Getting to Zermatt
Zermatt Switzerland is located at the far end of the valley and the village is car-free. It is necessary, therefore, to park your car in the covered car park in Täsch and take the train up into the centre of Zermatt. They depart every 20 minutes and the journey time is 13 minutes. There are trolleys in the car park to transport your luggage (you need 5 CHF) and these go onto the train and out at the other end where there are always electric taxis to take you to your accommodation.
Coming from Geneva take the E62/E27 in the direction of Lausanne around the northern side of Lake Geneva. After passing Montreux and Martigny the road continues (under the new name of the 9) until you approach Visp. Here you turn right heading towards Stalden, St Niklaus, and onto Täsch and Zermatt. Total journey time is c.3.5 hours
Take the 3 from Zurich which after briefly heading West turns into the A1. After c.100kms turn onto the A6 in the direction of Interlaken and Bern. At Lattigen change to the A8 towards Interlaken. Fork right onto the 223 at Spiez – follow this road for c.30miles. At the 9 turn left towards Visp and Brig and after c.6miles you come off the 9 and follow signs to Stalden, St Niklaus and Zermatt. The road up the valley snakes its way and you stay on it until arriving after c.40miles in Täsch. Transfer to the train.
Zermatt is almost equidistant between Zurich and Geneva so either works well for getting here. Swiss now operate a limited service into Sion which is considerably closer, saving approximately two hours of transfer time. This is also a great bet for private jets and from Sion a helicopter can be organised, landing in Zermatt.
Catch the train from either Zurich or Geneva Airport. From Geneva change train at Visp to catch the train straight to Zermatt. From Zurich it may be necessary to change at Bern, although there are also trains direct to Visp. Train times and connections can be found on the website www.sbb.ch
Getting Round in Zermatt
Zermatt is car-free so walking around town is both pleasant and easy. The village is about a mile and a half long, so expect it to take about 30 minutes from end to end. The river makes an excellent navigational aid running as it does South to North through the village. The Catholic Church is right in the centre of town and its steeple can also be a good navigation point.
There are buses that run through town – the Green and the Red lines. The Green line links the lift stations of Klein Matterhorn and Sunnegga as well as down to the train station and into Spiss. The Red line runs from Winkelmatten into the resort and to the Sunnegga lifts. You can tell which one is which by looking at their bumpers.
The taxis or electros are one of the charms of Zermatt – Small handmade electric carts that will take seven passengers around Zermatt with luggage and skis on the outside. Lethally silent, they can also be lethally expensive so worth checking in advance, and on busy days you may be asked to share with others, but this brings prices down.
Full day private lessons with ES include the taxi ride from your accommodation to the ski lift in the morning.
Where to Stay
Zermatt has as many places to stay as it does snowflakes on the slopes. Choose from catered chalets, self-catered apartments and hotels. There is a broad price range, but consider transport to and from the slopes when making a choice. Some places are situated up the valley sides offering superb views, but you’ll need an electro to get there at the end of a day’s skiing with your ES instructor.
Zermatt: The Town
Zermatt itself is a town with a year round population of about 8,000 residents, expanding to nearer 35,000 in peak season. The village sits at 1,620m, but the skiing goes up as high as 3,800m, and on even higher should you wish to ski tour or take a helicopter for a day’s adventure. The village is dominated by the Matterhorn at 4,478m, but with the Dufourspitz on the Monte Rosa as the highest of the surrounding mountains at 4,634m and in fact the highest peak in Switzerland. The river Vispa, fed by local glaciers, runs through the village.
Within the town there are numerous amenities. These include two supermarkets, a museum, a cinema, two churches (Catholic and Anglican), souvenir shops, bars, restaurants, bakeries, tea-houses, ski shops and incredibly chic shops.
