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Zermatt Trip Report / Tips

Discussion in 'Europe' started by willsnow, Apr 5, 2019.

  1. willsnow

    willsnow Addicted

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    My wife and I spent 6 days 5 nights in Zermatt with 4 skiing days at the start of March, as part of our one month trip in Europe. Below is a trip report / tips of what I think is good practical knowledge of skiing in Zermatt. It's fairly long and might be a bit boring, but I hope it's useful for people who might be planning future trips to Zermatt.

    ATM
    There's a few ATMs in the main Zurich Airport arrival hall. My Citibank card works when requesting to withdraw CHF, but there's no option to withdraw EUR despite a label on the machines indicating that it can dispense EUR. This is consistent throughout our time in Zurich and Zermatt where the machine will only dispense CHF for my Citibank card. If you're planning to visit Italy (Cervinia) and think that you can get your EUR from a Switzerland ATM, you're unfortunately mistaken. You can of course exchange your CHF to EUR in Zurich and Zermatt.

    ATMs are easily located in Zermatt and Zurich.


    Luggage
    Our trip itinerary took us first to Zurich (2 nights) then Zermatt and then 3 weeks in Italy. We carried all our ski gears and clothings with us apart from the skis which we rented in Zermatt. We packed everything in a 60 x 50 x 50 cm moving box, weighing about just under 20 KG for ski boots, helmets, goggles, gloves, base layers, socks, ski jacket, pants for 2 people. Also, you may want to throw in a spare scotch tape in the box for repacking later.

    We carried our luggage across the street to the travel centre across the arrival hall where the Zurich airport station is located. There's a train ticket office with the luggage service where we dropped our box of gears and ask them to send it to Zermatt -> see here. Cost is 12 CHF for a 2 day delivery. It might be possible to do it faster at a price, but best to shoot them an email. We learnt that there's no option to do station to the hotel delivery for Zermatt as Zermatt is car free, but your hotel might be able to pick up the luggage for you in Zermatt. We decided to just ship it to Zermatt train station as we stayed not to far away from it (~5 mins walk). Everything was quite smooth and easy.

    After skiing, we're going to spend 3 weeks in Italy and carrying a 20 KG on top of our luggage is not something that we'd like to do. We repack all our gears back into the moving box and carry it to the Zermatt post office, which is just off the main street. Sending it back to Australia is quite straight forward, you gotta fill in a form (available in English) where the counter person will help you with (they speak pretty good English). At 151 CHF for the economy option, it's not cheap, but we think that the price is reasonable, and we don't have to worry about the gear for the rest of our trip as it's delivered straight to Australia. Postal comes with an insurance of the item up to 1000 CHF. Details here.


    Around Town and Eating

    After checking in and a quick tour of the skiing facilities in our hotel, we picked up our pre-booked rental skis and walk about Zermatt. First impression is that there are a lot of high end shops there, where clothing items like ski jacket, can cost 3000 CHF (just the jacket!). Ski rental shops are plentiful and everywhere, so I won't worry about the availability, although pre-booking will give you some discount. Your hotel might also partner with one of the ski shops and might give you discount for gear hire.


    High-end shopping. Not for poor bugger like me.


    The aforementioned 3000 CHF jacket.



    Next up was to check out a few restaurants. Most restaurants will probably set you back 35-50 CHF per person easy for dinner. Restaurants might also have a fixed menu for lunch that might cost between 20-25 CHF. Having learnt that fact, we quickly find where the supermarkets are -- there are two excellent ones: Coop and Migros. At about 4 PM, they will start selling some hot food for dinner, e.g. a Thai curry, Lasagna, Spaghetti, etc -- costs about 7 CHF. These things go like hot cakes, so grab them while you can. You may also find good selection of pre-packed salads there for about 5 CHF. Expect the supermarkets to be busy close to the dinner time. You can also make use of the bakeries around town for cheap lunch.

    We did go out for two nights when we were there. Once we were in a modern Italian restaurant where my wife had the best gnocchi in the entire trip (including the ones in Italy!), while I had a very good pizza (can't rival the ones I had in Italy, but still very good). The other time we went to a traditional Swiss restaurant to have excellent fondue and raclette. I only went for a cafetaria self-serve food up on the mountain but they're generally very good and at a reasonable price ~ 20 CHF for a decent-sized meal. Plus they have an excellent view of the Matterhorn.



    Carb-loading during lunch. This one costs me around 20 CHF. Yummy! Oh yeah, the view is pretty good too.

    We're not party animals and skip loud apres places that pump up music, but those are not hard to find in Zermatt, if that's what you're looking for.


    Lift tickets and Travel Insurance

    My 4 consecutive days pass costs 273 CHF, but I top it up with 5 CHF insurance per day for a grand total of 293 CHF. The insurance covers for accidents / medical emergencies on the slope, and in case if the lift is not working due to bad weather or mechanical issues. My wife's flexi pass 3 skiing days out of 5 consecutive days, plus the insurance, costs 244 CHF. Our pass is Zermatt only, and you can buy the additional top up to Italy (Cervinia) for 12 CHF (?) from memory. There's a cheaper insurance that costs 3 CHF with a more limited cover -- avoid that and just go for the full cover.

