Situated near the foot of the notorious Matterhorn Mountain is the municipality of Zermatt. Located in Valais, Zermatt is arguably one of the most picturesque places in the world to spend your winter vacation. The majority of visitors reach the small town of Zermatt by railway train from the nearby town of Täsch; passengers enjoy traveling through quaint villages and over fairy-tale bridges along the way. More posh travelers may elect to charter Air Zermatt and arrive by helicopter. However you choose to make your entrance, you will notice that nearly all the passenger vehicles including taxis, shuttles and buses are electric. The decision to “go green” regarding transportation ensures that visitors and residents of this ski resort village fully enjoy Zermatt’s towering mountains and breathtaking views.
With a population of around 6,000 residents and only three main streets, virtually everything is within a 30-minute walk. Don’t be fooled, however, by the notion that Zermatt is a sleepy little ski town with merely rustic accommodations to offer travelers. Advertised as “Up the hill, above the others but still in the heart of Zermatt”, Coer des Alpes Hotel-Garni offers guests the unique architectural flare of Heinz Julen. Julen, an internationally renowned architect and artist, successfully blended both of his passions into this modern boutique hotel. Guests can choose between a room, loft or sky apartment. Regardless of which arrangements you make, staying at Coer des Alpes ensures you are residing in Zermatt’s most trendy and original property by far. Stunning views of the Matterhorn from private balconies and terraces, sloping glass windows, open lounges, modern freestanding baths and fireplaces, combined with Julen’s signature chairs and chandeliers, perfectly blends Zermatt’s rich history with today’s modern style. The spa at Coer des Alpes offers many luxury amenities including a Bio-Sauna, tanning room, dream shower, luxury pool, caldarium and fitness room as well as numerous massage therapies and special treatments.
Zermatt is not only for the young and trendy; invitations to family and group travelers are warmly extended. Zermatt’s Alex Lodge offers 12 rooms to choose from, which sleep between four and eight adults. Children under five years of age stay free of charge and babysitting/child services are available, as are cribs and monitors. The Alex also offers ski school for those young and old who could benefit from a professional lesson.
When viewed from afar, the Alex Lodge appears as most traditional lodges do; a three-story A-frame with wood balconies and large windows. While this lodge may be family-oriented and traditional in appearance, it is by no means a hideout in the mountains. The Alex Lodge is more a luxury apartment- style home than the raccoon sanctuary one might assume from a glance. The Alex Lodge features well lit open living rooms, natural stone walls, black marble furnishings, hardwood floors, surround sound system, free standing bathtubs and inviting fireplaces. The spa area includes steam bath, sauna and Jacuzzi. The fresh air, incredible views and treasured memories created with family and friends at the Alex Lodge are complimentary.
Now that you have a few options on where to stay, let’s decide what to eat and drink! Many of the resorts offer a traditional breakfast of breads, meats, cheeses and juices. For lunch, be sure to make an appearance at Restaurant Chez Vrony. Originally a small farmhouse, Chez Vrony has transitioned over the past 100 years into the place to dine and be seen while visiting this now famous tourist destination. Chez Vrony is described as serving authentic, and organic, regional fare within a very cosmopolitan setting. Reservations in the winter season are highly recommended.
Another more casual dining option is Sparky’s Bar and Restaurant. Ironically located near Church Square, Sparky’s offers an extensive drink menu and attracts a younger and more boisterous crowd. The food menu does have a variety of choices that range from nachos to curry and homemade meatballs.
For a more romantic setting, choose to dine at Le Gitan. Le Gitan has a limited number of tables which provides a warm and comfortable atmosphere. Barbara and Sacha Darioli invite patrons to enjoy this family operated restaurant by serving homemade dishes consisting of prawns, lamb, beef and spit roasted chicken tarragon. Be sure to stop by even if only to unwind with a cocktail after a day of skiing or for a simple nightcap.
For skiing and snowboarding, Zermatt is world-renowned. A remarkable system of gondolas, railways and cable car connect the four main areas of mountain slopes in Zermatt. The four main areas; – Sunnegga, Gornergrat, Klein Matterhorn and Schwarzsee – offer both ski and snowboard trails, known in the region as pistes, from intermediate to expert level.
Those who consider themselves experts may seek to experience Zermatt’s Heli Skiing. The most popular and extreme descent is the Monte-Rosa. Starting near the summit of Europe’s second highest mountain, the Monte-Rosa run takes almost an entire day. Guides take groups of no more than four through this alpine glacier due to its extremely steep grade; your guide may even have to rope you off if need be! Other off-piste Heli Skiing adventures, which are less strenuous and shorter in distance, are available. Zermatt is marketed as having year round skiing, however, November through March produce the best conditions.
High-Alpine tours are also available for those not as passionate about snow sports. Don’t forget the camera on this adventure! The Cog Railway carries passengers nearly two miles up from Zermatt to the summit of Gornergrat. At Gornergrat, spectators will enjoy once-in-a-lifetime views of the Matterhorn, Monte-Rosa and the glaciers. But the show doesn’t stop there – another two and a half miles up, at Europe’s highest vantage point reachable by cable car, visitors will admire the summits of the Swiss, Italian and French Alps. The panoramic vista of the Matterhorn at this altitude is beyond words.
The opportunities to enjoy Zermatt are endless. Be sure to allow yourself plenty of time in this well-kept winter wonderland. Whatever your passion, Zermatt will not disappoint you. It’s the perfect destination for your winter GETAWAY!