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Zermatt (and Cervinia) 2017/18

 Poster: A snowHead
Poster: A snowHead
Just been informed chalet Etiole was a minor kitchen fire -@JohnMo, cleaned up in 2 days and is now up and running.
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Obviously A snowHead isn't a real person
@Newbie72, you, like me suffer from snowcd.
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Not sure Which to be more pleased about, good snow or Chalet Etoile being up and running? snowHead snowHead
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Good news about snow and Chatel Etoile - booked in there for Christmas Day lunch!!!
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@Newbie72, It is the human condition to panic about snow! I would usually be making a trip out about now but our apartment is being refurbished and so we won’t be out until December 27. It is making me stare at the webcams even more. As @Penzanceopinion said the wind has really scraped the snow on the Cervinia side. It looks a bit ugly but the pistes look fine. Valtournenche (the connected resort south of and down valley from Cervinia) is due to open the coming weekend. The Salette (the central low point before the run into town) webcam makes it look like their pistes are OK – they might not bother trying to open the town run yet.

@Penzanceopinion, thanks for the reassurance about Chateau Etoille. Cervinia just wouldn’t be the same without that place.
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For late December there's still time. A couple of moist Atlantic lows would do wonders for the snowpack up high. Unfortunately for me, my schedule only allowed early December, and I should have picked a different resort.

If I had known beforehand how dry the Zermatt/Cervinia area is, I would have. The place really repels snow. This month's weather pattern magnified the problem, with most of the rest of the Alps above 1500 buried in snow.

A resort that advertises the frequency of sunny days should be a red flag.
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Better than alta this year....promise u that. I was hoping to come early season too....im not aure about the rest of the alps being buried but the season if off to a better start this year elsewhere ur right. I think you will enjoy zmatt....try. its gr8 place, maybe my favorite, but i hear your frustration.....envy you still, but hear the frustration.
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 After all it is free Go on u know u want to!
After all it is free Go on u know u want to!
@Brothergrimm
I live in Europe so Alta is not a convenient option or useful comparison.

I chose Zermatt for early season skiing because of the glacier and the elevation. In hindsight that was probably the wrong choice because there's a lot of snow at many other open resorts in Austria and Switzerland. It turned out that elevation wasn't so critical this year. I could have gotten better skiing, closer, for cheaper.

I would never book a December trip to the Utah resorts in advance. North American summers are warm and there are no glaciers there. It is usually not a good choice for early season skiing. Now I have learned that Zermatt is also probably not a good choice for early season. But the difference between the resorts is that Alta tends to get more snow than surrounding places whereas Zermatt is the opposite.
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I feel your pain! I normally go to Obergurgl early season. It's non-glacial, but super reliable. Usually opens mid-November. Yesterday, the snow depth there was 1.81m on the mountain, 1m lower down (66cm in the village, even) and I see it snowed again last night. Hey ho.

The snow shadow effect around Zermatt is very marked - you can watch it on the radar as the showers part like the Red Sea.

However, I am still really looking forward to Zermatt in a fortnight. For me, there's a lot more to skiing than snow depths - though I do hope the place gets a good dump soon!
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@altaski8, I hope you enjoy your trip. I guess we might be looking for different things. Looking at the webcams the conditions seem really good to me. It is snowing right now. Without any spectacular dump there has been a good steady accumulation. I love off piste skiing but I don't really give it much thought until January and then it is going to go all the way through to April. Obviously I am massively biased as I decided to buy there (well Täsch, which is close enough) but I do ski regularly in Verbier and the Arlberg and North America (usually Colorado but going to Utah for the first time this year) and generally I don't feel a huge lack of snow in Zermatt compared to those places (although obviously you can get massive variations from year to year). Ironically this year is looking a lot better than the last couple of season starts - when we have seen huge numbers bused into Zermatt at Christmas from lower resorts that were suffering.
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Yes, i am based in US but ski Zmatt several weeks each year. Last year I spent most of jan there. It wasn't very snowy but I had a great time. Back stateside i went out to alta for 4 days and was luckier, it snowed 30 inches, what fun. Of course there were 80 people in line for the first chair and the mountain was pretty well tracked out by 1030 except for hiking. Hiking is fun too especially when theres some powder as incentive.