    To put it in perspective, one skiing days in Zermatt cost roughly 100 AUD, which is slightly cheaper or around what Buller will charge for 4 consecutive days.

    Please, please, buy the ski insurance. It's not automatically included in the lift pass. You don't want to be hit with Switzerland Air Zermatt rescue cost. While we don't have to use the ski insurance, my wife got a bad migraine on first day skiing in Zermatt and has to visit a local doctor. Let's just say that I'm glad we have travel insurance as it costs quite a fair bit of money. While she recovered and ended up using her ski pass, we were quite ready to lodge in a claim for unused skiing days on her pass if necessary which we're entitled to do. For sickness, the claim needs to be accompanied with the doctor medical report/certificate.

    I also noticed that there's quite a few non-skiers taking the chairlifts up to the top stations. Return tickets for these non-skiers are quite expensive, e.g. to top of Matterhorn Glacier Paradise is 82.50 CHF return. If you have non-skiing family members travelling to Zermatt who want to see the top of the mountain, get the full day skiing ticket for them which costs just a bit more, but should allow you unlimited rides to the top stations.

    Ski areas



    Greetings, you're in Sunnegga

    IMO, the best beginner / low intermediate area is at Sunnegga. The main run from Blauherd to Sunnegga is great for low intermediate with its wide and great Matterhorn view. The lower runs from Sunnegga to Findeln or Eja are less wide, but provide a more 'forest'-like atmosphere. There's also a beginner learning area just underneath Sunnegga lift.

    Zermatt however, is all about intermediate cruising runs. Descent from top of Rothorn at 3103 m all the way to Zermatt at 1620 m is possible, although I reckon low intermediate skiers will struggle with a few sections from Patrullarve to Zermatt.



    Top of Rothorn

    What blows my mind is the scenery change from the top with view of 4000m+ peaks to the forest trail at the bottom. My personal favourite in this area is to do the loop of black run #8 of Patrullarve - Blauherd chairlift.

    You can go to the Hohtalli - Gornergrat area by skiing red run to Gant, and then taking the cable car to Hohtalli at 3286 m. From there, you can ski all the way back to Zermatt, but I strongly recommend to just stop at Furi at 1867 m. The run from Furi to Zermatt is quite flat, crowded, and the coverage might not be great.

    Avoid taking run #27 as it's quite flat at the end and it actually ends up at the train station at Riffelalp! To ski down further to Furi, you gotta clip off and walk for roughly 7mins to get to the main run. You can wait for the train to take you back up, but it's often crowded, not very frequent, and it's slow.



    Get off the Gornergrat train to this.

    Hohtalli - Gornergrat area also has a few blue runs which suited low intermediate. Red runs #35 leading to #39 and #41 have spectacular view. Personal favourite is red runs descent from Hohtalli all the way to Furi via run #44, #35, #39 and #42.



    a snapshot of skiing in Zermatt, run #39. The wooden walls to my right are where the train goes.



    My other favourite is to do a loop of Eja - Breitboden for short, snappy, and steepish (for me at least!) black run #25.

    Furi is a central hub connecting Gornergrat to the Klein Matterhorn area, which is also the gateway to Italy. The gondola from Trockerner Steg to Matterhorn glacier Paradise is a new toy for Zermatt this year, and boy do they look shiny and comfy. I think it sits 25 people and the seats are heated. You're also treated with endless views of the Alps while riding it. At the top of Matterhorn Glacier Paradise, you can go to a viewing platform that offers 360 degree view of the Alps - it's a wet dream for mountains lovers.



    This is what will take you to the highest cable car station in Europe.



    What it looks like inside...



    A shot of the cable car in action with the glacier full of crevasse in the background



    Vista from the viewing platform. You may see the skiers / lift towers down below


    Despite all this, the skiing in this area is probably my least favourite. Skiing down from Matterhon Glacier Paradise to the border with Italy is fine, but watch out for run #73 on the glacier that's flat as pancake - you need a lot of speed here to avoid lots of pushing. Also, unless you're planning to visit Gandegghutte restaurant, best avoid run #74. It has 3-4 uphill sections that's a few distance to each other that it's impossible (for me) to get the speed necessary to go over them easily (this run follows the aforementioned flat run #73!). I ended up clipping off for these uphill sections and really frustrated.

    Another frustrating thing about this area is the difficulty in accessing juicy red runs #69 and #70. It's not obvious in the map, but you can only go to these runs if you ski to Trockener Steg, and then take the chair lift to Furggsattel near the Italian border.

    Unless you enjoy the flat run #73, do not at any circumstance made a mistake of taking the T-Bar from Trockener Steg. It's the longest T-Bar ride in my life (so far) which only takes you back to the start of run #73! I foolishly took this T-bar thinking that I can access red runs #70 and #69 from there (you can't!)

    My most memorable run in this area is the descent from Trockener Steg to Furi via black run #62, although some part of it is quite icy in the afternoon.

