The snow is falling heavily in Zermatt this week and the run from the glacier to Trockener Steg should open this Friday. However you won’t find this on our snow report. All this white abundance is not coming from the heavens but, from an 11-metre-high fridge.
Zermatt’s answer to what has turned into a wet, warm, and dank autumn is to fire up its secret weapon. The Snowmaker does not rely on freezing outside temperatures to make artificial snow. Using vacuum technology originally developed for an Israeli desalination plant, it can pump out 800 cubic metres of ‘spring’ snow every 24 hours on a mountainside in October – or, come to that, in the Sahara in August.
With the franc still strong against the pound and the euro, the Swiss need some innovations to give visitors reasons to go to Switzerland and its ski resorts this winter. I’ve just spent a couple of days in Zermatt discovering what they’ve come up with.
A new rail route and lift pass offers
First up, a new Snow Train leaves St Pancras each Saturday from December 22. You change at Lille for a TGV which go to Brig in the heart of the Swiss Alps, with easy connections on the way to Verbier, Zermatt, Crans Montana, and Saas Fee. The change in Lille involves moving to a different platform, rather than crossing the city, as you’d have to do if you went via Paris.
A lift pass for just 25CHF per day instead of 75CHF? Book two nights or more directly at any one of 100 participating hotels in and around St Moritz this winter. Free ski lessons for children and teenagers? Stay two nights or more in selected hotels in Arosa and that’s the deal. The offer applies to those born in or after 1995. More information on all of these innovations and offers visit My Switzerland.
The Beverly Hills of Zermatt
In Zermatt itself, several hotels have been updated, including Hotel Alex and Alex Schlosshotel. New building work is going on in the higher suburb of Winkelmatten, on the way down from Furi, where the ultra-stylish Hotel Mattiol is being joined by Zermatt’s first luxury ski-in ski-out chalet, the White Pearl, with lovely woody bedrooms and an indoor swimming-pool. Next door are four similar-styled apartments called High Seven. All of this property is co-owned by Quantum of Solace and Finding Neverland director, Marc Forster. Winkelmatten was originally a separate hamlet, but it has grown to become part of Zermatt and is now known as the Beverly Hills of Zermatt.
There’s also a good new run in Zermatt, ski itinerary number 59, down from Schwarzsee this season – with a 65-degree section on it.