Zermatt’s new lifts and runs

17th March 2008, by Editor Watts

Editor Dave Watts spent last week in Zermatt, arriving in resort just as web wizard Wendy King was leaving. Dave writes:

While Wendy had lots of blue-sky days the week before, we got lots of cloud and wind (several lifts and the link with Italy were closed most of the week) and some snow midweek. Overall, the worst weather I’ve had on more than a dozen visits to Zermatt over the years.

But the final day (Friday) saw the sun come out and me wearing sunglasses for only the third day in the season (out of 40 ski days so far, most of which have been cold and snowy, especially on the 2-week trip to North America I did in Jan/Feb).

So what did I make of Zermatt’s new developments for this season? The new fast quad chair which goes from Sunnegga to Breitboden (above Grunsee) via Findeln speeds the journey back to the main slopes after lunch in one of Findeln’s excellent restaurants - you can board it going in either direction. It also makes an alternative way of getting back to Sunnegga if the gondola from Gant is closed (you can ride it all the way from Breitboden to Sunnegga).

The old cable cars from Gornergrat to Hohtälli and from Hohtälli to Stockhorn had to be pensioned off this season. They are replaced by a boringly flat and narrow red piste that leads off from the White Hare piste below Hohtälli and links with the runs to Riffelberg, and by an excellent new drag-lift (a button not a T-bar) which goes from above Triftji to Stockhorn. The top of the new drag is just below the old Stockhorn cable-car station, meaning you no longer have the often awkward entry to the steep, usually powdery, bump run below.

There’s also a new short red run variant of a section of the Kelle run from Gornergrat to Gant, cutting out the steepest black part of the Kelle run - a worthwhile improvement.

White Hare and Kelle remain my favourite runs in the Zermatt area, especially first thing in the morning when they are deserted and even the awkward narrow start to White Hare from the Hohtälli cable-car is enjoyable (which it isn’t when the crowds arrive and the bumps build up).

Zermatt has been tinkering with its piste map yet again. The version we used this year had the yellow runs marked as abfahrtsrouten/itineraires with no explanation of what that means and whether they are marked with poles (they are), groomed (they aren’t, in the main), protected from avalanches (we believe they are) or patrolled (we saw at least one sign saying a run we skied wasn’t). Ridiculous - the map should explain what the status of them is exactly. The previous season they were marked as ‘free-ride pistes’, again with no explanation. And the year before as ‘ski runs’ with an explanation of what that meant. At least they no longer mess up the map by marking recommended ‘ski safari’ routes of either 10,000m or 12,000m vertical a day - which WTSS readers complained about last season. And with the windy conditions and lift closures we experienced this year, the big boards indicating which lifts were open that are liberally sprinkled around the main lift stations were invaluable.

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