The sky is the limit
Air Zermatt was created half a century ago to save alpinists in distress and has since come a long way, with two Heroism Awards to their name and lots of experience to boot. The company’s 13 pilots, who each fly around 500 hours annually, are some of the world’s best. Its fleet, made up of ten aircraft, is one of the most modern and is incredibly well-maintained by a team of 12 highly-qualified mechanics and 16 assistants. The company, which now has three heliports (Zermatt, Raron, Gampel), continues to serve those in need and carries out an average of 1,800 rescues each year. As rescues are not profitable by nature, the company has also diversified and now offers general transportation services (55% of their annual activity) and a pilot school (5%), in addition to heliskiing and scenic flights (20%).
The Alps as Witness
It’s often aboard an Ecureuil AS350 B3, a light and versatile aircraft, that one boards (heart beating wildly) for a 20-40 minute flight. Three minutes later, the Matter Valley unfolds and the blue-coloured avalanches of the Hohlicht Glacier sparkle below. The helicopter turns, rises, skims the top of a white-capped ridge, and flies directly towards the region’s most legendary triangular peak. In just eight minutes of flying, one reaches the Matterhorn’s hostile north face, plastered in ice and just metres away. The Hörnli ridge is next, with its alpine hut at its base, tiny and barely visible from on high. The helicopter continues to climb, hovering for a moment above the summit, before following the ridge’s edge. The Klein Matterhorn, Breithorn, and Monte Rosa sweep by on the starboard side, followed by views of the Gorner Glacier on the return journey.
Another day, perhaps, will be the time to try helisking, seated in one of the plush, comfortable leather seats of an Eurocopter EC130 T2, until climbing out and breaking through the snow’s frozen crust, wading through the thick powder at the start of the run, feeling the rush of the icy wind from the helicopter’s blades. Imagine finding yourself up there alone, on top of the world. The best part is, it costs next to nothing: a drop-off at Unterrothon (7-8 minute flight time) is only 80 francs!