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Location: snowHeadLand
Resort: Zermatt
Country: Switzerland
Domain: Valais
Author: Nick L
Date: Christmas 2008
Our holiday: We went as a family - self, wife, sons aged 22,19 and 17, parents-in-law "older". We had picked Zermatt because of its reputation for catering well for non-skiers (my parents-in-law). I have about 18 weeks of skiing under my belt, my wife similar, our lads a bit less. We rarely ski off piste.
Website : www.zermatt.ch
Basics : We went on a package with TotalSki and flew with Monarch to Geneva, transfer bus to Tasch and final stage by train. Apparently it is relatively easy to do the transfer by train from Geneva
Lift system : The resort is linked to Cervinia, Italy. Having done a lot of our skiing in the Tarentaise, we noticed that there were quite a lot of (quite crowded) large cable cars and less small bubble lifts and chairs. Also the lifts seemed to stop with monotonous regularity. The link to Cervinia relies on either (yet another) large cable car, which often stops if there is wind, or two immensely long T-bars.
The terrain : The resort is in three basic areas served by the three lifts out of town. To the left is the Sunnega funicular accessing Sunnega with Rothorn above, in the middle is the Gornergrat train which also accesses the Riffelberg area, and to the right the Klein Matterhorn lifts up to Furi which then accesses the Schwarzsee, Trockener Steg and Matterhorn Glacier and Cervinia. It took us 1 hour to take the three lifts necessary to get right to the "top" at 3883m.
We particularly enjoyed red pistes 35 Gifthittli beside the Gifthittli chairlift, and 51 Weisse Perle in Scwarzsee. The blacks 62 Furg-Furi and 8 Obere National were "suitably challenging"
The snow : Avalanche warnings were at 3 all week following a large amount of snow in the preceding 2 weeks. Piste skiing was excellent and augmented in Christmas morning by about 6".
Off-piste : Not attempted except "piste-side"
The resort : Very picturesque and chic. The Matterhorn seems to be visible from everywhere and is extremely photogenic. There are many expensive shops and you could buy a diamond-encrusted Mont Blanc pen for 200,000CHF if your Bic needed replacing. There are also lots of wooden animal sheds which were part of the original village and are protected.
Food : We were in a chalet so only ate out at lunch-time. We enjoyed the Rosti at Sunnega and had a particularly pretty (and expensive) lunch at Ottmar's Hutt on the side of piste 2 Ried. The Hennu Stall on the red down from Furi seemed to be the "happening" end of the day place for a drink and loud music.
Accommodation : We stayed in Chalet Perelia on Oberdorfstrasse. This was actually a modern catered apartment on the first floor. It suffered from not being anywhere near the ski bus route and was about 10 minutes walk to the nearest lift (Klein Matterhorn). It was advertised as for "up to 7" people so we expected it to be fairly crowded with the 7 of us, but in fact it was much much bigger than you would expect for a French apartment for 7.
Costs: Ouch. I didn't spot any bargains.
Conclusion: We were very happy that Zermatt fulfilled all our expectations, and I would be happy to recommend it as a very suitable resort for a party of mixed skiers and non-skiers. It is not cheap however, and although there seems to be a fair degree of investment going on in the lifts, at this point it is not the most comfortable place to get up the mountain. Definitely not a resort for beginners as the beginner slopes are all higher up. As mentioned by others, the piste gradings are not especially consistent and there are quite a lot of narrow tracks.

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