Zermatt ski resort
The ski resort of Zermatt, perched in the shadow of the iconic Matterhorn, is a winning blend of excellent skiing, striking scenery and traditional village ambiance, all of which has helped visitor numbers soar to well over two million a year.
The resort is one of Europe's highest ski destinations, with two top T-bars that are among the 10 highest lifts in the world. These are so high that skiing on its glacial runs is offered 365 days a year – one of only two resorts worldwide where this is possible. This great height means Zermatt also offers brilliant top to bottom skiing, with runs in excess of 2,200 vertical metres (7,120ft).
Zermatt also stands out due to its link to Cervinia in Italy's Aosta Valley. The two resorts are connected by a six-seater chairlift that actually crosses the border – a unique way to enter another country.
Besides its remarkable ski area, Zermatt's success can be put down to the draw of its car-free village, often packed with pedestrians, horse drawn carriages and numerous little electric carts that are used as taxis and goods transporters. Although traditional chalets now stand toe to toe with multimillion-pound luxury resorts, Zermatt hasn't sold its soul.
The Swiss resort of Zermatt is located in the German-speaking area of the Valais canton in the Southern Alps. It is close to the border with Italy and is linked to its Italian neighbour Cervinia by a chairlift.
ZermattResort Elevation: 1620m
Top Elevation: 3883m
Base Elevation: 1620m
On the slopes
The main winter season in Zermatt ski resort runs from late November until late April, but the resort remains open for skiing and snowboarding throughout the year on its glacier.
Zermatt's skiing is spread across three separate areas, which are all connected by ski lifts. These extend over the border into Italy to create one of the world's biggest ski regions with 365km (227 miles) of runs. The lift ticket that allows access to the whole of this vast area is Europe's most expensive for adults, while for children it is one of the most affordable – children under nine are free, while older children pay half price.
Given the size of the ski area and the huge skiable vertical, there is skiing for all ability levels at the resort, as well as extensive off-piste terrain for freeriders alongside experienced guides. Heli-skiing is also offered.
Each of the main ski areas that make up Zermatt ski resort has a beginners' area. The Gornergrat sector in particular is good for its easy runs, while the Rothorn zone has arguably the best nursery area just below the top of the funicular chairlift at Sunnegga.
There is countless terrain for intermediates, ranging from gradually sloping runs perfect for cruising to more challenging hard reds, particularly heading down from the Matterhorn glacier paradise area.
Zermatt offers endless attractions for expert skiers, with a good selection of black runs. But it is off-piste skiing that dominates, with options leading all the way over to Cervinia.