Dominated by Switzerland's most famous landmark - the Matterhorn - Zermatt is certainly the country's best all-round ski resort. Moreover, there are many who would have no hesitation in naming Zermatt as the
best ski resort in the world. Partly thanks to the sublime beauty of the Matterhorn, but also thanks to the lack of cars and the resort's great sense of tradition, Zermatt has a special, alluring atmosphere which draws visitors back time and time again.
Skiing in Zermatt is on a vast scale. Fabulous scenery captivates your attention during your ride up the mountains. It is easy to be dazzled by the mountain world around you, being surrounded by 29 peaks over 4000m (13,100ft). These are the highest mountains in Europe. And most always within sight is the moody and multi-faceted Matterhorn.
Cable cars (aerial tramways) are common here - being very necessary in such an imposing mountain environment. Many soar silently across chasms and up cliff faces suspended thousands of feet above the snows. But it is when you get out and snap on your skis that the real action begins. No longer are you just an observer in this majestic mountain world. You are here to ski
All three of Zermatt's ski areas soar to at least 3100m (10,200ft). This translates into excellent snow conditions, and long runs to the village (8 to 13km / 5 to 8 mil). Not only are the slopes long, but they are open for a long day! Lifts begin operation at 8-8.20am and do not close until 4.30pm in midwinter, while in April it is possible to still be skiing at 6pm!
Speaking of long, Zermatt also has the longest winter season in the Alps. All three skiing areas are open from late November to the
end of April - and the huge glacier area offers world class skiing all through summer too.
| The longest run is from the Klein Matterhorn into town.
The Klein Matterhorn is the highest lift in Europe. At 3820m
(12,500ft), you stand above Europe, higher than the highest summits of
many mountainous countries, including all the peaks of Austria and New Zealand.|
Stepping out of a tunnel blasted through the rock, one comes
upon a vast white glacial world. The panoramic views
are stunning. Nowhere else do I feel so much that I am looking towards the
infinite. On a clear day one can see up to 200km (126mi) over most of the Swiss,
Italian and French alps.
From Klein Matterhorn to Zermatt
makes for a run of thirteen kilometres (8 ml) and 2200 vertical metres (7250
ft) of varied terrain. It's one of the highest and longest runs which are consistently open in the world (from late November to mid April).
Take this run and some of Zermatt's incredible diversity becomes rapidly apparent. All about lies the eternal white wilderness of the high Alps. Pleasant in sunshine, but freezing in bad weather, the descent begins with coasting over enormous glacial fields, before dropping into steeper mogulled terrain....
Beginner skiers will find several broad, safe and beautiful areas, which are ideal for learning. But novice skiers intending to roam should be prepared to have their ability well tested. There are rarely beginner trails linking the huge mountain ranges. Zermatt may not be ideal for a timid novice, but a beginner who enjoys challenges will love Zermatt as much as anyone - and improve rapidly. Don't forget - these are big mountains! Zermatt holds enormous appeal for intermediate and advanced skiers.
Intermediates find a wealth of terrain unfolding before them - zoom across vast open snowfields and gun down forest motorways. The key for intermediates is that the runs here are tremendously long and varied, with worthwhile runs to the village. Snow conditions are consistently good from December to April. Zermatt's slopes will constantly surprise and delight. Expect to put many miles of varied terrain under your skis. Very long runs link all Zermatt's areas, and intermediates can enjoy traversing entire mountain ranges, even skiing between countries!.
Advanced skiers are also well catered for. Zermatt is justifiably famous for its advanced skiing. Warm up your legs with some speed skiing, before diving headfirst into some of Europe's most famous mogul fields. Enthusiasts are satisfied in all areas, by the bumps of National, Gant, Aroleid, and the especially (in)famous Triftji - site of the well known local event - the Bump Bash - every Easter. Chutes and steep forested gullies also abound and beckon the more adventurous. Of course, for better skiers, a large part of Zermatt's appeal lies in its large off-piste (deep snow) areas....
Zermatt has extensive off-piste terrain. Large and seldom skied fields of untouched snow await those 'in the know'. And thanks to Zermatt's extremely high altitudes and abundance of north facing slopes, powder snow can still be found many days after it falls... In spring especially, huge areas of both powder and spring (corn) snow can be found off piste. (And there are no problems with ski patrollers when skiing out of bounds here.)
