Zermatt, Switzerland: I am sitting here in ski-boots and short sleeves, drinking champagne against a thundering Matterhorn view. I’ve had worse Mondays.
It’s April in Zermatt and it’s clear with one glance around Chez Vrony’s overbooked outdoor deck that the season is still in full swing. The sun is strong — so strong that it leaves us all with peeling, sunburnt noses for the duration of our stay — and the restaurant’s sheepskin covered chairs are filled with jelly-legged diners who have reserved well in advance for a table at this insanely popular mid-mountain spot. Waitstaff dash between tables dropping off many a Vrony Burger, which seems to be the house specialty. We opt instead for the seared lamb with white asparagus in a red wine reduction, because it’s not every day we find ourselves in such a high-altitude Michelin-starred dining room.
This is Day 2 of our stay in one of Switzerland’s most magical ski resorts and I’m slowing learning what a holiday here is all about. No one’s in a rush to race to the lifts as soon as the sun comes up or to finish their espresso before lunch hits the 2 hour mark. Gorgeous alpine-chic accommodations, gourmet cuisine and world class wines are the rule, not the exception — and spending time with family gorging on Swiss chocolates and fondue is deemed just as important as hitting the slopes. Definitely my kind of ski town.
Our home for the week is the fabulous CERVO Mountain Boutique Resort, a stylish retreat situated high up on the mountain decked out in a modern hunting lodge style. Hoteliers Daniel Lauber and his wife Seraina converted the property in 2009, outfitting each of their 35 guestrooms with antlers, (Cervo means “deer” in Italian,) Swiss pine and big picture windows. Attached to our room is a huge private deck that gets put to good use — both as a dancefloor for 3 year old Jake, who happily boogies to the daily après ski tunes reverberating from down below, and as an evening escape where my husband and I enjoy a quiet, moonlit glass of wine once we’ve tucked him into bed. It’s all very cozy and comfortable here, from the woodsy-scented Molton Brown candles to the fringed, branded throws. In addition to jacuzzis in each of the chalets and masseuses on call, the hotel also boasts an excellent fine dining restaurant, an always-bustling bar and even a small playground out front, leaving us little reason to ever leave — except of course to ski.
Spring skiing is a funny thing. It’s legitimately hot outside in the blazing sun, bringing a certain luxury to a sport that’s not always synonymous with comfort. Patches of green peek through the mountainside where snow has melted, unveiling the beginnings of a summery scene. Luckily there’s still plenty of snow where it counts, on the slopes. Packed and powdery white, the runs are wide and open and the views are truly spectacular. My husband and I spend a glorious afternoon on top of Sunnega — where I finally get my ski legs back after a 5 year hiatus — and end the day like everyone else does, by skiing down to lunch. I savor my glass of bubbly and count today a success, looking out on one of the most beautiful mountains on earth.
My rentals go back and Jake and I spend some time getting to know Zermatt’s other side, the ski town for non-skiers. We hit up the local playgrounds, check out the chocolate Easter bunnies in every other window (Zermatt is filled with chocolate shops) and take gondolas for fun. We go shopping in town for a jumbo stuffed Wolli — the village Mascot, a smiling sheep who teaches kids to ski. Each day we inevitably get lost on the way to meet Dad for lunch. The best mountain restaurants are also the most difficult to get to, but in the end are always worth it — especially favorites like seasonally-focused Zum See and Mediterranean-influenced Findlerhof.
It’s a sad day when we pack up for our journey back home. At the station we find a coffee shop and wait for the Glacier Express to pull in. “Maybe we should come back one winter,” I wonder aloud picturing a pretty alpine village with white holiday lights strung up, narrow streets dusted in snow. The Mont Cervin Hotel’s red horse-drawn carriage galloping down the main road, dripping in icicles. My husband shakes his head.
Spring is the time of year preferred by pro ski teams and future Olympians who come here to perfect their techniques. Spring is the season when layers are optional and sundecks are full. Coats come off and the town comes alive for their annual acoustic music festival, Zermatt Unplugged. Perhaps most importantly, reservations are much easier to come by, giving everyone a better shot at nabbing that Vrony burger. He looks up, deciding right then and there. “Nah…let’s come back again in the Spring.”
The journey begins by train — the only way to arrive in blissfully remote, car-free Zermatt. Most people fly into Zurich or Geneva and take a scenic 3 1/2 or 4 hour ride, respectively. Take advantage of the Fly Rail Baggage service, which lets you drop your luggage at the airport counter and pick it up when you reach Zermatt, allowing for super light travel. If you are going by car, you’ll need to leave it in nearby Tasch and take the 12 minute cog train into the village, departing every 20 minutes.
At the station there are various forms of transport to get where you’re going. Mostly tiny electric cars belonging to hotels, (coordinate pickup beforehand) a town bus and a few e-taxis.
For more information check out the Zermatt Tourism website