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Zermatt vs Verbier - skiing only

 Poster: A snowHead
Poster: A snowHead
Hello - one of your Aussie members here. Every few years I have two week ski trip to Europe. A few years ago it was a week in Val D'Isere then a week in Les Menuires. I really loved the skiing in Les Menuires so the next trip it was another week in Les Menuires, followed by a week in Zermatt.

Now I'm planning my next trip. I've decided on a week in St Anton, and am tossing up between Zermatt and Verbier for the second week.

I'm a piste skier, love the big mountains and long steep descents (something like Mont Vallon in Meribel) but next trip plan to give some itineraires a go. Not interested in apres ski, but like a hotel with a nice restaurant and a fireplace. Zermatt had a great evening ambience, but I'll get some of that in St Anton. So my question is simply based on skiing, mostly piste, how does Verbier compare to Zermatt for a week?

Hope the snowheads can help!
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 Obviously A snowHead isn't a real person
Obviously A snowHead isn't a real person
Verbier has plenty of what you are after plus some testing itineries (particularly if you're not a great bumps skier). Your bigger problem is probably Oz travel if you are thinking next winter.
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Verbier....as mentioned above the itineries are a great "mix" of almost piste and almost off piste.

You can ski all the way from the top of Mont Fort back to Verbier, or the other valleys, in one log run. Proper big mountain stuff.
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I`ve heard the "you can ski from Mont Fort to Le Chable" a few times.
Three January trips, I`ve only once managed to ski to Verbier; and that one involved rock hopping.
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@rdk, Don't know either but you confident in getting out of Australia this winter? Brother lives in Sydney and he has been telling me of the cost of flights and quarantine.
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@rdk, Both are excellent. However, seeing as you've done Zermatt I'd go for Verbier.
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If you’re doing St A and Verbier I applaud your liver as much as your wallet. You’ll have a ball!
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After all it is free Go on u know u want to!
How are you planning to transfer? Zermatt would be easier with fewer changes on the train.
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If your preference is piste skiing then I’d suggest Ischgl rather than St Anton. Ischgl has a good few pistes comparable to Mont Vallon.
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@DCG, direct train to Zurich and then train back down to Verbier via Lausanne
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@rdk,
Not trying to be rude, but Mont Vallon is not really steep. It’s a great piste, but if that is what you are looking for, you might get dissapointed by St.Anton and Verbier. Both are great for serious off-piste but remarkably poor for great piste-cruising.
Instead of St.Anton, you might want to consider Lech or Ischgl.
Talking about Zermatt, its skiing actually is inferior to all mentioned resorts imo
But Zermatt and -especially- the Matterhorn are a must-see.
And yes, lower your expectance for ‘ambiance’. It will be different and difficult this winter, especially apres-ski. Already this summer the tension is palpable in the Alps.
And coming as far as from Australia...I think I would skip coming winter...
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And love to help out and answer questions and of course, read each other's snow reports.
@rdk, With respect to the other posters who do have a great deal of knowledge, speaking as a predominantly piste skier I found there was plenty of piste action in both St.A and Verbier for a week's skiing. Yes, both have well deserved reputations as off-pite meccas but the pistes and itineraires in both areas will challenge and delight you.
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@rdk, From your post the Arlberg is ideal, being based in St Anton is as good as anywhere else. Many of the best runs are ski routes (itineraries), most are perfectly within the capabilities of a decent piste skier but one or two are more difficult, ask on the St Anton / Arlberg thread for more info.

I cant comment on Verbier (unfortunately) but Zermatt really is unique and worth the visit. The potential downside is that poor weather can close the high altitude skiing and link over to Italy but on a good day it has the most majestic mountain scenery certainly in the Alps and many other mountain ranges too. There really is nowhere else like it.

Clearly planning is problematic at the moment but I would guess that it should be no issue getting last minute bookings, maybe winter holidays will be limited to those who live nearby next season but who knows.
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Thanks for all the replies - the trip this stage will be Jan 2022 rather than Jan 2021.

