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There is a reason why the stunningly beautiful Zermatt is one of the undisputed kings of all the Alpine resorts. Nestled in a secluded valley in the shadow of one of Switzerland’s most famous landmarks, the Matterhorn, Zermatt offers one of the world’s biggest interlinked ski areas with over 360km of piste served by 71 lifts and an underground funicular railway.

Despite its impressive reputation, this is an area that will suit everyone from beginners to experts. Three main ski areas surround the village and for intermediate / recreational skiers the place is a dream.

The Rothorn section at 3,100 metres can be accessed by a serious of funicular railway, lift and gondola and from here you can ski wonderful long reds with a vertical drop of 1,500 metres all the way back down to the village. You can get higher still with a similar combination of lifts taking you up to Gornergrat at nearly 3,089 metres above sea level. This will give you a 1,800 metre vertical desent back to the village on lovely cruisey reds.

Matterhorn Glacier Paradise at an altitude of 3,883, 2,200 vertical metres above the village is the highest you can go and from here you can enjoy some of the most stunning, scenic long runs back to the village as well as skiing across to Italy via Plateau Rosa.

Beginners are really well catered for here with nursery slopes in all the main areas which makes it an ideal resort for groups with mixed abilities. Gornergrat and Sunnegga have the best beginner areas and Wolli beginners park is well served with four magic carpets and easy access to blue slopes. The Wolli beginners park pass also costs just 50% of the full Zermatt lift pass and children up to 9 years old are free which is unique among Alpine resorts.

Zermatt is probably on the “must ski” list for all expert skiers. Wheter you’re looking for long steep runs, off piste powder, mogul fields or heli skiing, this resort has it all…and then some. The famous Triftji mogul run (accessible from the Gornergrat area) is regarded as one of the world’s toughest and longest and if you still want more check out the gravity park up on the glacier. Boasting one of the world’s longest super pipes at 200 metres in length as well as kickers, a good selection of rails and a wall ride.

Aside from the awesome skiing, a large part of Zermatt’s fame comes from the picturesque village.

Originally a farming village one of the most amazing things is how it has managed to retain it’s old world charm while catering to over 2 million visitors every year. The village is a car free zone and this certainly adds to the relaxed friendly atmosphere but the cobbled streets, the original 15th century barns and chalets, the fresh alpine air and the friendliness of the locals are all part of what makes this place so special. For those days off the piste you will be spoilt for choice with excellent shopping, wellness options, museums and a wonderful selection of restaurants.

With 38 of the highest mountains in Europe surrounding Zermatt, it’s no surprise that the 19th century craze for mountaineering is one of the initial reasons that the town was catapulted to worldwide fame. By the 1850s all the surrounding mountain peaks had been climbed and the competition to be the first to conquer the Matterhorn was becoming intense. The English climber Edward Whymper had made several abortive attempts from the Italian side, when in 1865, he learned that the Rev. Charles Hudson was to attempt the Matterhorn from Zermatt. Joining forces with Hudson, Lord Francis Douglas and George Hadow along with the guides Michel Croz from Chamonix and Peter Taugwalder and his son from Zermatt.

On the 14th of July 1865 they succeeded in being the first to asend the mighty Matterhorn. During the descent however, tragedy struck. Just below the summit on the north face, Hadow slipped. In three disastrous seconds, Hadow fell onto the unprepared Croz, subsequently pulling Hudson and Douglas away from the face. The elder Taugwalder frantically tried to secure the rope around a rock, but it snapped, and four of the seven climbers fell thousands of feet to their deaths down the north wall. News of the triumph and tragedy flashed around the world, and Zermatt and the Matterhorn have held a special fascination for many people ever since.

There is wealth of excellent accommodation to choose from in Zermatt and we recommend the Tourist Board site as a starting point. This is also a great place to check for special offers and deals. Regular flights are available to Zurich or Geneva with Swiss Air. Transfers are easily organised here but by far the best way to travel the last leg of your journey is by Swiss Rail. If it’s possible to book the Glacier Express when you’re traveling don’t miss this beautiful experience.

Lots of early snow has created perfect conditions on the pistes there already this season and with all year round skiing on the glacier any time is a good time to visit.

Die hard skiers who can’t wait for winter often turn their thoughts to resorts in places like New Zealand or Chile when looking at options for a summer ski but a surprisingly large number of high-altitude villages offer lift-accessed skiing in Europe between June and September.

France

In France, Tignes is the most extensively developed summer skiing area. The Grande Motte glacier rises to 3650m and is accessed by a funicular railway, and then cablecar.

The neighbouring resort of Val d’Isere accesses the Glacier de Pissaillas at 3300m from the cable car station at Le Fornet. Alpe d’Huez offers summer skiing up to 3330m on the Glacier de Sarenne, but is best suited to advanced skiers.

There is also summer glacier skiing at La Plagne, Les Deux Alpes, and Val Thorens.

Austria

The Stubai Glacier above Innsbruck remains open throughout the ‘closed’ season. The nearest resort is Neustift  and skiing is available up to 3200m. Improved cablecar links have been installed, and nine additional lifts serve the extensive glacier area.

The Molltaller Glacier, in the heart of the Karinthia region, offers skiing in the summer at 3000m on the Hohe Tauern peaks.

In the Tirol, the glacier ski area of the Kitzsteinhorn above the village of Kaprun extends up to 3209m and is accessed by either a modern cablecar or a mountain railway. Because of its proximity to the equally appealing lakeside resort of Zell am See, this is one of Europe’s most popular summer ski destinations.

Italy

Italy has a number of summer ski centres, notably Courmayeur on the French border which has a cable car link via La Palud to the glacier skiing on the Vallee Blanche above Chamonix.

In the eastern Italian Alps, Bormio, Madesimo and Santa Catarina all have summer ski areas, although most lifts close at about midday.

Switzerland

Switzerlandincludes some familiar names amongst its summer skiing resorts. There are extensive possibilities at Zermatt with the skiing on the Theodul Glacier, but nearby Saas Fee has the better glacier skiing and is more suited to less advanced skiers.

Verbier Mont Fort and Les Diablerets Glacier are also worthy of consideration.