Zermatt – Jewel of the Swiss Alps. Home of the Matterhorn – that ruggedly beautiful mountain that will be our majestic backdrop. It’s a great place for skiers and nonskiers. Then you have the unique option to extend your vacation on Malta in the gorgeous Mediterranean Sea. Malta? Most Americans don’t know what or where it is. Keep reading and soon both locations will be on your must visit list.
Matterhorn in Winter ©
Photograoher - Pascal Gertschen
We are planning a full itinerary for skiers and non-skiers. Flights from Houston or Dallas will depart for Milan on Friday afternoon, January 18. After arriving in Milan Saturday morning we will bus to Tasch and then travel via the unique cog railway from Täsch to Zermatt. The luggage will be transported for us from the train station to the hotel. The clubs are staying in just two hotels not far apart –Astoria and Perren- so we can mix and mingle fairly easily.
The town of Zermatt is geographically small with an active town center. The village is a combustion car-free zone in order to prevent air pollution from obscuring the town's view of the Matterhorn, but there are battery operated cars, electric buses and even horse drawn cabs so you don’t have to rely solely on your own feet to get around.
For the skiers, Zermatt is split up into four interconnected ski areas: Rothorn paradise, Gornergrat, Matterhorn glacier paradise, and Schwarzsee paradise. With so many areas, he slopes offer skiing for all skill levels. Gornergrat has beginner runs. Overall the Zermatt ski resorts have the most intermediate runs of all of Switzerland. This makes it perfect for the typical skier, who can cruise around on wide groomed runs, but also offers off-piste options for advanced skiers. The scenery is so gorgeous that you will want to take your time coming down the slopes to soak it all in. You can also ski in Italy and Switzerland on the same day.
Each area is reached from Zermatt village via the cog railway, funicular or gondola depending on where you are headed. Lift tickets will be sold at the window at the ski resorts – allowing you to plan your days when you get there instead of a month in advance. Also, it is required to show an ID at the ticket window if you want the senior discount ticket.
Ski Tour Groups With Mountain Guide ©
Photographer - Alpin Center
If a skier wants a break from the slopes for a day or for the non-skier destination traveler, we are planning three optional excursions. At the moment these activities are still in the planning stages and pricing has to be finalized. The actual details and prices will be shared with the club trip leaders when final. For now, the optional activities will likely include:
Saas-Fee – Take the cable car up to Matterhorn Glacier Paradise. At 12,780 feet, it’s the highest mountain lift station with revolving restaurant In Europe. Down inside the glacier is Glacier Palace where there is a walkway carved through the ice and filled with ice sculptures, an ice throne and slide. New since 2016 is an exciting simulated avalanche experience. Another activity is sledding down one of the longest runs in Switzerland – 7 miles! For the most adventurous ones, there is a guided mountain tour along a gorge with frozen waterfalls that takes you across suspension bridges, ladders and steel ropes and a zip-line.
- Leukerbad – The largest thermal spa in the Alps with 32 pools and various spa facilities. This location also has a cable car ride up to a panoramic restaurant. Before going to the spa you may want to go snowshoeing or do another sled ride – much shorter than the one at Saas Fee. Or if you want to do another challenging winter hike, there is the famous 25-mile, 4-hour Gemini hike.
Brig –the cultural hub of the region. The visit includes a city tour and a guided tour of the 17th century Stockalper Palace. If you didn’t go to the Leukerbad spa, instead of the tours you can go into thermal baths here as well.
- Castles and wine tasting - always popular. This one is in the Valais region. More castle info to come but the wines are known. In this area Pinot Noir and Gamay are the favored reds. Switzerland's favorite white grape, Chasselas (Fendant) is also found here.
Courtsey of Leukerbad Tourismu
There is also the option to explore the nearby area on your own as the train station is right in town and services the area with frequent departures. And of course you should save some time to enjoy your own backyard. The Bahnhofstrasse is Zermatt’s main street and it’s a delight to walk along it day or night with its bars, restaurants, boutiques, souvenir shops, bakeries and more. Of course the Swiss chocolates must be tried! Did you know that the triangular shape and the logo of the Toblerone chocolate candy were inspired by the Matterhorn?
Daily breakfast and dinner is included in our package, but there are many good restaurants in town and on the mountain to try for lunch and of course bars for après ski. Menu items include local cuisine such as rich cheese fondue, raclette, and huge rostis (potato pancakes).
The Zermatlantis/Matterhorn museum showcases the history of the village where visitors can experience the dramatic events of the first Matterhorn ascent over 150 years ago.
Malta – the Mediterranean Post Trip
For your post skiing adventure we have selected an exotic yet very affordable location where few if any of you have likely been. Four nights in a very nice hotel in the UNESCO World Heritage capital city of Valletta. Malta is a Southern European Island country that lies 50 miles south of Italy. Not many can say that in January they were in the snowy Alps one day and on an island in the Mediterranean Sea with 60 degree temps the next day. There are numerous excursions to take to learn about the history, beautiful architecture and lively character of the people and places.
Malta has been inhabited since prehistoric times and ruled by at least 14 empires or countries – most leaving their mark on the country’s culture. We are planning one full day and one ½ day excursion and you will still have a day and a half to explore, shop, relax on your own. The selections have not yet been made but any of the options offered will be amazing. Excursions could include guided tours of Valletta, Mdina, or Gozo and/or ancient temples.
Malta Grand Harbour
Courtesy of Malta tourism Authority
Valletta tour highlights include beautiful Barrakka Gardens, St. John’s Cathedral and Grand Master’s Palace.
Mdina is small and quant and known as the Silent City. The tour includes Mdina Cathedral, St. Paul’s Catacombs, Dingh Cliffs and more.
Gozo is a 20-minute ferry ride away and is an island where time seems to have stood still. The tour includes seeing the inland seas and bays, the medieval streets of Victoria (Rabat), Temples of Ggantija, the Citadella and visits to woolen and lace product shops that the area is well known for.
For your 1.5 days of unscheduled time, we can give you information on other tours and activities.
Valletta: View of Siege Memorial
Courtesy of Malta tourism Authority
I hope you join me on this spectacular trip. Contact your trip leader or me for more information.
TSC Winter Expedition Trip Coordinator - Zermatt/Malta