Back to zmatt in march we finally got some snow. I remembour a tour which lead to a descent into tasch about 3 days after a snow which was untouched and finished around 1 pm, for 1 run. In most places in the states a run is 20 minutes or so. Its frustrating but when it happens.....i think u could get to engelberg for some pow if u really freak out. Or just get a bottle of fendant and enjoy F and H before the crowds. Like I sid, im jealous and still trying to decide between alps in 2 weeks or BC. Neither looks perfect but both better than yardwork. snowHead snowHead snowHead
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And love to help out and answer questions and of course, read each other's snow reports.
Radar currently showing an excellent example of downsloping near Zermatt/Cervinia, this time from the south and east. Fascinating little dry microclimate in that area near the Swiss - Italy border. The area has seen barely a trace of snow in the past week and a half that saw 4 or 5 snow events affect most of the Alps.

The weather models still seem to significantly overestimate precipitation near Zermatt, giving the occasional false hope. It seems the higher the model resolution, the higher the overestimation.

Right now there are some occasional flurries in the Sunnegga area. I will be interested to see if that can progress into a steadier snow later this evening. Otherwise it looks like a frigid, dry, scraped piste skiing week upcoming. But with a Matterhorn view!


Last edited by And love to help out and answer questions and of course, read each other's snow reports. on Fri 1-12-17 19:49; edited 1 time in total
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I too have been watching that. It's remarkable. From which direction does the snow normally manage to get through, I wonder?

Can anybody on the ground give us an update on conditions?

Incidentally, as far as I can tell, Cervinia seems to have even thinner cover just at the moment, with only a small proportion by length (14 per cent, maybe?) of pistes open. Is that normal for this time of year?
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Normal snow depth for this date on top of 3000m Gornergrat is about 80cm and there's currently about 40cm. I cannot find reliable information for the Italian side although webcams and recent reports look bleak. That's especially poor compared to the 1 to 2 meters on the ground down to 1800m throughout much of Austria and Switzerland. Compared to historical averages this is a bad start to the season. I guess it just seems decent compared to recent winters and because it has been cold enough to make snow.

I've read Zermatt/Cervinia get most of their snow from Atlantic storms that move in from the southwest. We haven't had a storm like that since last Spring. It looks like the Mediterranean moisture spinning up from the south fizzled out. Earlier there were some snowshowers that were not being picked up by radar (presumably forming below the radar beam). I'm told a retour d'ost is very unpredictable but this is the third such scenario where models were printing out some moderate snow for the area and the first two times Zermatt hung a big ol'goose egg.
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Three new pistes open from today:

45 - another one from Gornergrat/Gufthittli down to Riffelberg

4 - the red down from Sunnegga to Patrullarve through the trees - an absolutely gorgeous run. Interesting to get runs down to Patrullarve open - maybe even think about opening the Black number 8 from Blauherd down to Patrullarve - probably my joint favourite (with Black 62 down from Furgg to Furi) groomed run in the whole area.

50 - the red down from Furgg to Zermatt!!! A run into town open on the 2nd of December. Fantastic stuff. I hope that means the Hennu Stall is open. It should be as it sits on piste 50. It is immoral to ski down there at the end of the day and not stop for apres ski.

I am so frustrated not to be out to report on conditions first hand. This amount open (and down to low levels) is very encouraging) and the webcams look good (even snow in the Bahnhofplatz). Warren Smith are still doing their course in Cervinia/Zermatt and are saying “We’ve seen a large drop in the temperatures as winter continues to gain a firm grip in the Alps. The slope conditions have been pristine and we are really excited to say that we are expecting another large snowfall over the weekend.
This winter has begun in the best possible way. Let’s hope it continues!”. OK, one could say they have a commercial interest but they are usually fairly straight and accurate about conditions.
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Finally in Zermatt. Heading out tomorrow and will hopefully get a better feel for the layout and conditions.

There's not much snow in town. Between a dusting and a few inches depending on sun exposure. The thin cover extends up to a pretty high elevation on each side of the valley. ´There was 1-2cm of new snow this morning and there is none expected the rest of this weekend. I'm not sure what the Warren Smith crew is talking about. Fortunately the temperature has been within a good range for snow making and they're been blowing plenty onto the piste. Artificial snow isn't great for skiing but it's better than dirt and rocks. I was happy to see a route down to town opened up today.
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Altaski8 - any update from Sunday and todays mountain conditions?
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No matter how much snow is forecast by Snowforecast, and indeed noza on the main forecast site, Zermatt website steadfastly refuses to forecast anything more than a slight flurry. Are they simply being over cautious, in that everybody remembers snow that was forecast and does not arrive, wheras who gives a damn if we get loads of snow that was not forecast? Puzzled
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Just checked the forecast on the resort's official website and for the Klein Matterhorn sub-area it is showing an unblemished full sun symbol for December 8. However, when you scroll down to the Klein Matterhorn bar charts, at the foot of the same page, they show snow falling throughout the 24-hour December 8 period. Thus the official forecast site directly contradicts itself on the same page, for the same sub-area, for the same day.

