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Zermatt (2/24-3/3)

March 4th, 2007 · No Comments

After skiing in very organized, purpose-built, Courchevel, we were eager to compare the picturesque and historic Zermatt in Switzerland. Again, it was great to take a European Ski vacation…centered around food and relaxation, rather than daredevil skiing!

Kimberly

For photos, click here.

Zermatt

In many ways Zermatt is the antithesis of Courchevel…certainly anything but a purpose-built resort….which means it’s much cuter, but also horribly inconvenient…and the planning that went into the design of the mountain lifts and ski runs…well, there apparently wasn’t any planning. To get to the top of the Sunnega mountain, we had to walk for 10 minutes in our skiboots to get to the bottom of the funicular…where we had to walk the length of a football field through a tunnel into the mountain…after the funicular ride, we had to climb a bunch of stairs to get out and then actually had to take an elevator to get to the gondola…yes, it really is that crazy. And the mountain isn’t organized in any meaningful way…there are intermediate runs mixed in with blacks, sometimes an easy run leads you to a place where your only option is an intermediate one…

One afternoon, we decided to be adventurous and try a “yellow” run on our way home…yellow means that it’s a designated off-piste run…which used to be either intermediate or advanced and is now just marked and not maintained….so we thought it would be OK, but it was the worst thing I have ever seen. We got to this one point where I thought it was a cliff we were supposed to ski around, but no…it was the piste where we were supposed to ski down…all covered in moguls. Then there was another part where I tried to go the “easy” way…only to discover that it led me to a 10 foot rock faced cliff. So I took off my skis and tried to walk/slide back up the mountain and to the side…but I ended up falling off the side of the cliff…probably only a 3-4 foot fall, but enough to scare Dan quite a bit. I was totally fine, just screamed because the freefall was a little scary, but thought it was funny more than anything else…

Oh, and the flat spots! It seems almost every run ends with at least one kilometer of pushing along the flats! We have decided that Zermatt created the phenomenon of “uphill skiing”…I’m not joking. You will ski down a run and then all of a sudden you get to a really flat part…and then at the end it actually goes uphill! And this happens on almost all the runs, even the black ones! (we found only one intermediate that isn’t like this.) So apparently your choices are to push your way up the mountain or fall down it….

While the skiing was honestly less than ideal, the mountain is beautiful and the town wonderful. The ambiance is superb and the resort maintains much historic character…and the food is amazing! We rented an apartment, so we have been cooking dinners, but even those have been super tasty! (One night, Dan made roasted potatoes with Raclette cheese to go with our rotisserie chicken!) And just like Courchevel, we are dining like kings at lunch on the mountain!!! Our first day, I had what might have been the best truffle ravioli ever at Findlerhof (027 – 967 25 88 www.findlerhof.ch), on the Sunnega mountain. Another day, we enjoyed a truly gourmet meal at Zum See (027 / 967 20 45 www.zumsee.ch). And yet another day, we finally skied across the border to Italy and enjoyed polenta and gnocchi at Restaurant Bontadini. And the other days we have enjoyed treats like Matterhorn shaped pizzas, rosti, and other funny swiss dishes involving lots of melted cheese. As with Courchevel, you need to reserve a lunch table in advance…preferably a day or two in advance, especially at the more popular places.

Unfortunately, the weather wasn’t perfectly for us. We were quite lucky to get so much fresh snow during our stay (they hadn’t had hardly any the entire month beforehand). But with the fresh snow everyday, came clouds and limited visibility. We lucked out on two days though, when it was sunny and beautiful so we finally got to see the Matterhorn. We lucked out, and one day the links to the Italian side were open, so we skiied down to Cervina (It’s an 11 kilometer run!) and had some great pasta and polenta for lunch.

Our last two days, we decided we were too tired to ski anymore (and most of the high elevation lifts were closed due to 88 km/hour winds), so we took Zookie on some Alpine adventures. On Thursday, he rode the train with us up to the Gornergrat, where we went sledding…yeah, dogs and sledding, not such a good match. I don’t think he liked it very much. We took the gondola down the other side of the mountain, where we enjoyed some marmot and venison for lunch, followed by the most hilarious apres-ski ever…imagine a hundred quirky europeans in a mountain-side bar, all singing along and dancing to 70s, 80s, & 90s music (like Getting Jiggy With It and YMCA)…and imagine me, Dan, and Zookie in the middle of this…when one of them decides to tease Zookie with an entire bratwurst…yes, our entire side of the bar was watching Zookie as Zookie watched the bratwurst eagerly and sat all prettily and patiently for it…when he asked if he could give Zookie some, we had to say yes, “yes, but just a little bit.” (This was Zookie’s second bratwurst treat on this trip, and he had already gotten popcorn on a previous apres-ski excursion…or apres-sleep as we like to call it for him!)