I'll think about Ischgl vs St Anton, but easy access to Zurich Airport via direct train is a big attraction, as I'll likely be doing that at the end of a week to fly back to Australia - Zurich flights via Middle East to Australia generally leave around 2:00 pm, making a morning departure from St Anton possible.

I was in Zermatt January this year, and initially I was a bit underwhelmed by the skiing, mainly due to the areas being slightly disjointed (and the worst piste map I've ever seen). But since I've been home I haven't stopped thinking about it and now wouldn't mind returning. The link to Italy was open 5/6 days when I was there and I did the Kleine Matterhorn to Valtourneche run one morning. I'm still wondering how you use Italian squat toilets in ski gear.

So it'll be one of Verbier or Zermatt, but still lots of thinking to do.
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rdk wrote:
Thanks for all the replies - the trip this stage will be Jan 2022 rather than Jan 2021.

.......


Ah, makes more sense now. Good luck.
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 Poster: A snowHead
Poster: A snowHead
Verbier is a step up from Zermatt if you’re comparing Verbier itineraries to Zermatt pistes or something like Mont Vallon. Long, steep runs for sure (especially Tortin, Mont Gelé, Mont Fort) but not piste bashed so you need to be able to ski bumps, chopped up etc, as well as powder if you’re lucky. Verbier also has some good long piste descents eg Attelas down to town, Jumbo to La Chaux and Plan de Fou to Siviez but this is not its forte.

Strange comment above about not being able to ski to Verbier town in January. That doesn’t happen. Benefit of a cold Jan is you can get great powder skiing in the Bruson and Vallon d’Arbi trees as well as the atmospheric stuff up high.

Here are examples of Jan conditions from last few years Verbier 4 Valleys thread:
2019
https://snowheads.com/ski-forum/viewtopic.php?t=149281&start=80
2018
https://snowheads.com/ski-forum/viewtopic.php?t=138862&start=160
2017
https://snowheads.com/ski-forum/viewtopic.php?t=132925&start=120
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@munich_irish I think you really need to be more specific when giving advice here. It is quite well known that many people, attracted by its global fame, get dissappointed in St.Anton, due to its pistes not being very cruisy. To put it mildly.
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Quote:

Verbier is a step up from Zermatt if you’re comparing Verbier itineraries to Zermatt pistes or something like Mont Vallon. Long, steep runs for sure (especially Tortin, Mont Gelé, Mont Fort) but not piste bashed so you need to be able to ski bumps, chopped up etc, as well as powder if you’re lucky. Verbier also has some good long piste descents eg Attelas down to town, Jumbo to La Chaux and Plan de Fou to Siviez but this is not its forte.

+1

Zermatt skiing is all about pistes, very long cruising and carving. IMHO best piste basher resort I've been to. In decent hardpack conditions you can't beat the exhaustion and thrill of hammering it from the top of Matterhorn Glacier Paradise to Zermatt Village in one go.

The best of Verbier is much more technical. Mont Fort frontside right below the cable car is a face I've particularly enjoyed. See @BobinCH, pics on this thread https://snowheads.com/ski-forum/viewtopic.php?t=61671

Given @rdk, comments on skiing preferences, I would recommend Zermatt.
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Can't resist my usual photo' of the middle part of the Verbier run from Attelas (2727m) to Médran (1532) - a total of 1,195 vertical metres in one go. Personally, I tend to drop down to Mayentzet (1756m) so 'only' 971m in a single run.



and the Lac de Vaux - Attelas - Mt.Fort - Mt. Gélé area (late January)

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Bobbin CH, My trips were late `80s and early `90s.

I then discovered EK, 3V, and Arlberg; never felt the urge to go back to Verbier since.
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Quote:

Can't resist my usual photo' of the middle part of the Verbier run from Attelas (2727m) to Médran (1532) - a total of 1,195 vertical metres in one go.