Weird.
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mitcva wrote:
Just checked the forecast on the resort's official website and for the Klein Matterhorn sub-area it is showing an unblemished full sun symbol for December 8. However, when you scroll down to the Klein Matterhorn bar charts, at the foot of the same page, they show snow falling throughout the 24-hour December 8 period. Thus the official forecast site directly contradicts itself on the same page, for the same sub-area, for the same day.

Weird.


That is quite amusing. The ensembles (which are for Zermatt not Klein Matterhorn - the weather and snowfall can be massively different in the two places!) more agree with the zermatt.ch graphs than the pictorial. Looks like a nice top up Saturday into Sunday and then they go crazy from early next week. Let's hope they start converging on some of the higher levels.

http://old.wetterzentrale.de/pics/MS_846_ens.png
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Just finished up three days skiing in Zermatt.

The weather was cold and dry, but brilliantly sunny with light winds the whole time. This was perfect for fully taking in the surrounding mountains.

My overall impression is that this region is not a very good place to build ski lifts. Too much of the terrain is not suitable for skiing. There is a lot of glaciation or glacial remnants. Boulder fields cover much of the slopes with a good skiable angle. Terrain features prevent good trail interconnectivity and the areas that looked good for skiing had extremely thin cover, even above 3000m. A great place for hiking, mountaineering, and other recreational activities, but that's what they should have left it for.

The area is sorely lacking natural snow. Exposed, sunny ground is bare up to 2500m and other areas are badly wind scoured. Fortunately the open pistes are well covered with artificial snow. Groomed trails were nice for cruising until around 10am when they became scraped and hardpacked. Shady areas were also icy in spots. It was straight Massachusetts hardpack. If you like northeast US skiing, you would have been right at home these past few days. Open pistes are currently limited and none are challenging. We had skied everything by the 2nd day and found no challenges. It is not a skiers mountain, at least not without a very deep snowpack. You also cannot currently ski from the top all the way back to Zermatt. Skiable stretches did not seem particularly long, contrary to what we had heard. Skiing was generally homogenous, wrap-around cruiser variety.

Getting to and from the lifts was less convenient than we hoped. Buses are crowded and chaotic and taxis were unafforable. We did a lot of walking in ski boots with skis on shoulders.

If you're a piste racer and like to practice your slalom sking with the Matterhorn as a constant backdrop, this is the place for you. Also if you like ski breaks and mountain restaurants and cheese fondue as much as skiing, then you will love Zermatt.

I did like some things however:
The Gornergratbahn is really cool. I enjoyed a comfortable and convenient ride to the top.
The Riffelberg self service lodge is really nice. It was spacious, uncrowded (when we were there), and had wonderful views. We didn't buy any food though.
We did manage to find some great snow near closed piste #70. There was a rope with a crevasse warning sign that we ducked under, but the crevasses were generally visible and avoidable without really deep snowcover. We only ventured in because we saw a group of heliskiers in that area confidently ripping powder. And from surveying it up close, it was safe. There's plenty of great powder in that area, but the runout was badly sun-crusted, probably preventing more from venturing over.

It was a worthwhile experience but I probably won't come back unless it's early spring with a deep snowpack. The forecast looks slightly more promising for the next week or two. My fingers are crossed for the rest of you.
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I am saddened that you had such a bad time that you internalized these general assumptions about what is clearly one of the great ski mountains on our planet. You did come in early December though, and in a year with a typically slow start. Zermatt is great because of its size, its classic off-piste terrain, the fact that its keeps what snow it does get and yes the lunches too. Late March can often be the best time.

I hope you do give it another shot some spring but perhaps you have just learned something about early season in the alps and Zermatt in particular. Best to keep options open I suppose. Here's to hoping the rest of your season is filled with pow.
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I must say I don't like the sound of the buses. I have heard this observation about Zermatt before. Must detract from the overall fun of the place, I'd have thought. Looks like we may have to take taxis - whatever the cost. I suppose I have been spoiled by ski-in ski-out resorts.

Many other places - Austria, in particular - are having a really good start this year. It sounds like Zermatt may be the sort of high, dry, rocky terrain that comes into its own in the second half of the season, when it has accumulated enough snow. (Still, it could be worse - it could be Cervinia, which looks absolutely dire at the moment.) I certainly don't like the sound of hardpack and ice.

