10 Things to Do in Zermatt in Winter
Zermatt is a picturesque winter resort, nestled below the ominous and beautiful Matterhorn, among other towering peaks. If you’re planning to spend some time there this winter you won’t find yourself short of things to do. But where should you start?
This guide aims to share with you a vast array of options for things to do in Zermatt in winter. There really is something for everyone.
A brief history of Zermatt
Evidence of a settlement at Zermatt goes as far back as the 13th century, when it was ruled by the Bishop of Sion.
It remained no more than a village until the mid-19th century, when British mountaineers summited the Matterhorn for the first time. Edward Whymper was the first of the group of seven to reach the top, however four of the party fell to their deaths on the descent, including Lord Francis Douglas. Because of his death in particular, Queen Victoria wanted to impose a ban to prevent royal blood ever being spilled on the Matterhorn again.
However, this piqued the interest of British adventurers and mountaineers, and actually led to the tourist development of Zermatt, which is now visited by tourists and winter sports fans from around the globe. It is now a bustling, pristine village-town and one of the world’s most popular resorts for a winter break.
10 amazing activities
Thankfully (for most) there are now plenty of other things to do in Zermatt than ascend the Matterhorn. Let’s take a look at the most popular things to do in Zermatt in winter.
1. Skiing and snowboarding
Zermatt is situated among numerous four-thousander peaks, including the Matterhorn, making it an ideal location for skiing and snowboarding. Zermatt is also known for pristine slopes and perfect snow, which is why it’s continually voted one of the world's best winter sports resorts by professionals and amateurs alike.
The Zermatt area boasts 200 kilometres of slopes, with plenty of options for skiers and snowboarders of all levels. Beginners and intermediates can match their ability on a wide range of pistes, and adrenaline-junkies seeking a real challenge can hurtle down the sides of glaciers such as Monta Rosa, Theodul, Gorner, Findel and Zmutt, embracing off-piste adventure.
Greatly improved piste management also means that overcrowding and unnecessary queuing is not a problem on Zermatt’s slopes.
2. Winter hiking
The Swiss Alps really are beautiful, and if you want to see them at a more leisurely pace there are hundreds of kilometres of hikes and mountain trails to explore.
The Theodul Pass is at the heart of these towering peaks and it offers incredible views of the valleys and mountains, including the towering and jagged Matterhorn. Spring and summer hiking is very popular around Zermatt, but deeply blanketed in pure, white snow the landscape really is something to behold in winter.
There are hikes suitable to pretty much everyone too, from child-friendly walks to those requiring vertical fixed ropes and a good amount of courage. Popular beginner trails include Blauherd-Fluhalp and the Randa Village Trail. Among intermediate hikes are the Matterhorn Glacial Trail and Riffelalp-Winkelmatten. And those looking for a real challenge should look out for the Zermatt-Sunnegga hike and the Zermatt Circular Trail.
Snowshoes are necessary for some of the winter hikes around Zermatt. They will help you get to more remote spots too, offering more astounding views of the Canton Valais and the panoramic vista of the stunning Swiss Alps.
We’re not talking about a plastic tray sliding down a gentle slope here - this is proper tobogganing and some of the Zermatt slopes mean rapid descents and a lot of fun.
There are three toboggan runs in Zermatt: Randa, Rotenboden and Täsch. The first two are seen as suitable for beginners and families. They’re not too scary and not too steep. Täsch is a little more challenging. First of all sledgers need to drag their toboggan 450 vertical metres up the mountain. Then there’s the steep, rushing descent to the valley floor and the inevitable urge to do it all over again.
5. The igloo village
Iglu-Dorf Zermatt is a hotel, bar and popular attraction 2,727 metres above sea level, offering mind-blowing views of the Matterhorn and surrounding valleys and mountains.
The hotel is a large, beautifully furnished multi-room igloo where you can spend a cosy night, or just come to see it and have a drink on the sun terrace, looking out at the awesome alps.
6. Ski touring
Ski touring can be thought of as hiking on skis. With a mountain guide at your side, you can explore off-piste peaks and valleys, allowing you to get to places other people never could.
Many Zermatt ski tours take place away from prepared slopes so there are risks to consider, from challenging terrain to the high altitudes. The guides are there to keep you safe and they do a great job at that, and at showing you sights that are likely to stay with you forever.
7. Cross country skiing
Cross-country skiers, or those wanting to try it out, should look out for the Täsch-Randa trail. This mostly-flat course is ideal for gentle, cross-country skiing, and like all trails and pistes around Zermatt, it gives you the chance to explore incredible winter landscapes.
There are 15 kilometres of trails between Täsch and Randa and numerous entries to them:
- Matterhorn Terminal Täsch, north exit
- Clubhaus Golfclub, Randa
- Im Moos, Randa Dorf
- Camping Attermenzen, Ramda
There are also changing facilities and lockers at Matterhorn Terminal, which can be reached in just 12 minutes by train from Zermatt.
8. Curling and ice skating
There are a number of ice rinks in Zermatt, including in the village centre, where you can don a pair of skates and work on your toe loops, or pit yourself against the competition at Scottish or Bavarian curling.
If you get tired of winter sports and fancy a bit of retail therapy, you won’t be disappointed by Zermatt. There are inevitably plenty of ski and sports shops offering all the best gear, as well as souvenir shops, groceries and delis. On top of these you can find numerous designer boutiques in Zermatt, selling everything from high-end fashion to jewellery and watches (this is Switzerland after all!).
10. Eating and drinking
Zermatt is a culinary hotspot in the Swiss Alps, famed for its gourmet food and mountain restaurants. In the abundance of eateries you can find traditional Swiss, Mediterranean and various other cuisines, and there are currently four Michelin-star restaurants in Zermatt.
Zermatt is also a great place for après-ski fun, with lively pubs, cocktail bars and nightclubs to choose from.
Where to go for further information and suggestions
If you’d like to learn more about Zermatt, its stunning surroundings and what you can do and see there this winter, take a look at our blog.
A property hotspot
If you’d like a permanent bolthole in the Swiss Alps, allowing you to spend as much time as you like in and around Zermatt, there are some beautiful properties to explore.
From stunning apartments to large mountainside chalets, you might find a dream winter home in this property hotspot.