By Cat Perry
Let there be snow!! Especially if you find yourself in a place as beautiful as Zermatt, Switzerland. Population: You (and a few thousand other ski enthusiasts); destination: more than 29 soaring mountains, including some of the tallest in Europe, with endless ski and snowboard runs for snowgoers of all levels.
For this very first blog post of mine, I went to a gorgeous little village tucked in the dramatic and sweeping valley at the base of the magic Matterhorn Mountain. Why? Because I love snow sports, though I'm so far a perpetual novice at them myself, and because I was covering the Swatch Skiers Cup, an annual friendly competition between the world's most elite and courageous freeskiers.
It's the best of the alps! Zermatt has great food&nightlife, endless ski mountains and backcountry, car-free quaintness, and Matterhorn views
Seeing pros catapult themselves off 30-foot cliffs onto thousands of feet of powdery terrain below was unlike anything I've witnessed up close. In fact, all the runs were open and anyone could ski past and catch a glimpse of skiing's greats. Though you should always go with the flow on manicured runs—but there's space for everyone, even snow bikers!!—everyone in Zermatt is fairly laid back and friendly. Most people speak English, though the national languages are German, French, Romansh, Italian. And plenty of restaurant options will satisfy your every craving, from traditional fondue and mulewhine to pizza and pasta.
You can hop on a train from Zurich. Make sure to pick up a Eurail Pass holders get a 25% discount on tickets to Zermatt. The first of two trains I caught from Zurich was clean, standrad European commuter rail, the second was an instantly charming old historic train with generous seats, incredible views and adjustable temperature, even in 2nd class.
On a price scale of 1 to 10, with 10 being The Ritz prices, Zermatt, and Switzerland in general, lands at a solid 7 for the cost of food, drinks, stay, and getting there. There is anything from the elegant Mont Cervin Palace to the super-swanky Backstage Hotel to the totally clean and convenient Matterhorn Hostel, which you can find a place to rest your head for as little as 33 USD per night. In other words, it ain't altogether cheap! But there are plenty of deals to be found if you go...over and outside the lines.
Go for the the mix of nightlife and incredible daytime skiing, hiking, cross-country skiing, ice skating, and views. Stay for the food, the buoyant international crowd, the smattering of events thorough the year, the best air in the alps, and the welcoming vibes.