Zermatt skiing - the best in Switzerland?
Being situated at the upper end of the stunning Matter valley (or Mattertal to the locals), Zermatt enjoys a lofty perch among the many ‘four-thousander’ peaks that dot this epic landscape - not least the iconic Matterhorn itself.
Perhaps unsurprisingly for a resort town synonymous with well-groomed pistes and perfect snow, Zermatt also commands a similarly elevated position among various prestigious international ski rankings. In fact, Zermatt skiing has regularly topped the charts for numerous leading surveys of the best on-piste action, and rarely places outside the top two or three highest-voted resorts among tourists and competitive skiers alike.
Of course, this would be an impressive enough achievement if the polling was restricted just to Switzerland skiing; after all, Swiss resorts regularly account for up to half of the top ten results in most independent studies. The fact that Zermatt regularly triumphs against stiff global competition from the likes of Canada, France, Italy, Austria, Japan and the USA really underlines just how special the skiing is in this breathtakingly spectacular little mountain town.
Reasons why Zermatt skiing is rated so highly
There are numerous important reasons why Zermatt skiing and snowboarding is frequently voted the best in the Alps, the best in Switzerland - and, almost as regularly, the best in the world. When a survey polls nearly 50,000 votes, you can be sure that there will be a lot of very personal and subjective views included!
However, among all the dozens of answers as to why so many international visitors keep returning to ski in Zermatt year after year, several key themes do emerge. Among the most frequently cited responses are:
Miles of immaculate pistes
There are some 200km of increasingly spectacular slopes to explore around Zermatt itself, catering to a wide range of abilities and adventurous streaks. Beginner and intermediate skiers are just as well provided for as more experienced types, with a welcoming selection of gentle, meticulously groomed terrain available if you’re just looking for a leisurely run out before lunch.
There’s also plenty of adrenaline-pumping downhill action close at hand, courtesy of the many rugged glaciers that snake powerfully down the dizzying mountainsides - the Monte Rosa, Theodul, Gorner, Findel, Matterhorn and Zmutt, to name just a few. A full descent from the Klein Matterhorn (3820m) down to resort level (1600m) involves a drop of over 2km via numerous slopes and pistes. It’s the longest such continuous downhill run in Switzerland, and among the most dramatic and varied of its kind anywhere.
Great off-piste skiing
For the more advanced skier, there’s also plenty of opportunity to explore beyond the boundaries of the marked courses. Going off-piste in Zermatt means encountering a thrilling variety of terrain types and backdrops, where a single long run can take in everything from craggy outcrops to white-knuckle glacier runs, placid Alpine lakesides to tranquil unspoilt woodlands. You can even ski over to Italy if you’re so inclined! It’s convenient, too: with an expansive network of more than 60 lifts, gondolas, funiculars and cableways in operation, dozens of picture-perfect locations can be explored within minutes of leaving the town centre.
Thanks to a smart arrangement made between various lift operators, the once-disparate running of Zermatt’s ski slopes was eventually brought together under a hefty investment scheme. The result has been a massive improvement across the board for skiers and boarders of all experience levels. Most notably, extended queuing for lifts, cabins, bars and other on-piste services has been virtually eliminated, even at peak times. Flexible passes are convenient, cost-effective and easy to use, making the pre-ride admin side of today’s quintessential Euro ski experience a breeze.
You can’t really talk about a Switzerland skiing trip without mentioning the après-ski scene, and once again, Zermatt has plenty to offer in this regard. Whether you’re looking for a loud and lively night in one of the town’s thriving music pubs, or something a bit more refined (oysters and wine on a beautiful restaurant patio, perhaps?), you’ll find no shortage of options to indulge yourself once you’ve hung up your salopettes for the day.
Add in the fact that there are so many other activities to try besides skiing - helitours, hiking and biking, riding the glacier express, or strolling around the quaint, characterful and car-free old village centre - and it’s pretty much impossible to run out of memorable things to do and see around Zermatt and its neighbouring Valais towns.