That's a spectacular photo. I can never get anything that good. It looks like a piste i'd like to ski Smile
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Nadenoodlee wrote:
@DCG, direct train to Zurich and then train back down to Verbier via Lausanne


Yes, I was aware of that route, but I think you need to change in Zurich, Lausanne & Montagny before then getting the cable car to the centre of Verbier - so 3/4 changes. Zermatt is just 2 changes.
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Langerzug wrote:
@rdk,

Talking about Zermatt, its skiing actually is inferior to all mentioned resorts imo


Not sure what criteria you base that judgement on, but I would have to say that Zermatt is one of my favourite resorts for its skiing. Fanatastic long runs, great snow quality due to altitude, interesting itineraries and now very well connected (unlike about 15 years ago).
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www.sbb.ch/en shows Zurich Airport to Verbier centre télécabine is 4h32m with 3 changes: Zurich Airport>Visp, Visp>Martigny and Martigny>Le Chable then a 50m walk to the télécabine up to the centre of Verbier.
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@DCG, Zermatt to me lacks any really great pistes. Yes it’s long and high, but no pistes, nor routes managed to do the magic to me.
And I know I’m not alone in that.
Snow: yes, altitude is good, but Zermatt is very inneralpine, hence very dry, causing often hard/icy conditions, and lack of powder.
Still a lot of tedious/unpleasant large cablecars/trains
Connection to Italy: also tedious, and unreliable because of weather.
And then of course there is the ‘Swiss Frank issue’. Switzerland can not keep up with value for money in the other alpine nations, all part of the EU.
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@rdk, There are so many amazing ski areas in the Alps that one of the deciding factors for me would be that, as I'd be travelling a long distance for my ski trip, I'd want to hit resorts that I hadn't done before hence my recommendation for Verbier over Zermatt, where you've already skied. As you can see from the photos the Verbier and 4V area is spectacular.
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Zermatt for piste-carving and scenery (plus incredible spring touring at 4000m on glaciers).

Verbier for lift accessible free-ride and partying.
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@halfhand, that is one of the major considerations.

I think some of the other comments reflect why it's so difficult to decide Verbier/Zermatt based on skiing only - diametrically opposed views on the quality and type of pistes in Zermatt.

Anyway, either one would be 50x better than skiing in Australia.
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@rdk, Despite what @Langerzug, says I think there are lots of great piste runs in Zermatt/Cervinia that would appeal to someone who enjoys Mont Vallon. From the top of the Furggsattel lift there are several variations along pistes 69 & 70 down to Furgg plus a couple of great itineraries just slightly further over. Then there's Ventina (7) down into Cervinia, starting from Kleine Matterhorn. 51 down from Schwarzsee to Furi also has some long steepish bits, albeit with a flat run out. Then there's 8 (the National) from Blauherd and the runs down from Rothorn either right via Fluhalp or left down to Tuftern & Patrullarve are long and solidly red. The itineraries off Stockhorn would also qualify, I think (but only open after mid January).
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@rdk, you’ve done Zermatt. Do St Anton and Verbier and you’ve then done the 2 biggest/best advanced areas in Europe. Fly out of Geneva and you could do your last day/weekend in Chamonix, and ski Argentiere or do the Vallée Blanche to finish your trip off in style Cool
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 Poster: A snowHead
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rdk wrote:

I was in Zermatt January this year, and initially I was a bit underwhelmed by the skiing, mainly due to the areas being slightly disjointed (and the worst piste map I've ever seen). But since I've been home I haven't stopped thinking about it and now wouldn't mind returning. The link to Italy was open 5/6 days when I was there and I did the Kleine Matterhorn to Valtourneche run one morning. I'm still wondering how you use Italian squat toilets in ski gear.

So you've been to Zermatt once. Like everything except the skiing being "underwhelming". So you're wondering if the skiing might actually be better than what you managed to find last year?

