Adventure Travel

Is Skiing Zermatt Worth The Hype?

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Is Skiing Zermatt Worth The Hype?

Long train rides are good for many things. Reading an exciting book. Enjoying music. Watching the beautiful scenery pass by.

Magnifying hype at the rate of 100 miles per hour.

Yeah, that’s where my head was at as I lugged my weekender, boot bag, helmet, and skis across four train changes on my way from Geneva, Switzerland to the winter sport mecca Zermatt.

The more-than-exhausting journey felt like nothing in those moments, as the temperature dropped and the elevation rose. I’m a skier, through and through. On my way up a mountain, no matter how many times I’ve been there, I get chills, anticipating the adrenaline I’m so clearly addicted to. Which is probably why I accepted a last-minute invitation to go.

I’d left the States to ski the Alps and was ready to tackle the megalith known as the Matterhorn. A legend amongst American ski culture. And my time there? Mixed results.

Zermatt rests gently in the Valais Canton (State) of Switzerland. Known for it’s unbelievable views of the famous aforementioned mountain, this tiny alpine town plays host to tourists from around the globe.

Switzerland is divided into three sections of which different languages (French, Swiss German, and Italian) are spoken, and Zermatt is of the German influence.

The town is charming, with narrow, winding streets lined with Bavarian storefronts and chalets. It’s an easy place to wander at night, stopping in for (expensive) dinner or drinks at any one of the welcoming, but boisterous eateries. The morning is much more quiet, as the Swiss tend to have a lie in as opposed to hitting first chair.

It’s easy to buy a lift ticket in the central ski terminal in the center of town. If you arrive in the afternoon, I recommend stopping here first to get your pass, instead of queuing up the next morning. But here’s the catch: lift tickets to access the entire ski area for one day are $91. Each. One day.

And therein lies the conundrum.

The snow? It was perfect. The most insane powder I’ve ever experienced. The runs were clean and went on for forever. The off-piste areas (backcountry terrain, but within bounds) were exceptional. And the views?

They were alright. You see, Zermatt gets a lot of winter storms. And the “catch 22” is that these dense clouds roll in without warning, blocking any views, while also dumping the freshest powder you could ever imagine.

I never saw the top of the Matterhorn. In fact, I only ever saw the base.

So on my twilight train journey home to Geneva, I caught myself wondering. Was tackling Zermatt worth the nearly $300 I spent on a whim?

I think it was.


Mandy Burkholder is a travel, adventure, and outdoor writer who honed her craft in the foothills of the La Plata Mountains of Southwest Colorado. After a stint in the Swiss Alps, she now resides in Tennessee. Follow her on twitter — @mandyburkhold3r

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