Swiss vibes

Image:Swiss vibes
07. Jan, 2019 Written by: Gregor Šket
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Zermatt is the perfect winter wonderland. At first glance, the idyllic car free village nested under the mighty Matterhorn is a nostalgic reminder of the winters of our grandmothers and grandfathers. In fact, Zermatt is a unique and carefully crafted combination of tradition and modernity. Up there, skiing is a 365 days a year activity.

It was an exceptional winter, in fact it was fantastic! Snowflakes fell in millions. The sun shone. The wind blew. The thermometer dropped all the way to -30 degrees Celsius (-22°F). Even the oldest inhabitants of Zermatt, a place that is no stranger to massive snowfall, struggled to remember the last time Mother Nature was so generous with snow. The top of the ski area was covered by almost four meters of snow deep into the latter half of April. Extreme winter weather twice even completely isolated the village from the outside world for over a week at a time. This winter definitely had its share of turns on freshly groomed pistes and deep powder and created countless memories, unforgettable moments and good vibrations.

A winter like this clearly deserves a proper farewell. True ski enthusiasts, the ones that dream of snow all summer long, gathered on the terrace of the Adler Hitta, took off their Gore-Tex jackets and stood around in short sleeves, watching the snow slowly go from solid to liquid, satisfied and happy, but also just a little bit sad. The sound of three saxophones echoed between the Gornergrat and Klein Matterhorn. Chef David grilled his last special chickens of the season. Girls in bikinis had a dip in the hot tub. The wooden floor became and outdoor dancefloor. Ugi, the hut owner, milled around with a satisfied smile. Then the sun set behind the mountain and all there was left to say was addio, au revouir, tschüß, bye bye ... See you next winter.

Of course the goodbye was just ceremonial - winter in Zermatt actually never ends. The highest part of the ski area is clad in permanent snow and ice. Up there, skiing is a 365 days a year activity. Some can be envious too, Zermatt is one of those special ski areas with enough room for all types of skiers and turns. It is a winter playground for all kinds of skiing, from carving on freshly groomed pistes to powder skiing, ski touring, freestyle, heliskiing and ski mountaineering. Slalom skis, freeride fats, all mountain athletes and other skis big and small all find their own way back to the gondola.

Winter paradise

Zermatt is a fundamentally special place. It is the perfect winter paradise, a kind of time machine that takes you back into the past to a time when the world moved at a slower pace. The time travel begins in Täsch, a town turned into one big parking area. At the end of the town there is a large sign stating “Road closed to all vehicles”. The sign is the entry station of the romantic and nostalgic alpine experience where the air is one hundred percent eco and bio. The whistle of the red narrow gauge train is a goodbye to present time. Five kilometers further up the valley, among some of the tallest peaks of Europe, lies Zermatt. A rack railway goes on a further one thousand five hundred meters of altitude, all the way to Gornergrat. The upper ridge is a good three thousand meters above the sea.

On the one hand, Zermatt is an archaic, traditional, conservative and perhaps even backwards place. But on the other hand it has an open, hospitable, kind, worldly and even modern spirit. The atmosphere in the village of just over five thousand inhabitants and nearly seven thousand hotel rooms and six thousand apartments is far from rural. Even though the town only has one major street, it sometimes feels like an avenue of a major metropolis, at least judging by the languages heard at every step. Swiss blends with English, Japanese, French, Spanish, Italian, Slovenian ... Tourists mingle with mountaineers, skiers, athletes and people who came to Zermatt in search of their adrenaline-fueled dreams. It is where the “Swiss Made” brand shines the brightest. After all, the Swiss are masters of tourism at its best.

Pyramid mountain

From some three thousand meters above the town is watched carefully by the mighty Matterhorn. The French call it Cervin, Italians call it Cervino. It is one of the thirty eight four thousanders that surround Zermatt. Its distinctive pyramid shape, most apparent from the Swiss side, has made it perhaps the most photographed mountain in the world. It was first conquered on 14 July 1865 by Britons Edward Whympler, Reverend Charles Hudson and Lord Francis Douglas, accompanied by local men Peter Taugwalder and his son and Chamonix based guide Michel Croz.

