Great piste skiing in Zermatt

8th February 2011, by Chris Gill

Tuesday lunch Chez Vrony

Tuesday lunch Chez Vrony

It just may be that I have arranged this tour of Valais resorts perfectly, with conditions gradually improving. The piste conditions in Aletsch Arena (resorts #2) were noticeably better than in Crans-Montana (resort #1). In Zermatt (resort #3) they are better still. This morning’s 1500m vertical descent from Furgsattel to Furi was about as satisfying as piste skiing gets; I’ll admit that the lower third, the black Furgg-Furi, was quite hard work, thanks to quite hard snow, but it is rarely anything else. I fully expect Saas-Fee (resort #4) to deliver a climax to the week.

A visit to Zermatt (Where to Ski and Snowboard’s official favourite resort in the Alps) is always a bit special. We arrived by train from Brig on Monday evening as the sun was setting, leaving a sliver of moon to illuminate the surrounding peaks. The narrow main street was filled with apres-ski activity. In the electric taxi to our hotel, we ticked off the familiar landmarks - the Monte Rosa and its Whymper-Stube, Elsie’s bar, the church, the Papperla pub. It was great to be back.

We’re here for two days, and tomorrow will be a short day centred on a quick trip over the border to Cervinia. The idea today was to zip around Zermatt’s main sectors, incorporating lunch in Findeln, where the combination of good restaurants and fabulous Matterhorn views is unrivalled. So we started with the aforementioned descent from Furgsattel in the Glacier sector, moved on to a couple of runs above Riffelberg in the Gornergrat sector, and then took the Findeln chair across to the Sunnegga sector where there was time for a quick run from Blauherd before descending to Findeln for lunch Chez Vrony. We have recently heard murmurings of discontent about this longstanding favourite, but today’s performance was flawless - charming, good-humoured, efficient service and splendid food.

After lunch it was over to Gornergrat for an excellent 850m vertical descent from Hohtälli, then back to Sunnegga for the last cable car up to Rothorn and a final 1500m vertical descent to the village. If there is one thing I have been reminded of today, it is that Zermatt offers some long, long descents.

These days, the home run from Rothorn/Sunnegga doesn’t fizzle out on a village street as it once did: it stops abruptly at the upper level of a lift (as in elevator) down to river level. Conveniently placed at the same point is the slick new Cervo hotel/bar, where an end-of-day beer seems obligatory. After that, a quick glass of Fendant at dear old Elsie’s bar by the church was all we had time for before preparing for dinner.

We’re staying at the excellent hotel Europe, which has doubled in size this season with the opening of a new extension composed of cool designer rooms. The boss and the staff are delightful, the food is excellent, the atmosphere relaxed. Recommended.

Tomorrow evening we’re off to Saas-Fee, where the slopes you spend most of your time on are exceptionally high. More news from there.

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