Oh well - I just hope there is a decent covering of snow by the time we get there on Dec 15!
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If you work to come down the Sunnega side, you can make it in the Centre of town with no bus. Or, and this is a little against the grain, ski all the way to Rifflealp to take the Gornergratbahn down a couple of stops to the centre. Depends where your accommodation is. Buses are full at peak times, but keep moving and keep coming. Last year a taxi was 12 Francs whatever the single trip, putting up to 4 in the taxi. I used this a fair bit with my family, but only coming back down from the matterhorn side, down past Hennustall. I hope we do get the snow by the way to keep this post on track, and will have a close look at the Zermatt Website for the forecast anomalies.
For what its worth this year will be my sixth Zermatt trip, and have found the resort to be the best I have been to in nearly 50 years Skiing.
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I agree Sunnegga is the best option back down if you're staying on that side of town. It was still a 15 minute walk for us with the tunnel exit. Unfortunately it's not so easy to get to the Sunnegga side from the Glacier Paradise side.
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@altaski8, I fear you have been the victim of bad luck. I'm not saying what you experienced was good but for balance it really isn't always like that and this is what it was like the last few days of November, first few days of December 2016 ... I was admittedly very lucky snowHead









As you can see plenty of snow then but from what people were saying this was pretty exceptional for so early season - I was able to ski in to my hotel just above Cervinia village back down in the valley.

*Edited to make the pics a bit bigger


Last edited by snowHeads are a friendly bunch. on Tue 5-12-17 21:53; edited 3 times in total
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it is december 5th. if I went to Alta today (as I do every year later in the season) would I not find similar if not worse conditions? I generally do ~25 days a year in the Western US and more recently a week early March in Zermatt. While I love food, scenery etc, I have no issue saying it is some of the best pure off piste skiing in the world with proper conditions. I would urge you to go back later in the season at some point, it is unfair to pass judgement after a trip in early December. Having said all of that, I agree with most things that have been stated on this board, Zermatt seems to suffer from some sort of blocking that prevents storms from reaching. It is beyond frustrating to watch in anticipation of trips.
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I had a good time. There are interesting geological features to see in every direction. There are enough different lifts and areas to make for some fun exploring. We saw chamois and an eagle. It's just that the skiing itself wasn't very good. We hunted everywhere on and off piste and found only one good area to ski on a glacier up above 3200m. And of course the first run or two of the day on corduroy was nice. The place just needs more snow. The mountain would be much better and even the town would be prettier with a deep snow cover.

The weather forecast looks promising. Yes it has looked promising a few times this early winter and not delivered, but hopefully this time will be different. One or two good storms would make all the difference.
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@altaski8, seems you were unlucky. When it’s good it’s really good...



The Schwarztor itinerary with 2000m of vertical descent!


This was the snout if the glacier in May a few years back


Here’s some other ideas: http://www.ultimate-ski.com/ski-resorts/switzerland/valais/zermatt/advanced.aspx
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altaski8 wrote:
I had a good time. There are interesting geological features to see in every direction. There are enough different lifts and areas to make for some fun exploring. We saw chamois and an eagle. It's just that the skiing itself wasn't very good. We hunted everywhere on and off piste and found only one good area to ski on a glacier up above 3200m. And of course the first run or two of the day on corduroy was nice. The place just needs more snow. The mountain would be much better and even the town would be prettier with a deep snow cover.

The weather forecast looks promising. Yes it has looked promising a few times this early winter and not delivered, but hopefully this time will be different. One or two good storms would make all the difference.


I think again the point is the fact you came so early in the season and didn't have the best of snow bases to meet you when you got there. As was said earlier in this thread its been a particularly dry time period at present....hopefully when you return to a bit of powder you'll realise its one of the all time greats.
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Yes it's early December and yes it's been dry. But I don't think I was unlucky. I think it's actually the other way around. People who experience Zermatt during deep snow conditions are lucky.

From studying the weather patterns, long term averages, and local topography/geology, Zermatt is clearly drier and more heavily glaciated than most other parts of the Alps. The combination of a relatively dry climate with terrain that requires a very deep snow pack is not a good one for skiing.

