Zermatt: World Famous And Justly So -

Zermatt is famous throughout the ski world for its wide variety of skiing and its popularity as a winter sports destination. The high altitude results in consistent skiing continuously up until summer. Skiing in Zermatt is split up into four distinct areas: Sunnegga, Gornergrat, Klein Matterhorn, and Schwarzsee. There is also a connection to Cervinia and Valtournenche in Italy.

You can reach Sunnegga Paradise ski area by taking a funicular railway, followed by a gondola to Blauherd. Wait, then grab a cable car to the Rothorn (3,103m). The Rothorn is generally clear and sunny, even when Zermatt itself is buried inside a cloud.

There is a gondola down to Gant from Blauherd and, from there, you'll ride a large connecting cablecar up to Hohtälli. This cable car and a four-seat chairlift provide connections between Sunnegga and Gornergrat.

The Gornergrat is served by a railway of the same name (Gornergratbahn) and, though it is picturesque, the journey is a slow ride up to the Gornergrat peak (3,089m), via Riffelalp, Rotenboden and Riffelberg (with limited stops at Findelbach and Landtunnel just above the town).

One final cable car heads up from Hohtälli to the Rote Nase (3,247m). This final lift serves a unique freeride area when there is good snow cover.

Klein Matterhorn/Schwarzsee are accessed by the Matterhorn Express gondola near the southern end of the Zermatt village. It speeds passengers up to the interchange station at Furi. From here, there is access to the Schwarszee via a gondola to the right, a cable car that leads on to the Trockener Steg mid station (and then on to the Klein Matterhorn), and a gondola that links Furi to Riffelberg on the Gornergrat mountain.

Testa Grigia, at the top of the Theodulpass, serves as a connection to the Italian ski resorts of Cervinia and Valtournenche. It is only reachable by ski lift from the Swiss side, but you can reach it from the Italian side by a chairlift and a cable car. There are customs offices here, as well as a small alpine museum.

Zermatt is an all year skiing resort, with summer skiing limited to the Theodulgletscher behind the Klein Matterhorn. The Furggsattel six-seater chairlift has 12 (of 18) masts that stand directly on the glacial ice of the Theodulgletscher. It is one of very few lifts worldwide with bottom- and top-station in different countries.

Seventy-one lifts serve a region that offers a vertical drop of 2,194 metres and a longest run of 17 km. There are 38 mountain restaurants, where skiers and riders can break for lunch over Swiss specialties.

Narrow streets in Zermatt are lined with shops and more than 130 restaurants and bars. Cars are not allowed. Scattered among hotels and apartments are centuries-old buildings with the dark wood of wine barrels.

Zermatt is in the German-speaking part of the canton of Wallis, but a surprising amount of English is heard in the lively after-dark scene.

Skiers who come from the Geneva gateway have a four-hour train ride, much of it along Lake Geneva and the Rhone River. Zurich airport takes an hour longer, but the trip is a spectacular ride through the mountains, encountering many tunnels and bridges. It's worth the extra hour.

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