My fine wife relented and granted 2.5 days sliding in Zermatt, then 2 days sliding in Chamonix two weeks ago, while she was stuck at home wrangling the kids. For this, I will be forever grateful, since it gave me the chance to hit up some places that have been on my bucket list. Even though I have no more child-avoidance credits left for at least another 12 months, both place were well worth it. I thought it worth sharing some thoughts on both places for anyone planning their next Euroski adventure. Terrain: Zermatt/Cervinia is a massive area, in the top 5 size-wise in the world (360km of pistes). It's split into 4 major sections each with their own "peak" but the terrain is very undulating with lots of red runs that can have steep sections followed by an uphill to wash off speed. The runs are long and 85% is above the tree-line (lucky it was sunny the whole time I was there). There are a few flat cat tracks too so be sure to get your board waxed! The 3 main areas of Chamonix are small in comparison (114km of pistes). I had not done the math before the visit and I was quietly lamenting Chamonix for having such a small ski area after visiting Zermatt. What it lacks in groomers however is more straightforward, consistent vertical faces, few spines, which means some seriously fast red runs. Lachanel at Brevent/Flegere would have to be one of the best red runs on the planet. One would be hard-pressed to find anything else as steep, with a continuous flat face for as long. This consistency in fall-line makes it great for off-piste action. It snowed 15cm overnight in the Chamonix valley while I was there and I was in Grands Montetes laughing at myself for questioning why people love this place so much. The truth is one would be hard-pressed to think of a better place to be after a good-sized snowfall. It has obvious off-piste, with few dead ends and steep, continuous faces. Without having a guide, one can have a lot of off-piste fun in Chamonix. And then if one is keen to complete some short-medium hikes, there are many "off-the-back, out-of-resort-bounds" routes to be had as well. Zermatt is no slouch for off piste either. The itineraries along the Stockhorn glacier are excellent, and despite it not having snowed for a week, there were still fresh tracks to be had. Most Zermattians, unlike Chamonix natives/visitors are not off-piste obsessives so it does not get tracked out as quickly. The tracked out areas were fun too since the snow was still soft underfoot given the high altitude (2500m+). The downside of off-piste Zermatt is the aforementioned undulating terrain, unlifted valleys, and glaciers. This makes it tricky for newcomers to navigate. It'd be great to get a guide next time. Overall, both places are great for intermediate/advanced sliders (tho I'd still suggest Verbier/4 Vallees is the best place I've ever been terrain-wise). Snow Quality: I would have to give this one to Zermatt since by, virtue of altitude alone, the snow quality was great (the top of the highest lifted point is 3900m meters, and the other two peaks are also fairly high too with the top of Sonnega/Rothorn being 3100m, and the top of Gornergratt/Stockhorn being 3250m). In contrast, the lower altitude (<2100m), south facing pistes in Brevent/Flegere were a little icy, and needed a top-up of snow even in late Jan (which they subsequently did). Not surprisingly, altitude and aspect counts for everything. Both places were super cold. Zermatt was -11 in the village during my stay and means it was at least -15 at the top (pro tip: do not take the drag lifts when trying to get over to Cervinia if temps are low. You will freeze). Chamonix was pretty cold too at -7 in the valley, which meant good, dry, fresh snow. Oddly, the amount of fresh snow was highest mid-mountain. Costs: Zermatt is an expensive place, though Chamonix has its moments. The snackhouse on Brevent charged EUR6.50 for a cappuccino from an automatic machine, while I paid EUR3.50 in Valtourneche. Realising my rookie error, I hit the one of several bakeries in Chamonix on the morning of Day 2 for a baguette and a coupla pastries for lunch. My guess is this is how the local snow bums do it. I saw one guy pull out a thermos of coffee on the gondola. That's one way to save a few $$$s. That Zermatt charges EUR5 for the lift pass card, a bit of plastic, is a bit of a joke but it's telling that they get away with it. A Zermatt/Cervinia pass works out to be EUR81, which might be the most expensive pass in Europe. Though, with fine weather and full snow coverage, it's more than justified. A single day ski pass in Chamonix will only set you back EUR47 but a return ride up to the Aiguille du Midi was a whopping EUR50 (forget it). Pistelife: Maybe 'cos it's close to Italy, but Zermatt has a reasonable volume of on-piste jaunts, and usually quite lovely. The two that I visited in Zermatt were great, Zu Swingee near Gant, and Foyer des Guides near the bottom of Valtourneche. On Sundays, it even seemed important to make a reservation. Chamonix has few such pitstops. It is strictly focused on sport and mostly had