A ski touring appetizer
Have you ever dreamt of reaching 4,000 m in your touring skis? Are you lacking the physical training and technical skills of a true alpinist? Do you have no prior experience in the high mountains? Are you trying to keep an eye on your budget? Not a problem! The Breithorn (4,164 m) has you covered. All you need to know is how to ski correctly in the mountains. Moderate effort, incredible landscapesThe Breithorn may be one of the most accessible 4,000 m peaks in the Alps, but that doesn’t make it any less stunning. On the border of the Italian Aosta Valley, this welcoming " broad horn" offers 2 km of gentle ridges, draped in snow and ice. Accompanied by a mountain guide, the ascent can be completed in half a day, starting at the Matterhorn glacier paradise cable car station (3,883 m) and back. The upwards itinerary requires 1h30-2h30 of moderate effort across a snow-covered expanse, followed by a gradual ascent until you reach the highest snow-capped ridge, where the uninitiated may experience some light vertigo. There, an exceptional panoramic view awaits: when the clouds part, you can see over three dozen 4,000 m peaks, including the intimidating Dufourspitze (4,634 m) nearby, the highest summit in Switzerland. It’s enough to make you catch the mountaineering bug and want to join the Swiss Alpine Club! "We simply cannot comprehend the power of the mountains," claimed Hawaiian surfing legend Kai Lenny, when he spoke with helvet after visiting the Breithorn with one of his sponsors in 2017. "It’s so much bigger than us that it makes us insignificant…" A descent worth savouringThe itinerary can be done in a loop or by going from point A to point B and back. Either way, a delightful powder descent awaits, rewarding the effort it took to get to the top. Make sure to enforce a few stops to draw out the experience and allow yourself to savour the view. Stops you’ll likely need to take anyway, as the snow’s conditions and the high altitude take a toll on your muscles and your oxygen levels, all while filling your heart with glee. The best part? The experience only costs 115 CHF per person for a 6-person group with one guide, in addition to the 59 CHF lift fee. Money well spent for such an exceptional experience. zermatters.chalpincenter-zermatt.chLaurent Grabet
Dinner-shows at Backstage Hotel
2020 wasn’t particularly kind to Heinz Julen. The unexpected closing of the Zermatt station mid-March could not have come at a worse time, just a few weeks before the Unplugged festival was scheduled to begin. As always, the Backstage Hotel was meant to host several of the festival’s main events. And the hotel’s art gallery, the Kunstraüme, was about to feature a top contemporary painter so famous that his identity, with the show now pushed to 2021, still remains a mystery. For the time being, Kunstraüme is running "When trash becomes Art," a found-art exhibition featuring works by Swiss artist Ursula Stalder. A French artist was supposed to follow suit, but pandemic travel restrictions left the gallery no choice but to cancel. Not to be deterred, Heinz Julen took advantage of the opportunity to showcase some of his latest, biggest, brightly coloured pieces ever — which pedestrians can get a glimpse of as they walk past his boutique on Bahnhofstrasse 7b. The situation also inspired another new project. Noticing that theatre was struggling during the lockdown, Heinz Julen took matters into his own hands and decided to host his own dinner-shows at the Backstage cinema. Beginning just before Christmas, performances are scheduled for almost every night of the season. A long-awaited opportunity for every artist to emerge from the shadows and blossom again in the limelight. Sky of Augustine (skyofaugustine.ch), the Joel and Romaine Müller brother-sister duo, will be inviting other talented upcoming artists to join them on stage four nights a week, in a setting reminiscent of the Unplugged festival. Their acts will be interspersed with visual and auditory journeys into Zermatt’s past, along with film extracts from the 1950s (a regular occurrence at the Backstage cinema). The icing on the cake? The performances will be accompanied by dinners prepared by chefs from the famous After Seven revstaurant (awarded 17 points by Gault&Millau). This is one performance (and meal) you don’t want to miss! heinzjulen.combackstagehotel.chDaniel Bauchervez