I don't have any personal experience to based on. But from all the comments I've heard from people who skied there, Zermatt's appeal isn't the skiing. It's the whole holiday which includes skiing. So chances are, the skiing experience probably won't improve from your last visit.
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BobinCH wrote:
@rdk, you’ve done Zermatt. Do St Anton and Verbier and you’ve then done the 2 biggest/best advanced areas in Europe. Fly out of Geneva and you could do your last day/weekend in Chamonix, and ski Argentiere or do the Vallée Blanche to finish your trip off in style Cool


Best advice yet for ticking some major skiing boxes Toofy Grin
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Quote:

So you've been to Zermatt once. Like everything except the skiing being "underwhelming". So you're wondering if the skiing might actually be better than what you managed to find last year?

I don't have any personal experience to based on. But from all the comments I've heard from people who skied there, Zermatt's appeal isn't the skiing. It's the whole holiday which includes skiing. So chances are, the skiing experience probably won't improve from your last visit.


Gee thanks @abc. What a helpful comment.
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@dcg - you've mentioned quite a few of the pistes I liked. I enjoyed the top bit of 7 into Cervinia, then 1/1a down to Valtourneche. Also 69/70 very scenic, and down past that I spent some time lapping 51/52/54 on the Hirli lift.

And run 8 to Patrullarve was a great run. Developing bumps in the afternoon but just the right size for me to practice.
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And @bobinCH & @halfhand - that is an idea.
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@rdk, 69 is really interesting. At the start of the season it seems to stay fairly close to the lift line area, but as the season progresses they move it further over. I presume this is a result of the glacier being safer as there's more snowpack. So, you get quite a different experience in late March to that in December
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rdk wrote:
@dcg - you've mentioned quite a few of the pistes I liked. I enjoyed the top bit of 7 into Cervinia, then 1/1a down to Valtourneche. Also 69/70 very scenic, and down past that I spent some time lapping 51/52/54 on the Hirli lift.

And run 8 to Patrullarve was a great run. Developing bumps in the afternoon but just the right size for me to practice.


The Hirli lift was upgraded from a drag to a chair a few years ago so, depending on when you were there, it may now be abit different. Lapping it can be fun as it's not generally a busy area and there are plenty of variations - so lots of bang for the buck in terms of lift time vs. ski time. However, the bit that I enjoy most is below the bottom of the chairs where there's a wonderful stretch before the piste starts to become more shallow and then fairly flat
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Yes - the Hirli lift was basically deserted. Skiing down to an empty bottom station and straight onto a chair by myself. This was the third week in January this year. So great fun.
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Personally, for a piste skier, I’d say Zermatt. Lot’s of high mountain piste skiing, especially if you go over to Cervinia too.

Verbier, especially if you’re trying to avoid the itineraries, isn’t brilliantly connected. You have to be able to ski the itineraries to appreciate Verbier (4vallees) . Purely for skiing Siviez is the best base.

Sounds like a return to the 3 valleys might be your best second week based on your requirements.

And btw, I’d really like to know the route to be able to ski from Mont Fort to Verbier without taking a lift.@Hurdy,
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Nickski wrote:
Personally, for a piste skier, I’d say Zermatt. Lot’s of high mountain piste skiing, especially if you go over to Cervinia too.

Verbier, especially if you’re trying to avoid the itineraries, isn’t brilliantly connected. You have to be able to ski the itineraries to appreciate Verbier (4vallees) . Purely for skiing Siviez is the best base.

Sounds like a return to the 3 valleys might be your best second week based on your requirements.

And btw, I’d really like to know the route to be able to ski from Mont Fort to Verbier without taking a lift.@Hurdy,


It is actually doable with a bit of poling! Take the left hand path as the Mont Fort piste flattens, skate up the slope to join they Jumbo run. Straight line Jumbo, launch yourself onto the Sculpture walk path below the Dahu restaurant, 10 mins of poling round to Ruinettes, drop off the path and down to town. It’s basically the same route the PDG’ers do from Col de la Chaux down to town. If it’s snowed to the valley floor you can also get to Le Chable for a 2500m total descent if you drop down below the Jumbo lift and down via Sarreyer.
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