Eating is king in Zermatt, both on and off the mountain – 233 Gault Millau points are shared around in this little town, here are the ‘best bits’:
Telephone: 027 967 25 88
Stunning location with marvelous views of the Matterhorn from the sundecks. Very rustic inside, and with a brilliant ‘Winter Garden’ so eating al fresco in February is possible. Seriously punchy food and wine list – unbelievable Veal Chop and Calves Liver. Finding it is the key, so look for the little white church, unclip and then follow your nose…
Chez Vrony (Findeln)
Telephone: 027 967 25 52
Modern sophisticated eating in a traditional
setting. Furniture by Heinz Julen and a spot-on menu make this the restaurant for the glitterati in Zermatt. Service is excellent, food great, and you can even buy the rug you snuggled under with your house coffee watching the sun go down behind the Matterhorn.
Fluhalp (Rothern to Gant)
Telephone: 027 967 25 97
Simply the best fun place to have lunch in Zermatt. Service is brilliant and ever enthusiastic. Food is hearty and in massive portions. The band plays, entertaining the crowd, as people sing along and dance on the tables. The huge winter garden means views are brilliant even in the cold, and you’ll need to book well in advance for New Year’s Day or St Patrick’s Day. But make sure you do.
Al Bosco (Riffelalp)
Matterhorn shaped pizzas and other Italian dishes make Al Bosco one of the favourites. Exceptional pasta and a fantastically welcoming building make it a shelter from any passing storm or even from the sun’s rays. They also do a great kids menu as well as brilliant home-made iced tea.
Telephone: 027 966 05 07
Just below Al Bosco is the very Swiss Alphitte. Oozing rustic charm, skins, horns, and lashings of cheese is a slice of traditional Switzerland. The wallisertelle is both generous and tasty and the puddings are massive. But book in advance as it gets busy in the cozy confines of the inside.
Telephone: 027 967 20 96
Gourmet dining with no pretence, no ego, no fuss. Daily specials are scribbled on the chalkboard attracting the passing skiers like bees to the honeypot. Inside the intimate dining room is great for a cold snowy day, or when the sun shines have fun watching skiers careering down past you. Great food is mixed with genuinely warm hospitality. And see if you can work out where the loos are.
Zum See (Furi)
Telephone: 027 967 20 45
For many the finest dining on the mountain (on the Swiss side). This place can do you oysters by the dozen, Dover Sole, fillet steak, a million puddings and all in a secluded courtyard nestled chocolate-box style in the middle of a tiny hamlet. Hidden from the slopes you need to know your way, although the collection of skis parked out on the snow are a not-so-subtle hint.
For all of these ES will happily book them for you in advance – simply contact the Zermatt office or ask your instructor and we will take care of it all for you.
Restaurants in Town
There are many good places to eat in Zermatt – so many we can’t do them all justice here. Instead here are a few instructors’ favorites:
Chez Heini (£££), Corbeau d’Or (£££), Myoko (£££), The Bubble (£), Sparky’s (£), Walliserstube (££), Le Mazot (£££), Stockhorn (££), Whymperstube (££), McDonalds (£)
There are three ways out of the valley to the ski slopes: Sunnegga, Gornergrat and Klein Matterhorn.
Sunnegga is at the northern end of the village at the level of the river. There is a large area in which to congregate outside, and this is where all ES Kids Academy, Freeski and Penguins lessons start from early in the week. Walk through the tunnel to get to the newly renovated funicular railway which takes you up to Sunnegga in 5 minutes. From there it is up on the gondola and then the cablecar to Rothorn.
Opposite the train station in the middle of town is the Gornergrat train. This is the old cog-railway which was opened in 1898 and continues to transport visitors to Zermatt to the Gornergrat Observatory 365 days a year. There are intermediate stops on the way, notably at Riffelalp for the hotel built there and at Riffelberg slightly higher up. The journey takes about 40mins, and there are direct and stopping trains.
Klein Matterhorn is at the southern end of the village, and is set up above the level of the river. It is usually reached by crossing the river and going up in a lift which drops you directly outside. Here the gondolas take you up towards the ski areas of Gornergrat and Klein Matterhorn.
These can be bought at any of the lift stations. Kids under 9 ski for free; you should take their passport with you as proof of age.