In November, Zermatt was officially named the " Best Ski Resort" for the third time by The Best Ski Resort Report, an independent visitor satisfaction survey conducted every two years by the University of Innsbruck, with input from over 40,000 skiers.Zermatt boasts one of the largest skiable areas in the world. It unfolds over 360 km of slopes between Upper Valais and Breuil-Cervinia in the Aosta Valley. One section (21 km) on the Théodule Glacier is even open to skiers year-round, drawing many national teams to its slopes for pre-season training. Another key attraction: here it’s sunny almost 300 days a year. The Matterhorn ski paradise is also the highest ski area in Europe. It peaks at 3,883 m at the Matterhorn glacier paradise and goes up to 3,899 m if you include the Italian slopes, which are officially connected and easy to access. These high altitudes ensure unparalleled levels of snow (with snow cannons as backup for over 80% of the area) and breathtaking views of 38 of the 82 summits over 4,000 m in the Alps. What more could one ask for? A Zermatt for every tasteThe Matterhorn ski paradise stretches from Rothorn (3,103 m) to Matterhorn glacier paradise (3,883 m) to Schwarzsee (2,583 m), passing via Stockhorn (3,532 m) and Gornergrat (3,089 m). Gornergrat can be reached by taking a darling red train, the highest in Europe, which has been on the list of Switzerland’s Greatest Excursions since 1898. No matter which way you ski from Gornergrat, the Matterhorn is always in sight.The 145 slopes that make up the Zermatt ski area are always in impeccable shape. They’re made up of 75 km of blue runs, 220 km of red, 27 km of black, and 38 km of yellow for freeriding. So, whether you’re a casual Sunday skier, a downhill junkie, or a freerider fanatic, Zermatt has got you covered. And let’s not forget the 53 ultramodern, state-of-the-art lifts. Some 60 million francs were invested over two years to develop them, leading to the Christmas 2020 opening of the Kumme gondola, and soon, in 2022, the tricable Matterhorn glacier ride II gondola. There’s also the Snowpark that’s open most of the year (in summer on the Plateau Rosa glacier and in winter on the Theodul Glacier) and a free ski pass for children under nine years old. Children up to age 16 also ski free on Saturdays in winter. Ski Station 2.0Digital technologies are also being put to use for skiers in Zermatt, with free Wi-Fi available on all slopes. Ski pass holders benefit from a slew of digital perks, including ski lockers at lift base stations, personal data about your daily skiing distance and altitude, or even video footage on the Skimovie slope. In 2019, these efforts earned Zermatt the " Milestone," a renowned and highly sought-after innovation award that recognizes the best in Swiss tourism. zermatt.chmatterhornparadise.chLaurent Grabet
1907. Theodore Roosevelt is President of the United States, Nicolas II Emperor of All Russia and Edouard VII has recently inherited the throne from his mother, Queen Victoria. In South Africa, Mahatma Gandhi is calling for passive resistance and in Finland, the first women are being elected as Members of Parliament. In Zermatt, all at the same time, the Gornergrat train is attracting growing numbers of tourists and aristocrats up the mountains. Beau Site is the hip place to be in the summer — and soon enough in the winter, too, when the trains decide, in 1928, to push their way up to Zermatt even after the first snowfall.The grande dame’s grandiose facade leads into a main hall where Hercule Poirot would have fit right in, sitting next to a wood fed fire in the colder months. Parkhotel Beau Site embodies the traditions of Swiss hospitality, with the added bonus of a Matterhorn wake-up. Its impeccable service and irreproachable comfort are maintained by a team of 65 dedicated employees in peak season. It’s everything cosy luxury should be, without the stuffy attitude. A hotel for all seasonsRespect for the past doesn’t mean living in the past. The hotel underwent major renovations in autumn 2019, notably in the lobby, the reception area, the bar and the restaurants. In 2016, the spa had already been revamped with a cool 30°C pool, two large 36°C Jacuzzis, a hammam, a Finish sauna and a vitarium (a sauna-steam bath combo, with cooler temperatures). Here, whether you choose hot stones, ayurvedic with sesame oil, or Hawaiian lomi lomi style for your massage, you’re sure to be pampered. In the evening, retire to one of the hotel’s classic rooms in the main building, or in the adjoining Villa, built in 2010. Its more modern rooms are also bigger and boast larger windows. But no matter where you sleep, you’re guaranteed an incredible view of the Matterhorn. Some rooms can even enjoy the mountain view from bed, and the exceptional Beau Site tower suite has a private veranda (reached via a glass spiral staircase), which will take your breath away with over 180° of exceptional views. Honouring local growersThe dining table at Beau Site has also evolved. The Grill, its main restaurant, now serves high-quality meats and fish in an updated setting. Regional and seasonal products are a key part of the menu here. Chef Christoph Nienstedt, who worked for the Swedish Royal Family 30 years back before adopting Switzerland, makes his