Snowboarding - Zermatt






3900m (!)

Skiable vertical:



21+ just on Swiss side

Total lift vert:


Slope orientation:

Mainly north-facing

slope orientation diagram

Zermatt is of course a world-famous tourist destination, with the unmistakable Matterhorn towering majestically over the picturesque town. Skiing and snowboarding in the area is surprisingly expensive, but with altitudes up to almost 3900m and spectacular views over the glaciers and mountain landcapes, it's an experience not to be missed. For scenery don't miss the highlights of Klein Matterhorn (the highest point of the resort with its "glacier paradise") and also the train up to Gornergrat.

The skiable area is absolutely enormous, and even more so when you add the well-connected Italian side. It would take several days to explore the whole area here, as the number of lifts is huge. It does get busy though, and the queues for the cable cars can be brutal. Patience can be required, especially for the early morning rush to get high up.

Getting there

For a zoomable, scrollable map of the areas, see this online map using Openstreetmap or Opencyclemap.

Zermatt is in the far southern corner of Wallis, just about as far away from Zürich as you can get. It's at the end of the valley south of Visp, and train is the only way to get there (Zermatt itself claims to be car-free but is in fact infested with small delivery vehicles and hurtling electric taxis). The nearest you can get by car is Täsch, just down the valley, which has regular shuttle trains to Zermatt.

In 2008 it's around an hour quicker to get to Wallis than it used to be - there's a new tunnel (the Lötschberg Basistunnel) which is longer and lower than the previous tunnel. So instead of climbing up to Kandersteg, going through the tunnel and then descending slowly to Brig, now the train just whizzes straight through to Visp. It's much quicker but of course you don't get the nice Swiss scenery through the Kandertal to Kandersteg.

From Zürich it's still quite a long trip, taking 3h15 with a change in Visp. A Snow and Rail ticket starts from an eye-opening CHF 143 (just for one day, and just the Swiss side) plus a deposit for the card of CHF 5. Unlike the unfriendly resorts of Flims/Laax and Lenzerheide, they give you your deposit back at the end of the day (or you can keep the card to use elsewhere). Obviously prices rise for adding extra days (as you'll probably want to do) and for adding the Italian side.

Coming by car from Zürich is a bit of a pain and requires loading your car onto the train through the (old) Lötschberg tunnel from Kandersteg.

Once at Zermatt station, you can either take the train straight away up to Riffelberg and Gornergrat, or you can take one of the free buses to the Sunnegga base (for the funicular up to Sunnegga and Rothorn) or the gondola base (for the gondola up to Furi / Schwarzsee / Trockener Steg). In the morning rush it can be quicker to walk to the Sunnegga funicular rather than wait for the crowded bus.

Slopes and lifts

plot of the Zermatt resort
3D plot looking southwards at the Zermatt resort,
showing some of the runs and lifts

The area here at Zermatt is enormous, and to make it even bigger it's linked at the Plateau Rosa with the Cervinia area of Italy. Some lift tickets don't include the Italian side, and there can be some confusion whether a ticket includes both sides or not. Make it clear when you buy your ticket, and if you're using a snow'n'rail ticket, make it clear again when you exchange your gutschein for your pass. Mistakes can be (and are) made. If you just buy a ticket for the Swiss side and then decide you want to add on the Italian side, it costs an outrageous CHF 37 per day to add it on.

It would take a few days to thoroughly explore just the Swiss side, and even longer to cover both. There's a wide range of lifts here including gondolas, chairlifts, several T-bar draglifts, a surprising number of cable cars and even cog trains. The cable cars whisk you up through an extreme altitude difference but of course the wait for cable cars makes them seem slower than they are.

Most striking about this resort is the altitude - where else can you snowboard at over 3800m? The scenery is dramatic and spectacular (though not always beautiful) and the atmosphere is wild and exciting.

You can crudely split this large resort up into three main areas - the Rothorn side on the left, the Gornergrat section in the middle, and the Trockener Steg/Klein Matterhorn areas on the right. Of these, the Trockener Steg part is the biggest and highest. The areas are well connected, so it's very possible to sample all three areas in a day - it's popular to start at one side and work over to the other side over the course of the day. There are two home runs, from the Sunnegga side down to the bottom of the funicular, and from Furi down to the base of the gondolas.

The vast majority of the runs here are reds and blues, mostly wide and fast and rarely very steep. Especially on the glacier sections they can be very shallow, but wide and immaculately prepared. And even after more than three weeks without new snow falling, the pistes high up still retain great condition. Beware though it can get bitterly cold and windy high up and that means hard, frozen pistes in the mornings.

There is off-piste here, but on the glaciers it's not advisable to leave the piste due to the risk of crevasses. Away from the glaciers there are some other wild places well worth avoiding, and lower down some heavily wooded sections. Anyway after several weeks without new snow the off-piste is pretty hard and unattractive, so staying on-piste is not so much of a hardship.

For jumps, there are several smallish and not so smallish ramps just above Trockener Steg, with a good view of the landing areas. Near Blauherd there is another small park which is dedicated to metalwork - with rails, tabletops and other assorted fiendishness.

Flat spots and drags

There are a few flat spots to watch out for here, either more or less annoying depending on the snow conditions. The blues on the Theodulgletscher are a pain, and even parts of some reds like the 69 and 70 down to Trockener Steg have a few parts requiring scooting. The reds 51 and 52 down to Furi have flat and even uphill bits, but the black 62 (the only way down from Furgg to Furi) is deservedly marked black and is not for everyone. The other home run, from Patrullarve down to the base of the Sunnegga funicular, does have some flat bits but is mostly fast and narrow - when the bar crowds spill onto the narrow busy ski track then accidents are inevitable.

There are only a small number of T-bar draglifts here, a few on the Theodulgletscher right at the top, and a solitary (but long!) one up to Schwarzsee paradise. Most are well-prepared and reasonably friendly, only the one up towards Klein Matterhorn got steep in places and somewhat uncomfortable.

Latest conditions

21/22 March 2009 - cloudless blue skies and sunshine, but bitterly, bitterly cold and windy on the top. Face protection required! Snow packed but in good condition on piste, frozen and painful off-piste. All runs open, even the jump park by Trockener Steg. Snow is better in Germany though.

28 February 2008 - the sun is still shining, and it hasn't snowed for almost three weeks here. But the snow is still in surprisingly good condition, especially higher up. All lifts and runs are open, but it's getting slushy and heavy lower down.

More info

The official website is at, which includes a good piste map. For Snow and Rail information see and for a snow report Or for a spinnable, zoomable, 3d java thingy showing the hills and slopes, see

Zermatt has also plenty of walking in the winter and summer, for example, see Sunnegga - Riffelalp - Zermatt.

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