Note that many of Zermatt's best and largest off piste areas are several kilometres away from marked runs - they are not easily found and can be very dangerous to ski alone (without local knowledge of avalanche danger, cliffs, crevasses etc. ). Please consider taking a local ski guide if you want to explore Zermatt's best off-piste secrets.
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Zermatt offers plenty of superb open terrain for boarders. Currently there are also two snowboard parks and two man-made half pipes - one at Blauherd, the other between Trockener Steg and Furgg. Snowboards are also welcome on all lifts and 99% of the pistes. Naturally snowboards are available to hire at many hire shops in town. There is also a dedicated snowboarding school. Boarders, please be sure to check out sixteen great snowboarding action shots in the second Chris Patient Gallery and a few big halfpipe jumps in the summer section. Contributions to this section are welcome from Zermatt snowboarders.
Skiing Cervinia, Italy
|There are precious few opportunities in the world to ski over international borders, and Zermatt is lucky to have one of the most interesting! High amid the peaks and permanent snows lies the frontier crossing to the sparkling Italian slopes of Cervinia. A huge sunny bowl below the southern face of the Matterhorn (known as Monte Cervino to the Italians!) reveals a multitude of open, high-altitude runs.|
Skiing in Cervinia is highlighted by fabulous snow conditions, with a particularly magnificent run to the village open six months of the year. Known as 'Highway 7' (Run 7 on the Zermatt\Cervinia ski map), it is 11 kilometres (7 miles) of cruising bliss.
Cervinia has quite different skiing to Zermatt - there are few steeps....barely a single mogul to dance about, and Zermatt offers far superior deep snow (off-piste) skiing. But Cervinia does excel with long, magnificently groomed and maintained intermediate pistes. For capable skiers these are ideal for speed skiing! (They hold a famous Italian race from the border to the village at the end of April) For those still learning, there is scarcely a better place to perfect your parallel technique!
|Cervinia contrasts and compliments Zermatt beautifully, not only in terms of the slopes it offers, but also in the spirit of the people. While skiers in Zermatt are (generally) quiet, efficient and precise - the atmosphere skiing into Italy changes markedly. Boisterous, exuberant and flamboyant - but not generally as technically proficient, Italians are tremendous fun to ski with.|
Inside a Zermatt cable car skiers stand silently in awe of the surrounding scenery and contemplate the next run, while a huge cable car in Italy vibrates with animated conversation and rock music blasted out of speakers. It's contrasts and variety like this that makes a visit to this area that much more interesting.
Zermatt and Cervinia - explore two countries and both sides of your character!
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Spring skiing in Zermatt
It is no idle boast to say that Zermatt has the longest winter season in the Alps. Many new visitors to Zermatt are surprised to learn that March and April also offer simply superb snow conditions. It is quite normal for there to be just as much skiable area open in spring as in January...
There are several important reasons for this: One has to remember the height of Zermatt's mountains - which are the highest in Europe (aside from Mt.Blanc itself). Therefore most of Zermatt's skiable area lies at very high altitude - between 2000-3800m. The other very important factor is that most of these same areas face north - away from direct sun. These slopes receive no sun midwinter, when they are bitterly cold. But by spring it is very pleasant - around freezing when sunny. The snow melts very slowly. If you have admired any of the skiing photos on this website and are planning a visit in spring you will be glad. Many of the photos were taken in March and April. Check out our April photo special.
As spring comes to the mountains everywhere, the snow does not suddenly disappear, the 'snowline' slowly crawls higher up the mountains. So from mid-March onwards there may be patchy snow in the village of Zermatt at 1620 metres. But at higher altitudes (eg. 2500m) the snow pack does not even reach its greatest depth for the year until March. In fact one of Zermatt's biggest and best advanced areas (Stockhorn/Triftji) does not normally open until February, because it requires a lot of snow to cover its rocky slopes. But then it remains superb until May.. In late April you may not be able to ski right to the village, but the runs are still very long - how does 11km (7 miles) from top to bottom sound?
|Another important factor in favour of spring skiing is that the days are much longer. It is possible to fit in that much more skiing or boarding. In April most lifts are open 1½ hours longer each day than in January.|
The following table can give you a idea of how much skiable area to expect open for a spring visit. While the table can give you a good idea of how much snow to expect, it is impossible of course to predict the condition of the actual snow surface far in advance. Even in April snow-storms are quite common. Snow often falls right down to the village, although there it does tend to melt in a few days. At higher altitudes - above 2200m - the snow tends to fall as powder..
