To be perfectly fair, it isn’t the most fashionable resort in the Alps with rivaling Chamonix and Verbier nearby, but Zermatt is feisty. So, people here don’t ski on Dolce&Gabbana skis like in Cortina d’Ampezzo, but this is a resort for the true athletes and those aspiring athletes in a naturally spectacular dramatic backdrop.
Perpetually snow-capped peaks link up thousands of meters above the village in a ski area called Matterhorn Glacier Paradise.
The heights and unique orography ensure consistently favourable conditions for skiing from late fall up until summer months, and glacier skiing in the summer. Springtime weather and snow conditions are especially good.
Reaching Zermatt is not easy either, which means it isn’t on everyone’s pathway, making it slightly mysterious and desirable.
Due to its sheltered position, tucked away in the snare of Alpine precipices and reachable only by limited transportation, it doesn’t fall victim to the swarm of weekenders.
The most interesting aspect is its enviable car-free transportation concept to and through the village – namely, no vehicles are allowed past Tasch, a small town located on the ascend to Zermatt, where you can leave the car for the duration of the stay. From Tasch and through Zermatt there are electric taxis and buses, keeping the town happily green and fume-free, a relief at present as nature conservation becomes one of the primary concerns. Electric taxis humming through the town and the local electric bus on its circular course are adorable and always on schedule (Swiss time precision).
In addition, there are still a few horse-drawn carriages and sleds – to top up the romance.
Alternatively, a frequent regional choo-choo train connects the centre of Zermatt to Visp, and Visp to other towns and cities in Switzerland, Italy and beyond.
The authorities hope that such directives will keep the region pollution-free, offsetting the effects of global warming, striving to prolong and preserve this ski haven.
The surrounding air is so refreshing that it’s not uncommon to see people slurping cold water off the cascading icicles!
Pop it into your drink! This is a 007-style Alpine adventure.
words & photography © Deja Dragovic, for National Geographic Traveler Footprint, May 2009