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Domain: Matterhorn Ski Paradise (also includes Cervinia & Valtournenche)
Date: 10th-17th Jan 2010
Our holiday: A mate and I found a last-minute chalet deal with Ski Total, we're intermediates with 10-12 weeks under our belts
Website : www.zermatt.ch
Basics : Flew into Geneva having been delayed for 2 hrs, waited 2 hours for other flights to arrive then a 4 hr coach/train/electric taxi trip to our accommodation in Zermatt, glad to finally get there 16 hrs after leaving home!
Lift system : There are 3 main sectors (Sunegga/Rothorn accessed via underground funicular, Gornergrat accessed by cog railway, Schwarzsee/Klein Matterhorn accessed by gondola), in recent years there has been a lot of investment in new lifts that link the 3 areas on mountain without the need to drop back to and cross the resort (which must have been a nightmare with the over-subscribed electro-bus system). There are still some older lifts and a reliance on inconvenient cablecars due to the high alpine terrain.
The area is linked across the border to Cervinia in Italy, which certainly adds to the kilometres available and the enjoyment, the link is extremely high at 3800m and can be closed in bad weather. Staying at the top end of town near the Klein Matterhorn gondola meant that all areas were easily accessible, thanks to the new Furi-Riffelberg gondola link.
The terrain : Amidst the glaciers and 28 4000m+ peaks including the iconic Matterhorn, the terrain is spectacularly awesome with an impressive 2200m vertical. It's not the sort of terrain that would be chosen as ideal for a ski area, there are too many chasms which make linking areas difficult, the high glacier areas are too flat to be interesting and there are not many tree lined pistes for bad weather, but the way these natural obstacles have been overcome makes for a gnarly, challenging area nonetheless. My favourite run was the red from Rothorn to Gant which sweeps and drops 900m through beautiful glaciated scenery.
The Cervinia side in contrast is full of flattering wide motorways including the 22km drop into Valtournenche and the Ventina piste down to Cervinia, my favourite was the Cretaz piste at the far left of the bowl below the south face of the Matterhorn, a red sweeper at the top ending up on a fast blue motorway down into Cervinia.
The snow : There had been no significant snowfall for over 2 weeks before we arrived and no more than a dusting fell while we were there. Up high pistes were in good condition, lower down they were a bit hard-packed and would get scraped to the point of icy patches showing through late in the day. The Italian side had more recent snow and a top-up while we were there, so was in excellent condition.
Off-piste : Not my bag but plenty of opportunities in between pistes after snowfall, then there are also whole faces of unpisted yellow itineraries which generally open when snowcover builds in February.
The resort : Zermatt is the quintessential chic mountain resort: there are ancient cow-sheds mixed in with seriously expensive hotels; shops selling Â£150,000 hand-crafted, bejewelled watches; a mature clientele with fur-clad ladies strolling arm-in-arm with their well-heeled silver-haired husbands; horse-drawn carriages; all motorised traffic except for electric vehicles is banned; at the same time there were younger people enjoying some lively apres (Hennu Stall, Papperla Pub, Schneewittchen club) which all added up to a special atmosphere that probably isn't available elsewhere.
Food : There are some seriously nice places to eat on the mountain, Chez Vrony (at Findeln) and Zum See (below Furi) have the best reputation, we had a hot choc at the former just to look, cost CHF5 (Â£3), which was no more than other soulless self-service places on the mountain. Eating over in Italy is 30-50% cheaper, the atmospheric restaurant at Chalet Etoile above Plan Maison in Cervinia where we had a waitress-served Entrecote steak with bearnaise sauce for â‚¬20 (Â£18 ), something similar on the Swiss side would have been 50% more at CHF45 (Â£27).
There are over 100 restaurants (of every taste from the ubiquitous Swiss fondue to japanese and exotic fusion) to choose from in Zermatt ranging in price from affordable to splurge-worthy.
Accommodation : Chalet Kamanga was a little dated but was comfortable and the staff took pride in what they were doing, food was some of the best I've had in a chalet. Handy for the red line electro-bus down to the lifts and ski back to within 100m on the Moos piste.
Costs: Zermatt is up there with the top resorts in terms of costs, particularly the unavoidable lift-pass at CHF405 (Â£245) for 6-day international pass, the weak pound adds to the pain. I didn't come across any overt rip-offs but look at the prices before you buy as some places are offering exclusivity to the rich clientele. Whatever you pay, you will probably still be getting value for money in terms of quality, ambience or service and there are usually budget options available if you don't want to splurge (pints at Sparky's were CHF5 (Â£3)).
Conclusion: Probably one of the best ski resorts in the world, it's reputation is deserved, it has everything you'll ever need and more!
A few photos from the trip:
Matterhorn looking moody
Klein Matterhorn cablecar
On the 22km run to Valtournenche in Italy
Cretaz piste above Cervinia
Toblerone Matterhorn from Trockener Steg
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Last edited by A snowHead on Wed 27-01-10 0:45; edited 2 times in total