In a two week spring visit, you would most likely experience a bit of everything - powder, spring snow, icy hard pack, powder... in short: a great variety which will improve your skiing for sure!
Unless you are already familiar with Zermatt, you might find it useful to study the Zermatt piste map in conjunction with the following table.
|~Until mid-March||100% of terrain should be open, including all runs to the village (at 1620m altitude). Effectively still like mid-winter in terms of snow coverage.|
|~Second half of March||Expect good skiable snow above 1800m. This means 95% of Zermatt's skiable area is open and fantastic! Powder snow can last on the northerly slopes. Skiing to the village is still possible thanks to snowmaking.|
|~First half of April||Expect good skiable snow above 2000m generally, which is 85% of Zermatt's area. Powder snow normally softens within a day when it falls. The final kilometre descent to the village from the Sunnegga area (below Patrullarve) will normally be closing due to lack of snow. Skiing to Furi (1850m) and from there to Zermatt should still be possible due to snowmaking and its northerly orientation.|
|~ mid-April to early May||Expect good skiable conditions above 2200m. This translates to about 70% of Zermatt
and Cervinia's skiable area. Powder snow falls tend to soften within hours, but the spring snow is fantastic and one gets a great tan. Slopes are completely uncrowded. Skies are deep blue. A visit is still very worthwhile! The final kilometre descent to the village from Furi will normally be closed due to lack of snow. But at this time of year the run from the top to bottom (Klein Matterhorn to Furi) is still 11km (7 ml)! Top to bottom skiing is still available in Cervinia - for an 11km run.|
|From early May||The winter season officially ends in Zermatt. The month of May brings rain and warm winds to the altitudes of 2000-3000m. One has to ascend above 3000m on to the glaciers for good snow. May is a prime month for ski-tourers. But the lower two of Zermatt's three skiing areas close. The large glacier ski area - Klein Matterhorn - remains open year round.|
The snow cover is the table above cannot of course be guaranteed, because the weather can be a fickle thing. However late season skiing is normally very reliable.
NB. The last years the lift company has changed its long standing policy a little. It seems that the two lower areas (Gornergrat/Rothorn) will close on the
17th April. Only the Klein Matterhorn/Schwarzsee area will be all open until the evening of
3rd May. After that it is officially summer skiing.
March and April are still super times to visit. Come and be very pleasantly surprised! PS. Be sure to check out our April photo special to get a better feel for spring skiing in Zermatt. Or watch the live mountain cameras to follow Zermatt's impressively long season for yourself.
April photo available in Half Size 59kb or Full Size 209kb
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Après ski in Zermatt
There is an old saying - that 'In Zermatt, Après Ski begins at noon'. While that may not be true for everyone, it is true that Après ski here does hold a special attraction. It is not hard to see why.. Three dozen mountain restaurants are to be found above Zermatt, most with sublime views of the Matterhorn's many angles. Most are also authentic, cosy, distinctly Swiss 'chalets', charming visitors with fantastic food and a unique Zermatt atmosphere. It is no idle boast to say that Zermatt has many of the best mountain restaurants in the Alps.
Skiing up to an ancient sun browned cabin, it is a delight to snap off one's skis at the end of a satisfying day, faces glowing from the sun, and to share a Glüwein (Spiced warm wine) or delicious Apfelstrudel (local apple pie) with friends. Often the atmosphere invites one to linger long after the sun goes down, before a laughter filled descent under moonlight the final miles to the village.
There are few places to match Zermatt for its combination of excellent, extensive, advanced and intermediate skiing, reliable snow, car-free Alpine-village charm and superb mountain restaurants. Topped with magnificent scenery, Zermatt enjoys some of the most spectacular skiing in the Alps.
Some 30km of winter footpaths are cleared of snow; leading through the magnificent local terrain. Six beautiful winter walks are detailed in our exclusive Walking Guide to Zermatt and the Matterhorn.
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Ski area statistics
Other winter activities
49 mountain restaurants
53 village bars & nightclubs, 108 restaurants
A dozen indoor swimming pools
2 natural ice rinks - 1 artificial ice rink
2 indoor tennis courts, squash, gym & fitness centre
Pool/billiard centre - 9 pin bowling
30 km winter footpaths for non-skiers, Sleigh rides
Mountaineering expeditions by ski (incl. the famous Haute-Route)
Heli-skiing (from 4200m) & scenic helicopter flights
Paragliding school and tandem 'taxi' flights
For any further information please contact us !
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