own sausage, dried meats, and exceptional dishes sourced from local suppliers like the Riffelalp Alpine cooperative (providing the beef) and the Ebneter organic farm (for the pork and lamb). The yogurt hails from the local Horu Dairy, the cheese is from Stafelalp, and the Emmental is made by Jumi. All these products are part of the generous breakfast offer and can also be found at 3 Seasons, the hotel’s new self-serve restaurant. And let’s not forget about the ample wine cellar. Here, Valais wines rub shoulders with Italian and French elixirs, which can be savoured at tastings at the hotel’s vinotheque, Divine. And if you’re looking for something other than wine, try the hotel’s Bar 1907, also recently updated, but still retaining all the classic charm of the Belle Epoque, complete with a live pianist after 6 p.m. parkhotel-beausite.chDaniel Bauchervez
Kirchstrasse 42. At the base of the Hotel Antika, just across the street from the peaceful quiet of the cemetery, lies a 50 m2 shop designed to arouse the desire of all Mood lovers. Here, the excitement ripples across social media. Everyone’s talking about this one-of-a-kind object: a ring, a simple ring, but not just any ring. Contemporary. Androgenous. Minimalist. Playful. 100% Swiss. And always in style.1001 rings No necklaces, no earrings, no bracelets. Mood only makes one thing: a single ring… with infinite possibilities. This beautifully simple yet technically sophisticated concept is the brainchild of jewellery designer Cédric Chevalley. A stainless steel (or more recently, titanium) structure forms the base of the jewel on which an inner ring is housed. The centrepiece is made of two separable elements thatsupport and retain the central ring, baptized addon. Originally composed of glass, today the centrepiece is available in a wide variety of materials: polymer, carbon, exotic wood, aluminium, acetate, bronze, rose gold, or even palladium.The Digit ring addons are expertly crafted out of silver, with the owner’s fingerprint cast into each unique piece. You can take the customization even further and have a ring engraved with a meaningful quote, a memory, or a sweet message for a loved one. If that were not enough, the brand recently also made their first successful foray into the world of haute jewellery, with addon that feature precious stones, like certified white or black diamonds, topaz, sapphire, or emeralds. These precious high-end Mood rings can be up to a hundred times the price of the original design… but we all know that true love is priceless. Let Your Imagination Run WildSo, how many different models are there? It’s difficult to say, as today the brand works with innumerable inhouse ambassadors. "Dozens of new models are released each month," explains Stéphanie Pousaz, co-manager of the collection, "resulting in hundreds of different addons on site at any given time." This year’s best-selling pieces are the Boho 2.0 collection and XS set, but still to come is the new Zermatt collection, specially designed for the launch of the local boutique.The possibilities are endless, as the chameleon Mood ring gracefully adapts to fit the personality of each wearer and every brand-picked ambassador. Swiss climbing champion Petra Klinger designed addon inspired by her favourite climbing locations, while Sébastien Buemi’s collection features diamonds made from the wreckage of one of his race cars. Meanwhile, Belinda Bencic sparkles on the tennis court with her sport-chic collection that includes 11 upcycled grey diamonds (her lucky number) made from one of her very own tennis rackets. At the end of the day, only one thing is for certain: the brand has developed a fierce following, and there are no limits to the creativity of Mood lovers. yourmood.netmoodjoaillerie.netSophie de Charbevel
Steiger & Cie
In the early 2000s, high-end luxury real estate development in Switzerland’s mountains had just begun to erupt, with a lust for large, open floor plans and upcycled patina wood. Steiger & Cie accompanied the movement and was sometimes ahead of times when building a powerfully interconnected company ecosystem to meet every single one of their clients’ needs, both during and after real estate pruchases. Brokering, development, management, coordination with architects and construction teams, even legal guidance, their range of services covers the whole spectrum, making them the perfect go-to for expert advice about current market trends. A renewed love for the mountainsThe entire world froze this spring with the arrival of the Covid pandemic. Few specialists dared to bet, at first, whether the real estate market would slip, sink, or maintain pace. Very few companies, even amongst the best, were able to anticipate what would happen just a few weeks later: demand held steady. More so, demand grew and has continued to grow ever