Zermatt - King of the Hill
At the base of Switzerland’s highest Alp, Zermatt is king of the hill. Located in a stunning cul-de-sac of the Matter Valley on the Swiss-Italian border, Zermatt sits at the base of Switzerland’s highest peaks. With high-brow culture and stunning natural scenery, skiing the Swiss Alps is a lifetime experience. In Zermatt, skiing means ski-hopping, where you’ll ski into France or Italy for lunch, then home again for après ski en Suisse. Quite a glamorous existence, indeed.
Postcard perfect, the village of Zermatt epitomizes laid-back luxury. Of course that is as laid back as you can be if you chopper into this car-free zone, where helicopter and train are the only ways to reach the fun. For those arriving by train, a personal chauffeur from the hotel of your choosing will be less than 50 meters away. But no matter how you arrive, you will be stunned by the first glimpse of the unforgettable MATTERHORN and exhilarated to breathe in the crisp, cold air. Because here, at the top of the world, you’ll never feel so alive.
Home for the weekend should be The Omnia, a boutique mountain lodge located in the heart of the village, soon to become one of your favorite places in the world. From the perfect Swiss service, welcome beverage upon arrival and the stunning view, you won’t believe it can get any better. But it does, as you head to the slopes. Experienced skiers and spa lovers alike fall in love with Zermatt. A beautiful, international crew hails from all corners of the world to enjoy the mountains, sunshine, skiing, food and hospitality that you too, will soon come to crave.
Once you’ve sized up the ski conditions there are a number of shops where you can rent skis, snowboards, and other winter sports equipment. Julen-Sport, Matterhorn Sport and Slalom Sport will have you black diamond-ready in no time. For those looking to refine their technique, Stoked and Ski & Snowboard School have some of the best guides around.
On your first day in Zermatt, get your culinary bearings, with or without skis in tow, by hiking or taking the underground train to Sunnegga Paradise. It is here that you’ll find Chez Vrony, a gorgeous ski hut restaurant, which emerges like a mirage tucked into the snowy mountain. With its high quality food and organic specialties that are modernized for the most experienced palates, Chez Vrony sets the bar quite high. On the lighter side, try any variation of a rösti, a Swiss dish of grated potatoes usually topped with various combinations of eggs, cheeses and meats. Vrony’s light and flaky tart of the day is also a must, and if you’re lucky, it will be apple. As you dine in close proximity to fellow skiers, you may even make new international friends. Zermatt is one place to talk to strangers. Chez Vrony is so cozy you can easily linger for more than three hours, which many do.
After lunch, take the ski lift up to Gornergrat and enjoy the rest of the afternoon on the slopes. If you do not fancy skiing, then hiking, snowshoeing and a whole array of winter sports can entertain you for the afternoon. After appreciating the view from the top of the world, take the Gornergrat Bahn to Riffelalp. Here you can hike the area then watch the sun set behind the Matterhorn at the Hotel Riffelalp Bar while sipping Glühwein or hot chocolate and playing backgammon, chess or checkers by a warm fire. Most slopes close around 5pm but the Gornergrat Bahn runs until 8pm (with limited open runs until 11pm), so check their schedule for the most current information.
Back at the Omnia homestead, après ski it at the Omnia Feel Well spa. From the vantage point of the outdoor Jacuzzi, you may still be able to see the lingering shadows of the Matterhorn for one of those “life is good” moments you will never forget.
For dinner on your first night, head full-on into Swiss tradition with fondue at Whymper-Stube, located a stone’s throw from The Omnia. The restaurant is named after Edward Whymper, an English illustrator who was the first person to successfully climb the Matterhorn. More than likely, he fueled up on fondue, the specialty of the house. And although you may not be climbing the Matterhorn anytime soon, you can still enjoy the abundant Kirsch available for dunking your bread alongside the decadently silky Swiss cheese. After dinner, stop by Vernissage for a drink, dancing and some highly amusing people watching.
Whether you want an early start on your last day or not, a sumptuous breakfast awaits you at The Omnia restaurant. With an abundance of local cheeses, homemade muesli, granola and an array of fruits more typical of a tropical vacation, you’ll be fueled for the day. After breakfast, make your way to the Schwarzsee Paradise lift station where you can take the gondola up to Matterhorn Glacier Paradise and peer over the Swiss Alps into the stunning Italian Alps.
Yes – you are indeed going to Italy on this trip as well. Descend into Cervinia on the Italian side of the Alps, where the skiing become more relaxed and polenta is served in place of rösti. Have lunch at Chalet Etoile located on a blue run above Plan Maison. Just don’t forget to bring your passport and some Euros because the currency changes at the border.
After returning to Switzerland, stop at Hennu Stall on your way down the mountain for some traditional après-ski fun that include a full bar and live music. The crew that rolls in Zermatt hails from all corners of the earth and makes the après ski a whole other sport.
To mark your last evening in Zermatt, dine at Heimberg, located adjacent to The Omnia. The menu is a surprise each evening and you dictate the number of courses and direction the dinner flows. Here too, local specialties take on eclectic flairs suited to international tastes. If you like variety, compose your own menu of small starter plates that allow a sampling of each sumptuous dish but save room for cheese and dessert. And rest assured that whichever way you choose to dine, the Heimberg kitchen will undoubtedly leave you with a taste of the Alps.
You may regret tucking into the comfort of The Omnia knowing you must checkout in the morning— but not without enjoying breakfast and one last view of the Matterhorn. Zermatt offers a little something for everyone, from expert skiers and expert spa-goers alike. The beautiful Zermatt will captivate you, and like that gorgeous stranger, make you want to come back for more.