cafeteria type places with snack food rather than 3 course dining. As I mentioned above, best bring your own lunch. Both places had uncrowded pistes and few long queues. I was subsequently told that January was "off-season", a lull after Christmas/New Year and before Swiss/French school holidays begin. Well, good. It was rare to encounter "slow" sliders carving the full width of a fast cat track, when a passing manoeuvre could send one tumbling off the edge into a treed abyss or slamming into an ice-wall. In fact, Zermatt felt rather empty. Chamonix has old lifts that would not be out of place in Australia. Even the telecabines of Liason and Flegere are romantic at best (looks like there are plans to replace the Flegere telecabine imminently). Most of the lifts in Zermatt are modern and it has just installed a new, impressive lift to the Klein Matterhorn (3900m). It's like a gondola but instead of the usual egg-shaped cabins, it has massive square boxes that could fit 30 people. Apparently several of these cabins have been designed by Swarovski. It carries 2000 people an hour, which is not massive but not bad for a lift that covers 900 metres of vertical (the new Eagle chair at Falls carries 2400 an hour, prob 300 metres of vertical). The scenery was great in both places (see photos), especially the Zermatt glaciers but I'd still say the Dolomites in Italy are the most spectacular. Chairlift Comrades: Oddly, I met quite a few yanks in Zermatt. Around town, Zermatt had a fair share of Chinese, Japanese and Koreans, probably drawn to see the Matterhorn. My airbnb host said that a lot of his guests are Korean and they bring their own noodles. I met a few Swiss too. Obviously, as soon as you are in no-mans land at the top of the Klein Matterhorn and moving towards Cervinina there are suddenly lots of Italians as well. In Chamonix, there seemed to be lots of French but also a lot more British, Australian, and Canadian. Nightlife: Zermatt is filled with many fine dining restaurants and very few bars/clubs/apres. That's not to say that you could not have a late one, it's just that it did not seem much of a "party" town. Chamonix, on the other hand, had all manner of venues and buzz. Though neither has anything like Austrian apres-ski or an emphasis on partying like, say, Verbier. Townlife: Every major Swiss watchmaker has a boutique in Zermatt, plus other jewellers. Interestingly, both have McDonalds, which is to suggest that both are definitely towns rather than villages. For every watch boutique in Zermatt, Chamonix had a mountain-wear/equipment retailer. It's Little Bourke Street times one hundred. It's a wonder that they all survive but I guess it's indicative of the types of visitors each place gets. Zermatt did have a few people that looked like they could drop $20k on a watch on a whim while Chamonix has those types that have enough gear at home for a 20-man trek up Everest. Both town are quite pretty but I did prefer Chamonix since it had a little more hustle and bustle. For dinner in Zurich, the focus is on Swiss-German food, particularly raclette and fondue but you have your staples like bratwurst and schnitzel. In Chamonix, most French restaurants offer classic Savoyarde fare, steak, game, also raclette etc. Given the proximity, both places have Italian food at various levels of sophistication as well. For families with young children: I would suggest Chamonix wins on that front. Despite having to catch buses everywhere, bus stops are also everywhere. In Zermatt, the two launch pad lifts are spaced a fair way apart, maybe 20 minutes walk, too far to walk with children. My guess is the well-to-do parents in Zermatt get the electric taxis that zoom about the village. Most of the slopes in Zermatt are suited to experience sliders. Chamonix is the same in Brevent/Flegere and Grands Montets. However, I did venture to Le Tour and was pleasantly surprised at how well it suited beginners. It reminded me of Sun Valley at Falls Creek (tho the runs in Le Tour are much longer). It had lots of wide open spaces with an easy, but not flat ,gradient. One can go fast but it's never particularly steep. For the parents, there is enough to keep them busy while the kids are at ski school, whether that be tree runs under the Tete de Balme lift or the plenty of side-country on offer. I think Zermatt knows that it isn't well-suited for kids since lift passes are free for those aged 9 an under! At Chamonix, the ski pass costs kick in at 5 years of age. Finally, there is getting there itself. Chamonix is a 90 minute bus ride from Geneva airport. Zermatt was a 3-hour train ride, which is probably 1 hour too many with young children after a plane trip. The final word: If there are kids in tow, Chamonix. Parents can tag-team days in Le Tour while the other chases pow-pow at the other ski areas. If no kids and keen to charm the missus then Zermatt. If no kids in tow but with friends that will crash by 10pm after a big day of logging km's on and off-piste, then Zermatt. If your mates like to give it a nudge in the evenings then Chamonix. Till next winter.