since.Some people wanted to flee an unpleasant lockdown in the city. Some with busy lives simply found themselves (finally) with enough time to think about what matters most to them. Concepts of family and a happy home took on a whole new importance. Many people didn’t have access to an outdoor space or garden. As Swiss federal authorities sought to balance health safety with the (relative) preservation of freedom, the summer months saw numerous foreigners finally take the leap. Some started by booking apartment or chalet rentals for a month or even for the whole winter season, regardless of cost. Epidemiologists were predicting multiple waves of outbreaks; they had to act quickly.In Zermatt, Oliver Herweg witnessed a 30% increase in demand. Prospective clients had to be more committed than ever, carrying out visits with masks on and hands freshly disinfected, and tended to decide (and buy) more quickly than usual. Swiss clients also flocked to the mountains in large numbers over the summer months. And although the Zermatt market is hyper selective with few properties on offer, real estate sales in Verbier and Crans-Montana exploded - in Crans-Montana especially, where prices are lower and options more plentiful. A changing paradigmThe global health crisis has been a catalyst that has helped reinforce Switzerland’s reputation for high quality of life and secure property investments. Whether buying or investing in developing properties, privacy is more than ever the key word here — Steiger & Cie’s focus from the start. Giant open floor plans, spas and personal elevators have never made more sense for those who can afford it. The desire to upgrade to larger spaces is on trend, as are rising prices.Other factors surely played a role. The ecological crisis has shamed most everyone’s weekend plans to visit Barcelona or Moscow — too much CO2 spewed in too little time. And while low altitude cities were sweltering in the rising heat over the last couple of summers, the mountains kept their cool… Second residencies at higher altitudes never made so much sense.Second homes for some, but many people are looking to make a permanent move. The Lex Weber restricts construction of new second homes in communes where more than 20% of properties are already being used as holiday homes. So, as remote work continues to expand and telecommunication options improve, many people are asking themselves whether it wouldn’t make more sense to move to a place where they can spend time outdoors and send their children to smaller safer schools, with the slopes just around the corner. One could venture to say a new postmodern world is taking shape here. A world with no more rural flights that, once again, places high value on small communities and being close to nature. steigercie.chClaude Hervé-Bazin
Chalet Hotel Schönegg
One doesn’t simply see a small piece of the mountainous landscape from the Schönegg’s immense terrace: one takes in a full 180° panoramic view of the Matter Valley, high above all of Zermatt’s other rooftops, tucked into the valley below, and directly within eyesight of the kingly Matterhorn itself. The Schönegg is a true wooden mountain chalet. In summer, petunias decorate the balconies. In winter, snow coats the chalet’s delicately sloped roof and trickles off to form hanging stalactites. The front doors open to an Alpine universe in every sense of the word: beautiful hardwood floors and furniture, delicately carved wood embellishments in the restaurant, the recently renovated panelling in the Charme rooms, and the contemporary touches in the Style Cervin rooms. To top it off, three fourths of the hotel’s 48 rooms have a view of the Matterhorn. The Hotel Schönegg boasts a view of the village from its sun-soaked terrace, enhanced by the hypnotic pull of the Matterhorn. This prestigious establishment was recently inaugurated into the highly exclusive Relais & Châteaux inner circle, an esteemed recognition that places the Schönegg in a league of its own, as the only Zermatt hotel within the group. One doesn’t simply see a small piece of the mountainous landscape from the Schönegg’s immense terrace: one takes in a full 180° panoramic view of the Matter Valley, high above all of Zermatt’s other rooftops, tucked into the valley below, and directly within eyesight of the kingly Matterhorn itself. The Schönegg is a true wooden mountain chalet. In summer, petunias decorate the balconies. In winter, snow coats the chalet’s delicately sloped roof and trickles off to form hanging stalactites. The front doors open to an Alpine universe in every sense of the word: beautiful hardwood floors and furniture, delicately carved wood embellishments in the restaurant, the recently renovated panelling in the Charme rooms, and the contemporary touches in the Style Cervin rooms. To top it off, three fourths of