Best For: Photographers with a taste for old-world culture and never-ending descents
Switzerland is a country of classic ski towns, but Zermatt is its crown jewel. To many, it is the world’s ultimate ski resort. Though surrounded by several glacier-clad peaks, everything here—the town, the skiing, the sky—is dominated by the spiking pyramid of the mighty Matterhorn, one of the most distinctive mountains on Earth. The village itself allows only electric cars (you arrive by rail), and luxury hotels sit side by side with centuries-old wooden barns. Streets are narrow and cobbled; restaurants are abundant and expensive. It’s everything you imagine a Swiss ski village to be.
Zermatt offers three interconnected Swiss skiing zones, each with its own cluster of lifts and all skiable with a single ticket and accessible directly from town. There are also two ski zones just across the Italian border. The scenery is unrelentingly stunning but the skiing and snowboarding is even more so, with vertical drops of up to 7,152 feet on terrain that varies from never-ending cruisers to north-facing powder runs. The more than 50 on-mountain restaurants are among the finest anywhere, and taking time for a relaxed lunch is de rigueur.
Don’t miss the ride on the Matterhorn Glacier Paradise cable car—the highest in the Alps—on which you can descend 12 miles into the Italian area of Cervinia (joint lift tickets available), where a midday meal costs half the price you’d pay in Switzerland.
Ask a Local: Longtime Zermatt resident Amadé Perrig is a former ski racer and instructor and the retired CEO of Zermatt Resort. He has climbed the Matterhorn more than 20 times. Here are his recommendations.
Best Digs: Hotel Bahnhof is a simple, low-budget hotel that is well known by climbers. The Mont Cervin Palace is an old, classic, five-star hotel.
Best Eats: Walliserkanne has a really good low-budget menu. Try Chez Heini for high-quality lamb in the company of celebrities.
Best After-Ski Party Spot: Unique Hotel Post Zermatt has five bars, including one with live music.
Best Rest-Day Activity: Visit the Matterhorn Museum to learn about the history of the mountain, the first ascent, and more.
Zermatt’s Classic Ski Run: “National, it’s very steep and you can carve,” says Perrig.