Our return to Zermatt starts in the most beautiful way; the stunning train journey around Lake Geneva and up through the Alps. Even from landing at Geneva, the riot of colour is evident; the icy, bright blues of the rivers winding through the rich greens of the forests and farmland – Switzerland must be one of the most beautiful countries in the world!
Wending its way out of Geneva, the train line skirts the very edge of the lake for what seems like an impossibly long time, while mountains ringing the edge of it gradually increase in height. Changing to the Matterhorn Gotthardbahn in Visp, the train winds along the valley, climbing all the way, until the lifts at Klein Matterhorn and Gornergrat come into view, glittering in the summer sun.
Zermatt itself is exceptionally beautiful in both summer and winter. In winter, the dark woods of the traditional buildings contrast with the white snow and crisp blue skies, and outside bars and restaurants fur-covered seats are invitingly cosy while inside log fires burn. In the summer, the balconies overflow with flowers in every colour, and the green of the mountain sides and forests is complemented by warm sunshine. Always the Matterhorn looms above, so striking a view that it almost doesn’t look real.
On our brief stay this time, we crammed in some fantastic experiences; our second day began with a trip to the very top of the ski area – from 1600m to 3,883m in 45 minutes. Getting on to the Matterhorn Express lift, the bubble takes you up through Furi and up to Trockner Steg, where you switch to the cable car to the very top. Currently a new lift is being built to run alongside the cable car and increase capacity dramatically –this should be open for 2017/18, which is great news for skiers, and will make heading over into Italy a lot easier.
The top of the lift is the highest lift station in Europe; from the panoramic viewing platform you can see the Alps stretching in every direction, the clouds hugging the mountains way below you. Down in one direction you can see the chocolate box village of Zermatt, and to the other Cervinia is just visible. All around are glaciers with the tracks of hikers criss-crossing them. An unmissable stop here is the Glacier Palace – carved into the glacier itself, the network of tunnels are home to ice sculptures lit by multi-coloured lights, and even an ice slide carved into the glacier. If you prefer the sun outside, take the option of the ice slide outside in a rubber tube!
From here we took the lift back to Furi, where we spent an enjoyable few hours learning to clay pigeon shoot. With bright coloured clays and guns converted to laser rather than real bullets, it’s an activity for all year round, and for all levels. The stunning backdrop is distractingly lovely, but nevertheless we managed a very successful competition!
A short walk through sun drenched paths between chocolate box houses brings you to Restaurant Zum See – an absolute gem in a village renowned for its gourmet food. Local homemade dishes and Swiss wine, set amongst the green of the meadows with the Matterhorn above you – it’s a must-visit. In the winter you can ski to and from it, making it a fabulous lunch stop. In the summer, it is an easy and wonderful downhill walk to the village.
Zermatt’s nightlife is also not to be missed – bars dotted along the main street feature live music, unique and delicious cocktails, Swiss wines and beers and a huge range of spirits. Whether you prefer bars or clubs, there’s a selection of both – if you feel up to if after apres at Hennu Stall and a sumptuous dinner in your chalet that is!
No matter when you come in the year, and whether or not you love to ski, hike, climb or simply love to enjoy the ambiance of the mountains, Zermatt has something for every person. There is something truly special about it. It is undoubtedly one of the finest ski resorts in the world, and my absolute favourite place!
Blog written by our award-winning ski specialists, Abigail who has lived in Zermatt previously whilst working a season there.