One of twenty six cantons in Switzerland, the southwestern region of Valais is one I found to be best explored by train. Especially the picturesque mountain town of Zermatt. If you’re drawn to tucked away mountain towns that offer 365 days of ski, Zermatt, Switzerland may be just what you’ve been looking for. For me, it was one of the few places I’ve traveled to where the feeling of ‘I’m home’ overcame me immediately. So much so that the moment my friend Lacy and I stepped off the train platform and into our electric taxi (regular vehicles just aren’t allowed), we cancelled our plans for the next town to stay an extra night in Zermatt. I could have easily stayed for the entire winter. Explore with me through my Zermatt Winter Guide – my favorite experiences throughout our three night stay – below.
You’ll feel the impact of the hard work they’ve done to keep this Zermatt Village sustainable, especially when it comes to getting around. Only electric vehicles specially built for the town can drive the roads – no cars allowed. You’ll also spot many locals biking in the road through freshly fallen snow. You’ll also see the occasional zero emission e-Bus, which has a locally made engine.
The historic center of town is characterized by log cabins that reminded me of building Lincoln Logs growing up as a kid. Town was bustling with energy – we even ran into one of Switzerland’s largest curling competitions while perusing around.
A surefire bucket list experience is skiing in Zermatt. I haven’t been snowboarding much outside of short trips to Tahoe and Bear Valley in California, and Vermont on the east coast, and thought I’d surely be intimidated with the Matterhorn staring me in the face. We took the Zermatt Bergbahnen (the mountain cablecar) all the way up to 10,000 ft at Gornergrat to first take in the views. You can spot the Monte Rosa Hut, awarded the 2010 Solar Prize, from here which you can hike out to with a local guide and make and overnight trip June through September.
As we got ready to snowboard and ski down the first run, my intimidation quickly fell away. There were far fewer people than I expected which made falling as much as I do not so worrisome and much more fun.
When it comes to taking runs down the mountain, there are many great routes for any skill level from semi-beginners to experienced ski and snowboarders. Try heading up extra early in the mornings (the second two weeks in January are a great low-tourism time) if you want to beat the crowds.
Less athletic yet just as awe inspiring, I loved spending our second day making our way up to the solar powered Glacier Matterhorn Viewing Platform. Try your best to go the first chance you see a cloudless, clear day or you’ll risk missing out on this incredible viewing deck.
Spa culture in Switzerland is everywhere and after a day on the mountain, you’ll want to relax somewhere you can warm up. Hotel Eden, where we stayed, had an indoor pool for lap swimming, three different types of sauna/steam rooms and a relaxation area with a glass roof to gaze out into the sky. Or even a glass of wine acres ski upstairs – with a view of course.
On the mountain near Riffelberg, Riffelhaus 1853 has the cutest little bar cart for cocktails, hot and steamy Glüwein (mulled wine), and a local favorite, Salmon Rösti – salmon, potatoes, cornichons, and whipped dill. To top it off, there’s even a viewing window out to the mountains and the slopes below.
In + around town, you’ll find a mix of modern to classic cuisine. Two of my contrasting favorites were Schafersteub and Cervo.
In the basement of Hotel Julen, lies Schäferstube, local delicious farm to table tastes of the Valais. The innkeeper, Paul Julen, even has his own herds of sheep. We had the most amazing multi-course dinner including locally raised tender lamb. Lacy and I loved this place so much we contemplated going back again the following night.
Quite the opposite of Schäferstube, dinner at Cervö was modern. We had wine and electric raclette, a traditional Alps dish where a half wheel of cheese is heated and, once melted, scraped off onto potatoes or meats.
More than anything, I loved the modern vibe and design of the hotel. Plus they have their very own ski run. How cool is that?
No matter the season, Zermatt has a nice range of culinary delights and active adventures to keep you smiling.
A portion of our stay was hosted by the Zermatt + Switzerland Tourism. As always, opinions and words are all my own.
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