A Guide to Off-Piste Skiing in Zermatt

There are a number of reasons why Zermatt is a regular at the top of every adventurer’s holiday list. This Swiss resort town sitting at 1,600 meters is part of the home stretch of the classic Haute Route, which has helped bolster its reputation into one of the best high mountain skiing destinations in the world. Defined by and named for the landscape, it is surrounded by many of the Alps’ most notable mountains, including Monte Rosa and the Matterhorn, both of which hold a special place in the minds of mountaineers and skiers all over the world.

Zermatt is roughly translated from German to mean “in the meadow.” Like the Matterhorn, the mountain of which our quaint village sits at the foot of, it is named after the Alpine territory to which it owes its splendor. And it takes its Alpine position seriously – it is a car-free city, with only combustion-free electric cars allowed for commercial use. Visitors should be on the look out for horse-drawn carriages as well.

As far as skiing goes, Zermatt is tough to beat. The area available to ski reaches all the way up to 3,899 meters for a vertical of 2,279 meters. The 210 kilometers of piste skiing can be connected with Cervinia-Valtournenche in Italy for a grand total of nearly 360 kilometers. It has 34 lifts for access all across the region, most importantly to the delectable backcountry that makes it such a world-class ski destination.

Wide runs await outside of the groomed piste. Photo courtesy of Jean-Marc Kaufmann.

What is so Great About Zermatt? Top Facts

So what is it exactly that makes this unique Alpine village such an epic ski spot?

  • The Snow. The average annual snowfall exceeds 10 meters regularly. Many of the slopes remain shielded from the sun during the winter to protect the integrity of the snow, meaning powder and corn terrain can be found long after the snowfall. It is one of the highest resorts in Europe, which means the snow quality is almost a guarantee.
  • The Scenery. The panoramas and vistas from the high-altitude runs rival the immaculate ski terrain. Along with the aforementioned heavy hitters of the Pennine Alps, visitors can appreciate the ridges and valleys between these mountains while skiing right through their untouched powder.
  • The Challenge. The marked piste skiing has many intermediate and higher runs, but the true thrill for the seasoned skier is the abundant backcountry found off-piste. The efficiency of the lift system reduces wait time on the groomed runs, but it also keeps the area outside marked territory ready for exploration.
The scenery of Zermatt is incomparable. Photo: jmj2001.

Where to Ski in Zermatt?

Thanks to its snow quality, accommodation, and efficiency, Zermatt has an unending supply of routes and runs. Here are some of the most popular routes in the region.

Rothorn

This family-friendly area and haven for skiers just starting out has some hidden gems just off the marked runs. For those looking for a thrill, head up to Rothorn at 3,100 meters and try the rock garden run on the front face.

There are a few great spots here that can be included into an itinerary. Try this program with certified guide Herbert for a day of freeride or off-piste skiing.

Klein Matterhorn

This crevasse-rich landscape can be dicey and rewarding all at once. Heading out to the rocky ledge of Furgg, you can drop into a sweet tree-lined run. Get there early to claim the fresh snow, because it can be a popular stop for everybody.

The options are endless, and you can decide what type of trip you need. Get in touch with IFMGA-certified guide Yann and let him know how many days you want to ski in Zermatt and the Alps.

Starting early means fewer crowds. Photo: Herbert Luethi.

Stockhorn

This late-season destination is sure to please any freeride fanatic. The main face is bumpy and steep, surrounded by untouched powder, and always in pristine condition. There are too many ways to ski down, so plan a day (or three) to explore this masterpiece.

There is a little bit of everything here, but some local favorites for the intermediate and advanced skiers are the freeride runs near Hothalli. Accessible by cable car, they are wide and long – the perfect way to ski onto corn and powder.

They can get skied out over the course of the day, so snagging a guide and heading out early is key. Link up with IFMGA-certified guide Jean-Marc for a week-long excursion into this area of unforgettable off-piste adventure.

A group of skiers ready to freeride. Photo: Jean-Marc Kaufmann.

What is the Best Season?

Zermatt has a long ski season, making it a great place to ski well beyond just the winter months. While summer skiing is available in some areas of the resort, the best time to ski off-piste and freeride is from late November through the end of April.

With such a long season for a popular location, it can get extremely busy at times, particularly in the middle of its peak season. Vacations and ski trips during December and January can get crowded. Aiming for a ski program in November, February, and March can provide the most ideal conditions for an enjoyable trip to Zermatt.

The lift system, including gondolas, is highly efficient. Photo: Dennis Jarvis.

How Much Does It Cost?

Like any trip, the cost depends on the size of your group and the length of your stay. With the volume of possible lines and runs, the different areas and terrain, and the long ski season, there is a wide range of possibilities for a quick and painless trip to a more all-out ski extravaganza. Some trips include the equipment, so it is important to determine what you will need before your program and plan accordingly.

A day of off-piste or freeride skiing starts at 103 CHF (currently about 90 EUR). Programs that last more than a week and include accommodation and half-board can begin around 2,950 EUR.

Zermatt is located at the foot of Matterhorn and shares its identity with this iconic mountain. Photo: Joran Ostom.

How to Get There?

The journey to Zermatt can be an equally rewarding experience. Flying into Geneva (125 kilometers away, 231 by car) or Zurich (161 kilometers away, 215 by car) is the first step; they are both within a few hours of Zermatt. Trains will first arrive at Visp, and from there head straight into Zermatt. The final leg of the trip is considered one of the most stunning train rides in all of Europe.

Helicopter transfers and taxis are also available. They are not as efficient and reasonable as the train. Once in the town of Zermatt, enjoy the electric car rides and carriage trips to add some charm to the ski vacation of your dreams.

 

Let yourself get whisked away to this Alpine paradise in the heart of Europe’s most famous mountains and book yourself a trip to the slopes of Zermatt TODAY!

 

 

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