    I unfortunately did not spend time skiing the Schwarzsee and Hirli area where I've been informed that black run #54 is quite amazing. Also, I regrettably did not go down to Italy due to windy weather.
    I didn't do any of the off-piste 'yellow' runs as those require you to have avalanche gears and frankly I'm just not game enough to do in Zermatt without a guide where crevasses are everywhere (watching The Horn TV series with Air Zermatt probably scared me a little about crevasse)



    Off-piste riding checklist

    Access to bottom lift stations


    Zermatt has 3 main bottom lift stations to get you up the mountain: Sunnegga, Gornergrat, and to Furi. Unless you're willing to walk to the entrance of these lifts, you better off taking the free bus. The downside of it is the bus is often packed, especially towards the end of the day.

    Out of the three, the 'lift' to Gornergrat is actually a train near the main train station. While it's the most comfortable ride, it's also the slowest, the least frequent (every 20 mins?), and most crowded. My advice is to take it once to go up to Gornergrat to experience it, then avoid taking it any more, unless you have no other option due to bad weather.

    For Sunnegga, once you enter the lift building, you gotta walk about 5 mins to reach the furnicular. However, the furnicular is reasonably frequent and the ride up is quite fast. The red runs #3 and #2a ended up on top of this building, where you can access the furnicular by taking a lift down inside the building.

    The cable ride from Zermatt to Furi is called Matterhorn Glacier Paradise Express. It's the most straightforward ride where you can just sit in the cable car from Zermatt all the way up to Trockener Steg. Access is via a lift up from the bus stop level.


    Bad weather tips


    We had two bad weather days in Zermatt. Usually only the Gornergrat train and Sunnegga furnicular will run if it's very windy. Now you might think that taking the Gornergrat is not such a bad idea, however -- assuming that no other lifts are running, once you're up at Gornergrat you can only go back up via the train. The problem is that the runs down from Gornergrat will only take you back to Furi, but not the start of the Gornergrat train. You may think that you can take the train in one of the intermediary stops (e.g. Riffelberg), but the queue there will be enormous, and the train at that point in time will be crowded and can only take small number of people up. You will waste a lot of time waiting and waiting....

    A better idea is to take the furnicular up to Sunnegga and if you're high intermediate or above, ski down from Sunnegga to Zermatt where you can take the furnicular back up again until the lifts are running. When the lifts aren't running, go to Sunnegga. There will be lots of people here, but at least you can ski with minimum waiting time for the lift.

    Where to stay

    If you're first timer, I strongly recommend you to stay in the centre of the village, where you're not too far away from the train station and bus stop. Apart from the convenience with easy access to lifts, ski hire, restaurants, and supermarkets, the village is absolutely charming. While Zermatt is full of tourists, it never feels tacky.



    Left and right shots from our hotel balcony. Down below is the main street of Zermatt (Bahnhofstrasse)



    It's a great day if you can see the horn from your balcony in Zermatt



    Summary

    Apart from its flaws like no ski-in ski-out, expensive accommodation, restaurants and shops, packed buses, etc. Zermatt is absolutely magic. The lift facilities are modern, top notch, and comfortable. The views are jaw-dropping and have to be seen in person to be appreciated in its full glory. I will go back in a heart-beat. Strongly recommended for on-piste skiers who enjoy cruising long groomed trails with great views.

    Thanks for reading.
     

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    skiflat, ttn, Zeroz and 17 others like this.
  2. person s

    person s Old n' Crusty Ski Pass: Gold

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    good work
    I loved Zermatt, glad you also liked it
    hopefully it will encourage others to go there
    that run from Gornergrat to Furi was my favourite too
     
  3. Sbooker

    Sbooker One of Us

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    Great report. As a selective tight arse (I can handle spending on a great holiday but a ten dollar beer shits me) Zermatt has a question mark on it.
    How much for a beer at a bar anyway?
     
  4. willsnow

    willsnow Addicted

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    Thanks. I'm afraid a beer at a bar would cost about 7-9 CHF, which is more than 10 AUD. I balked at this and bought beers from supermarket instead. Sure, it's not the same atmosphere as in a bar, but I'm not one for big crowds and loud music
     
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  5. piolet

    piolet Better make it three Ski Pass: Gold

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    Outstanding report :thumbs:
     
  6. LMB

    LMB Old but definitely not Crusty! Ski Pass: Gold

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    Thanks for the TR
    Brought back lots of memories.

    I don’t mind a bit of Apres and loud music. Yes the beers can be exxy (everything can be exxy in Zermatt) but I think for keen skiers and boarders its a place that just needs to be done at least once.

    I did the young-family friendly version and the adults version on separate trips. Adult version Zermatt was much more fun, although I wouldn’t trade the family memories for anything.
     
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  7. Kimski

    Kimski One of Us

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    I'll get there one day. I'm still paying off my credit card from my Euro trip earlier this year so I won't be heading that way again for a while yet.:cry:

    Great to live vicariously though others though :)
     
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  8. rdk

    rdk Hard Yards

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    Great report. I'll be there for a week next year from 25 Jan and can't wait.
     
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