Outdoors Magazine

A Look at Switzerland’s Ski Resort “Zermatt” for Beginners

By Simplypiste @simplypiste

Zermatt is a resort that everyone should go to at least once.  It is an iconic town situated underneath the shadow of the world famous Matterhorn and has some of the best skiing to be found in Europe.  The Zermatt side of the ski area is split into three main separate ski areas: Rothorn Paradise, Gornergrat and SchwarzseeMatterhorn Glacier Paradise.

Whilst not ideal for complete beginners, there are some good areas for people to learn and there is a designated beginner spot in each area, at the top of the Sunnegga, at Riffleberg and at Schwarzsee.   Unfortunately none of these areas are linked by beginner trails so the novice skiers intending to roam will be well tested.

Sunnegga Area

The Sunnegga Paradise is one of the best places in Zermatt to learn to ski, and it is easily accessible via the funicular from the town.  There is a dedicated beginner’s area, the Wolli Park, which has three moving carpets and two rope ties.  It tends to be sunny and the area is protected from the wind.  The one thing to note with this beginner area there is now a half price lift pass to get you to and from that area and don’t forget children under the age of 9 ski for free!  When you are ready to move on, head up to piste 7, which is a lovely blue at the top of the Sunnegga-Blauherd chair perfect for practicing those turns on.  Come lunch time however it is worth heading to piste 6, which is a great run for people just starting out and is home to five superb mountain restaurants.  Worth a particular mention would be Chez Vrony which is a lovely restaurant offering gourmet food in a comfortable and traditional alpine setting.

A look at Switzerland’s Ski resort “Zermatt” for Beginners

Riffleberg Area

The Gornergrat / Riffleberg pistes are ideal for beginners or getting your ski legs back at the beginning of the week before heading further afield.  You can access this ski area in two ways.  The first is to take the Gornergrat, which is one of the highest, oldest and open-air cog railways in Europe.  It takes about half an hour and beginners should get off at Riffelberg, where there is a platter lift with its own trails to the right of the big hotel.  Alternatively you can take the Klien Matterhorn Express up to Furi and take the Q bubble up to Riffleberg.  There are some lovely long, wide blue runs at the top of the Grifthiti Chair perfect for building your ski legs up – piste 36 and 38 in particular!  The Riffleberg area often has the best combination of good snow and easy cruising so it is understandably a popular choice for those just starting out and the ski schools!

A look at Switzerland’s Ski resort “Zermatt” for Beginners

Schwarzsee – Matterhorn Glacier Paradise

Towards the end of the week it is worth heading up to the Glacier Paradise.  This area offers some of the highest altitude skiing in Zermatt and is the route to Cervinia.   It will take a while to get there (45 minutes) but it is definitely worth it. You can enjoy fantastic views if the Matterhorn and once on the glacier, you can experience some of Zermatt’s best skiing.  The pistes on the glacier are generally graded blue and red and are not particularly steep.   Beginners in particular will like Piste 73 which is a lovely gentle blue piste running parallel to the Gandegg (X1) t-bar lift.

A look at Switzerland’s Ski resort “Zermatt” for Beginners

To Conclude…

As you can see Zermatt is making much more of an effort to cater for the beginners with the dedicated areas and the half price beginner lift passes.  There are beginner spots in each area making and the restaurants tend to be next to the beginner areas making it easy for groups of mixed abilities to meet for lunch.  It is not ideal for the timid; however a beginner who relishes a challenge will fall in love with Zermatt and improve rapidly!

Contributed by David Snyder, a snowboarding holiday guide writer and catered ski chalet sales advisor at a UK Ski company.

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