Our last day, there was no bratwurst for Zookie, but he was thrilled with the incredible three hour hike we took in the snowy mountains this morning. We hiked to a fabulous mountain hut restaurant (come on, you’re not surprised, you know I only hike to gourmet food!), where we indulged on pasta and chocolate mouse, and the owners brought Zookie out his very own water (in a doggie waterdish!)

And then, sadly, it was time to go home. So, two trains, one bus, and nine hours later, we finally arrived in Paris…but with a fabulous souvenir. A French family was sitting next to us on the train to Paris….and their children decided to draw impromptu portraits of both of us…it was way too hilarious when the little boy excited handed Dan his portrait and said “Voila!”…the best part was that he accurately depicted Dan’s sad, but continued, attempt to grow a beard!

As with Courchevel, skiing in Zermatt requires a bit more planning than going to your typical US Ski resort. We highly recommend buying one of the very useful resort guides to help you find good restaurants on the mountain, plan your ski route for the day, hire an off-piste guide, and just learn the ins & outs of the place. Our top choice is the Mad Dog Ski Guide, though Zermatt has not been published yet, you can get all the content online. www.maddogski.com/resorts/switzerland/zermatt Another good resource is the Snowmole Guide to Zermatt.

ON MOUNTAIN DINING:

Findlerhof
+41 (0)27 967 2588
A superb restaurant in every way, Findlerhof is situated in the beautiful hamlet of Findeln amongst the barns (stadels), with fantasitc views towards the Matterhorn. As well as many rooms inside and several layers of terracing outside, there is also a conservatory
for colder weather. The food is exemplary and Franz and Heidi themselves make sure your meal is nothing but perfect. Truffle Ravioli!!

Zum See
+41 (0)27 967 2045
Set amongst ancient barns (stadels), Zum see is one of Zermatt’s most famous and favourite restaurants. A must-visit for any foodie; the cuisine, décor and situation won’t fail to impress even the hardest critic. Dishes include lamb fillet, homemade pasta and their infamous Napolean (an amazing pastry and cream dessert).

Marmottes
+41 (0)27 967 8282
Lots of game and innovative preparations. This new restaurant feels fresh, especially compare to the other “alpine decor” options.

Chami-Hitta
+41 (0)27 967 1096
Lovely warm atmosphere with friendly staff and excellent traditional dishes such as Käseschnitte with tomato, onion, egg and ham.

Riffelalp Pavillion Terrace
Matterhorn shaped pizzas and a view of the Matterhorn itself! (No reservations, only outside seating)

Ristorante Bontadini
+39 335 25 03 12
The links to the Italian side (Cervina) were open only one day, so we had the opportunity to eat lunch in Italy only this once. It was tasty, don’t think that the Italian food isn’t good on the Swiss side…we actually found it even better!) Bring some Euros!

IN TOWN DINING (like I said, we cooked a lot, but here are two recommendations)

Brown Cow
+41 (0)27 967 1931
Hotel Post
(A great place for apres-ski, an afternoon or late night snack of pizza or burgers or bar food. Or even a casual dinner.

Le Mazot
+41 (0)27 966 0606
www.lemazotzermatt.ch
Famous for their lamb dishes: saddle of lamb with rosemary crust (38chf) and other meat dishes like duck breast with orange sauce (37chf), this carnivore-orientated restaurant won’t disappoint. Advance booking is key.

APRES-SKI AND NIGHTLIFE

Hennu Stall
www.hennustall.ch
Without a doubt, the most happening apres-ski spot on the mountain. Imagine cheesy 80-90s music, lots of drunk Brits, Germans, and French, and a dog begging for a bratwurst! Great terrace/patio outside with amphitheater seating and dancing to a DJ, live music inside.

Hotel Post
On the main street near the alpine centre, definitely the epi-center of Zermatt nightlife is the hotel post complex. Dance to all the latest hits from international DJs at the Village Dance Club, Open 11pm-3.30am.
Enjoy live music every night of the week, from pop to gospel to rock to jazz in an upmarket sophisticated venue. The Pink Live Music Bar Open 8pm-2am.
Or dance away to a variety of tunes on a wine barrel at the Broken Bar Disco, Open 10pm-3.30am.
When you get the munchies, stop by the Brown Cow for some pizza and burgers — or come for Apres-Ski and live Six Nations Rugby, Open 9am-2am.
Or for something a bit more upscale and low-key, relax in the cosy lounge bar on the first floor enjoying a cocktail or two at Papa Caesar’s Lounge Bar, Open 6pm-2am.

Vernissage
+41 (0)27 967 6636
For a more high-class, trendy experience, check out this combination bar, restaurant, movie theater, art gallery. Very cool place.

Papperla Pub & Schneewittchen Disco
+41 (0)27 967 4040
www.papperlapub.ch
Every time we walked by here, it was completely packed…like uncomfortable and crowded packed. So we never went…but clearly, it is a popular place to go! Especially for in town apres-ski.

Tags: Switzerland

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