Zermatt is what snow holiday dreams are made of. It’s likely already at the top of your bucket list, being a firm favourite with skiers and snowboarders.
The resort is also neighbours with that little thing called the Matterhorn (also known as the world’s most-photographed mountain) and takes out top place as the highest ski resort in Europe.
Here are six things you didn’t know about this popular Swiss destination; from its jaw-dropping scenery to its magnetic atmosphere and old-world charm.
1. It’s home to the highest ski area in Europe
The Theodul glacier in Zermatt is located at the breath-taking altitude of 3883 metres above sea level, and offers year-round skiing. If you’re here in the summer, you’ll find hundreds of winter athletes training here in preparation for the winter season.
But in the winter months, you’ll find the new Matterhorn Testcenter, which offers guests the opportunity to test the latest ski models in a unique setting. The high-quality building offers convenience and a unique ski-in ski-out experience.
2. You can only get there by train
That’s right; the only way to arrive in Zermatt is via the train. We suggest taking the famous Glacier Express for the ultimate journey, known as the world’s slowest yet most spectacular express train.
The Glacier Express goes through 91 tunnels, crosses 291 bridges and passes endless beautiful mountains and valleys along with UNESCO-listed towns on the way from Zurich to Zermatt, a trip that takes about four hours in total and is worth every second of the journey.
3. You can ski across two countries
Zermatt offers 360km pistes linked across two countries. This means year-round skiing in both Switzerland and Italy – a huge claim. Discover Breuil-Cervinia in the Valle d’Aosta region of northwest Italy with no customs to be found along the way, although it’s always a good idea to carry a photocopy of your passport in your jacket pocket.
With a new cable car about to open, the Matterhorn Glacier Ride ll will also allow skiers and boarders to take on the Matterhorn Alpine Crossing with ease. Connecting the Klein Matterhorn mountain station at 3,883 metres above sea level with the Testa Grigia valley station in Italy, day trippers can enjoy the world’s highest border crossing complete with breathtaking views and plenty of comfort.
4. There are no cars to be found in the village
Once in Zermatt, horse drawn carriages and little electric taxis will be waiting for you, ready to take you off to your hotel. This is a throwback to 40 years ago, when transport in Zermatt was almost exclusively by horse drawn carriages.
The perfect kind of day in Zermatt is wandering through the town, ducking into the restaurants,, bakeries and shops along the way. Be sure to visit the part of the village known as the Old Town, where you’ll find farm buildings over 300 years old and full of rich history.
5. You can drink – and eat, and stay – in an igloo
Nothing says ‘holiday memories’ like creating them in a world created from glistening snow crystals.The igloo village ‘Zermatt on Rotenboden’ has to be seen to be believed; at 2,727m above sea level, it holds the record in the Alps for the highest altitude igloo village.
Designed by international artists, they’re even home to a bar where you can enjoy a Swiss cheese fondue and a homemade (or should we say igloo-made?) mulled wine, or bunker down for the night.
6. It’s home to the world’s biggest ski mountaineering race
There’s a legendary race coming back to the slopes – one that has cult status in the world of ski mountaineering racing. It’s called the Patrouille des Glaciers, hosted by the Swiss Armed Forces, and runs from Zermatt via Arolla to Verbier.
Originally started in the second world war, it’s considered the toughest in the world and leads patrols of 3 people over 112km, with participants from all over the world.
Travelling to Switzerland: For holidays and travel, you can click here for all the current information on travelling to Switzerland during Covid.