No skiing in Zermatt for me this weekend

30th September 2012, by Abi Butcher

Zermatt's magnificent Matterhorn in the summer

Zermatt's magnificent Matterhorn in the summer

You win some, you lose some. I won, when I was invited to the launch of Switzerland’s winter season in Zermatt this weekend, but I lost when it rained non-stop for 36 hours, obliterating any possible chance of skiing. I can hear your mutterings of sympathy…not.

Zermatt is undoubtedly my favourite ski resort — it seems to have it all. Buckets of Swiss village charm in the car-free village, 200km of pistes, amazing mountain restaurants and the Matterhorn. I never grow tired of seeing the Matterhorn (or taking pictures of it).

And it seems I was not alone — the town was amazingly busy this weekend, in late September. Thanks to the glacier, it offers 365 days of skiing, but hiking is also incredibly popular, along with mountain biking, “kick” biking (a cross between mountain biking and scootering), golf and spa treatments.

I stayed in the newly revamped and central Hotel Europe, now a four-star hotel with a wonderful view of the Matterhorn — and beautifully appointed rooms with oak floors, crisp linen sheets and sheepskin rugs. The food here, like so many places in Zermatt, is divine. 

Despite the lack of skiing and the rain, we made the most of the mountains — walking, cycling and at one point even being helicoptered around, while being briefed on innovations that Switzerland, Zermatt and the Valais region have to offer for skiers and snowboarders this season.

Visitors from the UK make up 30 per cent of Switzerland’s tourism. Championing the “staycation”, the Swiss themselves form the largest group of tourists in the landlocked country, followed by Germans and then Brits in third place. Although we are now getting more for our money than we were a year ago — today the exchange rate is 1.52CHF to the GBP — the Swiss Franc is still strong. And the Swiss know this.

“The UK is the second-most important foreign market for us and though things have improved, we are still expecting 2012-2013 to be a tough year,” said Anne Pedersen at the first night of the winter launch, during a dinner in Zermatt’s magnificent Gornergrat.

So the country has come up with some exciting innovations, including an all-new Swiss Alps Ski Train, linking London with Aigle, Martigny, Sierre, Visp and Brig via Eurostar to Lille and then TGV.

Switzerland Tourism’s website will have a revamped snow report online from November, with the whole section redesigned, easier to use and featuring details of each resort’s opening dates and lift prices.

Switzerland is also launching a snow app and winter hiking app for smart phones, and making hundreds of maps of hiking trails available online.  More resort specific and tempting resort news was released, which I will follow up in individual new stories — such as free group ski and snowboard lessons in Arosa for visitors born after 1995.

Though disappointed not to ski, I’m packed full of enthusiasm for the coming season, as well as news to share on Stay tuned!

Abi, Web Editor


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