In January 2023 my girlfriend Alyssa and I took a trip to Europe including both Zermatt Switzerland and Chamonix France. This was my first experience outside of The States and it was filled with no shortage of lessons. Alyssa has some experience having studied in both Italy and Spain as well as some other European travels; I was going in blind. Now I could have researched this trip a bit more before going and that may have eased some of the hardships but then what would I have to write about, right? This article features just Zermatt while another breaks down Chamonix.
I’m breaking this guide up into a few sections: Getting to the Resort, Public Transportation Within the Town & Resort, Lodging, Dining, Skiing, and TLDR; & Tips. We spent approx. 5 days in each location and only used our legs or public means of transportation. We also had no cell phone plan and relied solely on public WIFI. Here’s what I learned:
Getting to the Resort
To preface this section, we flew Air France from Boston to Geneva, Switzerland (With a short layover in Paris). We took a 5:30 pm flight out and landed around 9 am local time. I would highly recommend a red-eye flight like this to acclimate to the change in time zones. I slept about 4 hours, kept myself up till 8 pm, and was good to go the next day – No jet lag. Your experiences may vary.
Directly at the Geneva airport is access to their public railway SBB CFF FFS. You can purchase tickets there at a kiosk or pre-buy online which we did. However, we got in a little late from our flight and were rushing to make the train. We could not find the number of the train (IR 90 1715) anywhere on the signage or on the train, so we went off the time of departure. This caused some anxiety not knowing if we made the correct train or not. My Tip is to not go off departure time alone, in this case, it worked but, in my Chamonix Guide, the tides turned. Helpful tip: Download the train maps to your phone before you even embark on your trip.
Something I would have done differently is purchase my ticket once we arrived to avoid that stress, the trains run very frequently and were on time 100% of the time we took them. The train attendants check your ticket during the trip not prior to boarding like you would an airplane. Switzerland is known for its clocks and boy do they follow them. Everywhere you walk there is a sponsored clock on the wall from makers such as Rolex, Swatch, Breitling, and more.
Our train left Geneva at 9:19 am and arrived in Visp about 2.5 Hours later. The train ride was part of the adventure with beautiful views of Lake Geneva and the Swiss countryside. Arriving in Visp brings you to the base of the Zermatt Valley which takes you on an hour and 10-minute trip up to the village of Zermatt, again filled with stunning views and adventure. Both trains lacked a great place to store a rolling ski bag, try to find the bike storage areas for a decent option.
Apart from some lack of signage (a common theme), overall getting from the Geneva airport to the village of Zermatt was predictable and uneventful. Switzerland’s public transportation was top-notch, on-time, clean, and not crowded. In fact, within the first few minutes of our trip I had my feet up on the seat across from me and the ticket attendant said to me in French “put your feet down, you are not at home”. This a testament to the quality of travel experience you can expect.
Public Transportation Within the Town & Resort
You’ve arrived in Zermatt, and the first thing you will notice is there are no cars. The town relies exclusively on these small electric carts, or horse and buggy. There is an electric bus line that services some of the village as well, but we were never in a place to utilize it. Prior to leaving the states we printed out walking instructions to our hotel, so we elected to walk. It was about .75 Miles straight through the center of town. This proved to be a mistake, if you’ve ever traveled with a rolling ski bag and rolling suitcase you will feel my pain. Just pay for a taxi, the roads are cobblestone, you’re low on sleep, maybe a little hangry, and the street signs I still am unsure if they exist. We got lost and walked up and down hills, man do I wish we got a taxi that night. Just trust me here. Also remember, almost everything is NOT in English, more on this later.
Once you’ve spent time in the village you will understand it’s very logical, easy to navigate, and almost entirely walkable. Our hotel was about half a mile from the base of the Zermatt ski area so each day we walked to and from with our ski gear already on. Some hotels provide transport on those electric carts and some areas are serviced by busses, check your hotel’s proximity when booking so you can plan ahead. Seriously Zermatt gets a 10/10 for walkability to all the restaurants and ski area.
Now we only stayed at one hotel so I can’t say a whole lot but there are a few things I can point out that may help you decide when booking your stay.
Cheese, Cheese, and more cheese. Okay but seriously, everything for dining is based around cheeses. Specifically, Raclette and Fondue, it’s imperative that you get both dishes at some point during your trip, almost every restaurant serves both. Besides that, here are a few takeaways from our dining experiences:
Man, I thought I was going to get here a lot quicker. This is the most important part, right? I would categorize skiing as moderate. There are plenty of on-piste ski trails throughout the resort ranging from mellow beginner to intermediate and up to more challenging red runs. There was a nice mix of terrain for all levels. The general populations who seem to be here are families and people who prefer skiing on the trail.
However, Zermatt also has a lot to offer for off-piste skiing as well for more advanced skiers. Unfortunately, I can’t speak much on this as this season has been a bit dry and most terrain would do a number on a ski base. We did find an area near the base of the Matterhorn that featured some powder where we were able to take some great photos.
Zermatt is made up of multiple peaks, all are connected by either Train, Gondola, Chairlift, or Cat-track. Note the last one – CAT-TRACK – I’m talking to you snowboarders, you will have to unbind more than once to make it across some of these things. In fact, a tip for everyone is to take advantage of the ability to download on certain lifts to avoid having to make some of the treks. Results may vary.
Overall, the ski area is vast, with seemingly unlimited terrain, and there was never a line for a lift…cough cough, Vail… it’s easy to get around, and the scenery is to die for. The Swiss are extremely optimized and efficient. Best of all you will never have trouble figuring out what time it is, you guessed it – Sponsored clocks everywhere.
TLDR; & Tips
This article is really dragging on, or maybe you just skipped the whole thing and are here. Here are my key takeaways from my first time in Europe and Zermatt.
Out of Bounds – E280 – Eric Sales, Taylor Pratt, Jay Burrows Hello, hello, hello and welcome back to a brand-new episode of The Out Of Bounds podcast, right here […]
Out Of Bounds – E279 – Mountain State w/ Josh Daiek Hello, hello, hello and welcome back to a brand-new episode of The Out Of Bounds podcast, right here on The […]
|cookielawinfo-checkbox-analytics||11 months||This cookie is set by GDPR Cookie Consent plugin. The cookie is used to store the user consent for the cookies in the category "Analytics".|
|cookielawinfo-checkbox-functional||11 months||The cookie is set by GDPR cookie consent to record the user consent for the cookies in the category "Functional".|
|cookielawinfo-checkbox-necessary||11 months||This cookie is set by GDPR Cookie Consent plugin. The cookies is used to store the user consent for the cookies in the category "Necessary".|
|cookielawinfo-checkbox-others||11 months||This cookie is set by GDPR Cookie Consent plugin. The cookie is used to store the user consent for the cookies in the category "Other.|
|cookielawinfo-checkbox-performance||11 months||This cookie is set by GDPR Cookie Consent plugin. The cookie is used to store the user consent for the cookies in the category "Performance".|