the hotel’s 48 rooms have a view of the Matterhorn. A Family of WinemakersThe terrace, beautifully named Infinity, becomes a stage for live music in April for Zermatt’s Unplugged Festival, assuming one arrives early enough to snag a seat. When it’s time for après-ski, the piano comes to life as the sounds of jazz or classical music ring through the air and drift towards the Matterhorn. The ambiance is relaxed, as patrons nibble on snack platters with a glass of wine in hand. But not just any wine… When it comes to wines, no one in Zermatt knows them better than the Schönegg. Sebastian et Anna Métry, the hotel’s lovely owners, brought a family of winemakers and a family of hotel owners together in union, and one could almost say grape juice is in their blood. For at least five generations, the Métry family has been growing grapes in Varone, on the other side of Valais. Enter the pinot noir and fendant, produced in limited quantities that just barely meet the needs of the hotel’s bar and restaurant, aptly named Uncorked. There’s no doubt that wine is the true guest of honour here. The Schönegg’s wine cellar counts almost 400 labels, nearly a hundred of which are from Valais, tasted and selected by the Maitre de Maison himself, along with an impressive selection of wines from Bordeaux. Powering the ovens for almost two decades, Chef Reinhold Wrobel brings local products to life through the Menu du Marché (5 courses), which changes daily. As a lover of Asian cuisine, Mr. Wrobel doesn’t hesitate to titillate the palette of diners with a touch of curry, a hint of miso, or a dash of sesame. The ambiance features comfortable wooden tables and benches, lit by chandeliers made of bottles, topped with a magnificent view of the Matterhorn. All these elements combined are what made this establishment a natural fit for Relais & Châteaux, and ensures the venue lives up to the group’s token slogan: Creating Delicious Journeys. www.schonegg.chClaude Hervé-Bazin
As one of Europe’s highest ski stations, Zermatt is inherently more protected from the effects of global warming and any lack of seasonal snow (even though 80% of the ski area, excluding the glaciers, have a built-in backup system for artificial snow). And yet Bergbahnen Zermatt has voluntarily adopted environmental protections and policies dating as far back as 2002, which revolve around three primary pillars: an efficient use of resources, a global approach to energy, and constant renaturation.Regular upgrades and investments have ensured the station stayed abreast of the latest and most efficient technical infrastructure. Every aspect of daily life has been taken into consideration, from transportation to snow cannons, construction, restoration, the acquisition and maintenance of vehicles… all of it is designed to reduce energy consumption and embody a way of life that is as eco-friendly as possible. One example is the station’s 68 engines, which are more expensive to operate but which pollute 11-13% less than traditional models. To meet their high-energy needs, Bergbahnen Zermatt relies heavily on local hydroelectricity and has made significant investments in solar energy, which heats and powers the Matterhorn glacier paradise restaurant (which is certified Minergie-P), the Trockener Steg station, and, most recently, the Matterhorn glacier ride lift. These achievements are all the more impressive when one takes into account the fact that the restaurant is perched at a dizzying 3,883 m - it even has its own microbiological treatment plant, which filters wastewater directly onsite; a veritable achievement in its own right!And when it comes to maintaining and restoring the natural environment, the renaturation pillar of their efforts covers any area of the ski domain that may be impacted by construction. A detailed inventory was compiled and efforts are underway to revegetate older sections of the ski area which may have been damaged or polluted. Today, over 85% of them have already undergone some form of ecological restoration, while outdated infrastructure is carefully dismantled, and lift cables are continuously being upcycled for bridge construction in Asia. All of these efforts combined led to Zermatt Bergbahnen being awarded the well-deserved 2015 Swiss Revegetation Award, something all of us can recognize as a great achievement towards a sustainable future. matterhornparadise.chSophie de Charbevel
The Best High-Altitude Dining
