Zermatt is also the 8th highest resort in the world, with the top lift at 3,883m (or 12,739ft in old money), and a surety of snow due to its elevation meaning that the season stretches from late November until the beginning of May.
The modern comfortable lift system that means queues are a rarity. The village is beautiful and traditional (sheep are still kept in stalls in the middle of the village through the long winters), the runs are myriad and varied (with 360km it is in fact the 5th biggest ski area in the world, vaster than L’Espace Killy) and you can ski to Italy for lunch! How James Bond is that!?
Despite it’s traditional feel, Zermatt has the perfect ski resort infrastructure including three large supermarkets, one with a great wine selection (Denner), a cinema, and excellent restaurants both in the village and on the mountain. There is also a great music festival at the end of the season (Zermatt Unplugged) with performers such as Jamie Cullum, Lauryn Hill, David Gray, Lionel Richie, and Billy Idol gracing the Zermatt stages.
The ski area of Sunnegga is great for a first day to get back on your feet; There is a great progression from the beginner area of Wolli-Park, past easy blues, more challenging reds and all the way to the National; a steep icy wall of unrelenting black run that drops nearly 600m in altitude; guaranteed to get you puffing!
Cervinia is also definitely worth a visit, although best with a guide to make sure you don’t miss the last lift back to Switzerland! The runs in Italy make up 150km of the 360km total and include both the Cervinia and Valtourneche valleys. There is one continuous 13km run “Ventina” which drops from the Klein Matterhorn cable car all the way to the valley floor in Cervinia village. It is an easy red piste with a number of delightful Italian cafes nestled at the sides on the way down, to provide you with a caffeine boost!
Having skied for nearly 40 years, I know what it’s like to want to make the most of your time on the slopes - so make sure you prepare well! Get some cardio training in before you travel and if you can fit in some resistance training, your legs will thank you when you’re half day down the Ventina and you’ve got thigh burn!
My ski tip is to use the slope! Sounds so simple, yet many people for example just schuss the flat sections rather than using them to work on their technique - make it challenging for yourself; roll from edge to edge to attempt to carve cleanly or try some balance exercises like lifting one leg, and balancing from turn to turn. You’ll make the most out of your skiing and will definitely earn that beer at the end of the day!
I moved to Zermatt 12 years ago because it ticked so many of the boxes which other resorts aspired to, and I have yet to find a resort to beat it!
Rowena Phillips is a fully qualified British and Swiss ski instructor and the director of Matterhorn Diamonds Ski School in Zermatt, she is also the Zermatt expert for Fatmap and ski model and tester for the Ski Club of Great Britain.
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