The Klein Matterhorn is a miniature of its bigger brother at 3883 meters. It is the highest ski station in the area. The sight of gaping crevasses on the Gorner, Findl and Theodul glaciers from the windows of the gondola is awe-inspiring. Up there the snow never runs out. When the rest of Europe takes off for the seaside in summer, people in Zermatt go skiing ... In winter the area links with Cervinia in Italy.

The first ski lift was built in 1942. The Klein Matterhorn tramway was opened in 1979 and a year later the first underground funicular in Switzerland was opened in Sunnegga. The three areas combined (Sunnegga – Rothorn, Gornergrat – Rote Nase – Stockhorn, Trockener Steg – Schwarzsee – Klein Matterhorn) have over four hundred kilometers of pistes.

A stay in the alpine paradise that reinvigorates your red blood cells usually lasts one week. Then the red train blows its whistle again and it is time for the trip back down the valley, back to reality. The dream is over, but you swear you will return ... Soon ... Next winter...

Adler Hitta

Zermatt is famous for its exceptional culinary offer. The catering industry in the area has far surpassed the traditional staples of raclette, cheese platters and chocolate. Foodies can indulge their taste buds on the slopes during the day and at dinner in one of the many restaurants in the valley. One of the most popular spots is the Adler Hitta hut in the Sunnegga ski area. Initially the hut was the weekend home of the Zumtaugwald family and was later adapted into a typical local restaurant. Some twenty years ago, Urs "Ugi" Zumtaugwald took over the business from his father and six years ago, the hut had a thorough renovation. Ugi kept its traditional Alpine character and added a modern twist.

Today the Adler Hitta is one of the most popular stations on the slopes. Sitting on the terrace, the sunlit peak of the Matterhorn appears within arm’s reach. And they love Elan skis at Adler Hitta. “Last year we started working with Elan. We are really proud to collaborate with the legendary brand. We set aside a special place in the hut to showcase a few pairs of skis and we also organise test days each season to enable our guests to experience first hand the innovations of Elan’s development department,” says Ugi.

Urs Ugi Zumtaugwald

Best job in the world

David Georgi is the chef at Adler Hitta. Seeing the view from his office, you could say he has the best job in the world. The thirty eight year old maestro from Dresden is a true world traveler who happened to stop in Zermatt five years ago.

David Georgi

How was the winter this year?
It was great. There was no shortage of snow and sunny days. We had a great time.

What is it like to work at 2200 meters with a view of some of the most photogenic mountains on the planet?
It’s actually the main reason why I enjoy living in Zermatt so much. I live in the village and go up to the mountain every day at about eight in the morning.

How did you end up in Zermatt?
I’m originally from Dresden, but I started travelling early. First I worked in places around Germany, then in New York, Sydney, Spain and other places around the world. Six years ago I came to Zermatt. Life here really suits me.

What is your signature contribution to the Adler Hitta menu?
We are known for many things. Our specialty is chicken that we roast on special spits. It is our greatest hit. We made eight thousand over the course of this season.

What do you do in summer?
After the winter season closes, we have about a month off. Summer season starts in June and lasts until October. Then winter starts slowly but surely making its way back to our mountain.

Do you have any time for yourself?
Of course, I love skiing in winter. In summer Zermatt is a heaven for mountain biking and hiking, both of which I love also.

Always Good Times Tour 2019 in Switzerland:

12.-13.1.2019: Lenzerheide, Alp Lavoz
19.-20.1.2019: Zweisimmen, Rinderberg Swiss Alpine Lodge
26.-27.1.2019: Lenk-Betelberg, Berghotel Leiterli
02.-03.2.2019: Schönried, Berghaus Horneggli
09.-10.2.2019: Zermatt, Adler Hitta
16.-17.2.2019: Lenk, Snow Beach Lodge
23.-24.2.2019: Davos, Fuxägufer
02.-03.3.2019: Lenzerheide, Rothorngipfel (Scharmoin)

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