The comforting warmth of a historic chaletThose looking for a touch of nostalgia will find it deep in the Alps, near Findeln, Riffelalp, and Furi (1,867 m). Some make the journey by foot (45-60 min), while others take the Matterhorn Express, floating gently over the frozen white forests and alpine pastures. Here, in the heart of the Mattertal Valley, lies Zermatt: the crossroads of the region’s mechanical ski lifts and many exceptional dining tables. There’s the Silvana Hotel’s cosy Gitz-Gädi, where diners are delighted with rösti, fondue, charcuterie, lamb, or even goat in the company of a rustic fireplace. There’s also Simi, where another fireplace welcomes diners for expertly blended traditional and contemporary cuisine that’s accompanied by impeccable service. Or even Les Marmottes, where one can savour beef from Valais (with a pine mousse) or ibex ravioli (hunted by the owner himself!). And don’t forget Aroleid Kollektiv, sustainably run by a young couple known for their creative cuisine (with vegetarian and vegan options), along with their pottery and barista classes. hotelsilvana.chrestaurantsimi.chles-marmottes.charoleid-kollektiv.ch One of the main routes connecting Furi and Zermatt passes through the small hamlets of Blatten and Zum See, which are each home to a renowned restaurant. The picturesque Zum See, with its aged patina exterior and magnificent terrace (complete with a view of the Matterhorn), was awarded 14 points by Gault&Millau for its high-quality, hyper-local cuisine, which expertly blends mountain classics and fine dining with dishes like veal-liver and homemade pasta, or rösti with smoked salmon on Sundays. Meanwhile, the Blatten is family-owned-and-operated by Leander and Simone Taugwalder. And if " Taugwalder" rings a bell, it’s because Peter Taugwalder was the first to summit the Matterhorn in 1869, and, oddly enough, this establishment’s owner-couple met while climbing that very same mountain! The menu here could not be more traditional with one surprising speciality: Porcini mushroom soup, served with a delicate, puff pastry crust. In winter, there’s fondu every Wednesday and a snow bar that opens in February. zumsee.chzumsee.chblatten-zermatt.ch Near the Moos-Trail, Alm specializes in homegrown trout (grilled, with almonds, poached, in salad, etc.), and ten minutes on foot from Riffelalp, is the 100% stress-free Ritti, with its heavy flagstone roof and micro-terrace hidden amongst the trees. Menu highlights include rösti and an exceptional fondue. alm-zermatt.chritti.ch On the other side of the Zmuttbach River, away from the lifts, lies the traditional snow-covered village of Z’mutt. Here one can find the modest Jäger Stube, which serves robust, hyper-local meals. Walk another 30 minutes to find Stafelalp (2,200 m), known for its large and modern sun-filled dining room (entirely rebuilt after a fire) and its beautiful terrace with impressively close (the closest you can get!) views of the Matterhorn. Although it’s in one of the region’s most isolated ski areas, it can be easily reached on the #52 red slope. From there, the Hirli chairlift quickly gets you to the Schwarzee (2,583 m) hotel-restaurant, which more than guarantees exceptional views. matthiol.chschwarzsee-zermatt.ch Charming alpine chalets can also be found near Findeln along the #5 blue route. This former mayen is now one of the station’s most renowned gourmet destinations, with two must-see restaurants that were both awarded 14 points by Gault&Millau. Chez Vrony, perhaps the most famous of the two, shines a spotlight on creative and often organic products from Valais (like their homemade charcuterie). Their chill-chic ambiance features fur-covered lounge chairs on the terrace and an interior designed by Zermatt architect and artist Heinz Julen. There’s also Findlerhof, which famously flies an iconic Swiss flag over its gigantic, panoramic terrace. It’s known for its offbeat spirit, the warm welcome provided by its owners Franz and Heidi, its truffle ravioli, its quiche, and its gargantuan Matterhorn rösti dish. Those arriving on skis must first drop their gear at the small, white chapel, then descend by foot.Three other high-altitude restaurants deserve a visit: Adler Hitta (very "chill and grill," with occasional live music, and a summer jacuzzi), Enzian, and Paradise (recently acquired by Vrony). chezvrony.chfindlerhof.chadler-hitta.chparadisezermatt.ch What about Riffelalp? There, set your sights on the Italian restaurnat Al Bosco, found inside the panoramic (and very chic) 5-star Riffelalp Resort (2,222 m). Its extra-large terrace is usually frequented by skiers tackling the Riffelberg red ski run. Slippers for inside the resort are provided. riffelalp.com What about the Italian side?Here, it’s difficult to escape the espresso break… assuming you have your travel documents (and a few Euros) in your pocket. Just after crossing the ridge, the Aosta Valley-style fondu, ravioli, risotto, ossobuco, polenta, and, of course, tiramisu, from Bontadini beckons. Surrounded by sweeping, panoramic terraces at 3,100 m, at the foot of the southern face of the Matterhorn and the Furggen ridge, this locanda-style restaurant also has a high-quality self-service area. A bit lower (2,750 