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Location: snowHeadLand
Resort: Zermatt
Country: Switzerland
Domain: Matterhorn Ski Paradise
Author: doogo
Date: 21/2 - 25/2
Our holiday: Half term sneaky break for my teacher-wife and me
Website : bergbahnen.zermatt.ch
Basics : In the Valais canton of Switzerland (south west) - closest airport Sion but we flew to Geneva and hired a car - 2.5 hours to resort - you drive as far as Visp or Tasch and leave your car in carpark there - Visp: free carpark but 1 hour train journey; Tasch: paid carpark but 12 minute train journey - costs work out quite similar for a couple - if you had 4/5 in a car, it would be cheaper to park in Tasch and not pay the train fare - if the weather gets bad, then there are a couple of interesting turns on the way down the mountain from Tasch to Visp!
Lift system : Lots of cable cars (way too full - if you're claustrophobic, you're not going to enjoy them) but also a good system of chairs (some fast 6 and 4 seaters) and T-bars (if necessary). As the resort reaches the heights of nearly 4000 metres, the cable cars accessing the top are prone to closure in bad weather but there is a good variety of terrain even in that event.
The terrain : Long cruisy blues and reds - especially on the Italian (Kleine Matterhorn/Cervinia) section of the mountain (nos. 6 & 7 were our favourites). Also good reds, if a little tougher on Gornergrat side of mountain (a favourite for me was nos. 29 and 27 linking gifthittli to riffelalp - really good bowl section in the middle - steep but wide- great fun) Terrain on Italian section definitely easier than Swiss but nothing above good intermediate on the pisted runs (didn't try the ski routes so cannot comment)
The snow : Hard but good - anything under 2500 metres was looking a little grim by the afternoons - Zermatt missed the snowstorms of the previous week in France - was snowing on day we left and that freshened the slopes up no end
Off-piste : Very little fresh snow - so stayed on the pisted stuff (though all i would have done anyway would have been playing off the edges of pistes - must get the off-piste lessons soon ....)
The resort : Great buzz about the place - not as la-di-da as it was written up to be i thought - defo some older folks around but also a good range of 20-late 30's as well. Loved the T-Bar pub, the Vernissage 'experience' (bar/club/cinema/restaurant). Thought the Brown Cow Bar was over-rated. Papperla pub and nightclub downstairs the liveliest venue we went to.
Food : In resort, good range of food from reasonable Italian (Pizzeria Broken, Spaghetti Club - both in Hotel Post), rosti (in many of the hotels - we went to Hotel Stockhorn off main street - also Hotel Derby looked good but reservations required) right through to big meals (we didn't do this so can't comment). On the mountain, food so-so - no great recommendations - thought the Iglu Bar in the Riffelberg area was very relaxing - prices on the food as always too high ... but what can you do (we 'supplemented' our lunch with some extras from the excellent breakfast buffet - hey, it was high season - our budget was only going so far ...)
Accommodation : Stayed in Hotel Alpenblick - nice small family run hotel - on B&B basis - breakfast excellent (see above!) - rooms nice and well kept - small wellness area - best feature was its closeness to the lifts up to Kleine Matterhorn and Riffelberg
Costs: Lift pass for 4 days : CHF 268 (€160), Gold skis €60, no lessons, lunch - minimal, dinners - €20 per head plus drinks; great cocktails in Vernissage (not cheap though ...) - best caipirinha I've had outside of Portugal (never been to Brazil) - good value at c.€10
Conclusion: Excellent place - my wife and I are enthusiastic intermediate skiers and we covered a lot of the terrain in our 4 days and really enjoyed the slopes - off slope, the town has plenty of atmosphere - would return in a flash. My only note of caution would be for beginners - didn't see an awful lot of good starter slopes so this place might not be the best place to bring a cautious first-timer (especially if they don't like heights!!!)

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