I know Zermatt can be great for powder and off piste skiing, but I think those conditions are relatively rare.
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@altaski8, Its a shame you didn't put all that effort into researching before you went (rather than after!) and then you could have found somewhere more suited to your needs......... rolling eyes


Last edited by Obviously A snowHead isn't a real person on Wed 6-12-17 23:30; edited 1 time in total
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Count me as one of the lucky ones. Only been once. About 5 years ago for 10 days right before Xmas, and for a few days after Xmas. It was a great start to the season. Snowed most nights, and all the way down into Zermatt. The conditions were better than average. You could ski top to bottom. And it takes a while to get from top to bottom! Especially if you smell something good, and decide to stop for a cappuccino and a pastry! Very Happy You can ski every type of lift known to mankind. Great views, and that Swiss hospitality, which is pleasant and efficient. Like every ski resort, they are best skied when they have a deep winter blanket.
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"@altaski8, Its a shame you didn't put all that effort into research before you went and then you could have found somewhere more suited to your needs......... "

A bit harsh, perhaps?

Speaking only for myself (and unlike @altaski8, I'm not an off-piste skier) I have to confess that at the time of booking I myself didn't realise just how dry Zermatt's microclimate is. Only afterwards did I discover that a part of the valley a few miles to the north of the village is the driest place in Switzerland, while Klein Matterhorn is just about the sunniest. And it seems that the rocky nature of the terrain means that it requires a good covering. These facts are not highlighted on some of the usual ski sites. Indeed, some media write-ups I relied upon when booking seemed to have assumed that because Zermatt is high and glacial, with year-round skiing, it must be a very good bet for lots of early-season snow.

I just hope there is a reasonable covering of snow on the pistes before Dec 15. I'll be happy if I can find a few nice blues and reds to cruise along between pit-stops. I am determined to enjoy the food, the scenery and the general ambiance of the place.

But I do feel sorry for anyone who booked Zermatt early season with certain expectations about off-piste skiing and then felt a bit disappointed; I can understand how that might happen.
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@PaulC1984, 😀
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@mitcva, Perhaps I was being a little harsh, but........

People who have a bit of a moan about snow early season fair enough - you find a resort and you take your chances. The problem I have is when people mention wind stripped slopes, but choose a result at very high altitude, and moan about skiing on artificial or having no snow at lower alts when its the last week of Nov / first week of Dec.

Base depth records are readily available as are historic snow falls - if you are wanting to book early and are willing to take a chance, at least look at these before you go: https://www.onthesnow.co.uk/valais/zermatt/historical-snowfall.html?&y=2013&q=base

You have to go back to 2013 to find a good base in that particular week - 2015, 16 and 17 all similar with only 5-10cm - thats not the resorts fault. If you want deep snow book last minute or go in high season.....

As for the boulders, not sure what they are supposed to do about those.... have a game of Giants Marbles Toofy Grin Toofy Grin
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Anyway......back on topic

Bergfex as always showing a promising weekend ahead and even the Zermatt website showing something in the Klein and Gornergrat area over the same time period.

Will be interesting to see if anything comes of it!
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The Iglu-Dorf is open from tomorrow. Nice bar which is mainly open air. It is on skiers left as you are coming down from Gornegrat or Gifthittli down to Riffelberg. As the name suggests it is made out of snow in an igloo shape.

For those who want to do a bit of easy off piste there is a nice route to it. Head off down the blue route from Gifthittli. Where 45 and 38 split, take 45 (skiers right). Then stay left. You will see tracks of skiers heading left into an offpiste area bounded by 38 and 45. You can see the Iglu-Dorf ahead of you - just choose your route and go for it. Not the most stretching of off piste adventures but an enjoyable way down to a beer or Glühwein or hot chocolate.
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Meanwhile over in Cervinia they have now got the Ventina (number 7) open from Laghi Cime Bianche down into town open. And from the weekend they will have it open from Plateau Rosa (the border and the highest point of the Italian skiing area). That means that Zermatt based skiers will be able to ski Italy. The pistes over that side look like they are mainly artificial snow at present. But hopefully the storms due over the next week or so will make it over to Cervinia (they are coming from the North West so it is not certain they will) and give it a top up of real snow.
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Quote:

Base depth records are readily available as are historic snow falls - if you are wanting to book early and are willing to take a chance, at least look at these before you go

I take your point and, as I said, I am pretty sure Zermatt will be fine for my own requirements when I visit soon, as I am strictly on-piste. However, the resort does feature in several "best for early season" league tables, which may mislead some into thinking it tends to have off-piste skiing at that time of year..

And then there is this:https://www.matterhornchalets.com/2016/10/18/zermatt-snowfall-snow-record/
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