m), above Plan Maison, lies the almost legendary Chalet Étoile, which has been run since 1974 by Swedish chef Ulla Frassi and her Italian husband Cesare. The menu is an Italian-Swedish fusion of farmer’s market ingredients that’s simultaneously elegant, surprising, and delicious. chaletetoile.itchaletetoile.it As close to the summit as possibleAt even higher altitudes, the ZBAG lifts provide access to every station and stopover where one can eat. One of the best stops at Rothorn (3,103 m) is the wooden Ristorante Pizzeria, which boasts incredible Alpine views. At the Blauherd station (3,103 m), the Blue Lounge is known for its flammkuchen (an Alsatian tarte flambée), but one should consider continuing on to Fluhalp (2,620 m), a sturdy and welcoming mountain hut built in 1930s, which can be reached from the red Rotweng or from Rothorn. The menu includes memorable Valais dishes like pasta and mouth-watering homemade tartes, which are sure to bring a smile to your face as you soak in the ambiance and the seasonal live music. rothornpizzeria.chfluhalp-zermatt.ch If you go even higher, taking the Trockener Steg cableway and the Furggsattel chairlift, you reach Gandegghütte. At 3,030 m, and with one of the most beautiful views of the Alps, this ex-mountain hut was transformed into a restaurant-bar overlooking the Théodule glacier. Every year (almost), it welcomes the world’s highest altitude music festival: Unplugged. Gandegghütte’s local specialities are known for refreshing weary travellers, and best of all, you can even stay the night and be the first on the slopes the next morning.Now, if that’s still too close to earth for you, continue on until you reach Klein Matterhorn and have breakfast at Matterhorn glacier paradise (3,883 m)- it’s truly a special treat to dine at the highest altitude restaurant in Europe! gandegg-huette.netmatterhornparadise.chClaude Hervé-Bazin
Injured alpinists abandoned at high altitudes recognize the approaching sound of an Air Zermatt helicopter as a small miracle. Founded in 1968 to respond to emergency situations in the valley and the mountains, the company has since diversified their services to include resupplying mountain huts, high-altitude construction, touristic flights, shipping, and heliski flights to help finance the lower-revenue rescue component of their business. A year unlike any other2020 began with a bang. Between January and March, Air Zermatt carried out over 600 rescue operations, which would have set them on course for an annual average of 1,800 missions. But then the lockdown led to a dramatic reduction in activity. In the Spring, "only three patients who had Covid-19 had to be evacuated from Zermatt and brought to hospitals in the region," explained Gerold Biner, who’s been Air Zermatt’s CEO for more than a decade. Then, starting in May, a slow return to normal life saw an uptick in the number of red and white helicopters flying to and from the Kumme gondola construction site, which connects Tufternkehr and Rothhorn, and will replace the former lift that was destroyed in a 2018 avalanche.Wanting to contribute to a reboot of local tourism, Air Zermatt went all in this summer by offering a 10% discount on regularly-priced panoramic flights. As a result, some 160 people per day had the opportunity to rub shoulders with the Matterhorn and Monte Rosa aboard an Air Zermatt helicopter. The year has been difficult for us all, but Air Zermatt has made out remarkably well all things considered, with business revenues "only" being reduced by 25-30%. Simulator and accoladesAt no time did the company lose sight of their future ambitions. The merger with Air-Glaciers, the other major player in Swiss mountain rescues and helicopter flights, had already helped the company realize some important economies of scale, even if the two companies continue to operate their own aircraft under their own brands. To make the most of the lockdown, Air Zermatt also modernized and refreshed their Zermatt terminal. They invested in an experimental flight simulator, developed in partnership with the Swiss branch of VR-Motion, an American company. The goal? To build a highly specific and precise training tool for mountain flights and rescue operations.Although they must " first get through the health crisis," as Gerold Biner temporized, all other indicators are looking positive for the company. The big boss himself was in the limelight this summer when the Divisionär F.K. Rünz Foundation awarded him their highest distinction, the Rünzi Prize, given each year by the council to someone who has performed outstanding services for the canton of Valais. The prize is yet another example that speaks to the character and spirit of Air Zermatt and its team of Mattertal Valley guardians. air-zermatt.chDaniel Bauchervez
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