December and January being the busiest ski season), and Summer (July and August for hiking). If you are looking for smaller crowds for skiing, your best bet is to visit during the Spring ski season (between March and April). For less crowded hiking trails, visit during the Fall months of September and October.