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Family Holiday Bonding under the Matterhorn…the real thing!

Food, Hotels, Nightlife, Things to Do, Travel Tips, What's New — By Sonja Holverson on December 12, 2010 at 6:32 pm
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Have family all around the world? Where to meet? This could help you bring your family together. Listen to “Get Together” while you read this and you’ll be packing your bags “right now”.

All ages enjoy family Holidays in Zermatt: image courtesy of familyskiing.com

In Europe or even in the world (depending on your location), Switzerland is the one of the most central and perfect mid-way points for families to gather with members of all ages. One of the best places for families to become closer than ever is in the iconic and still authentic village of Zermatt (pop. 6’000 and traffic-free!) located just below the Matterhorn (14,687ft). Perhaps the kids (of all ages) have seen the Matterhorn at a Disney park but they may not have seen something as overwhelming as the real one. The Matterhorn (called Mont Cervin in French), was first climbed in 1865 by Englishman Edward Whymper (who is attributed with the creation of modern tourism in Switzerland and elsewhere). In those days Whymper was not able to wear a High Altitude Suit by Wild Things with primaloft insulation nor carry a GPS device nor a radio, etc. Mountain and ski gear has made incredible progress so you will enjoy the Swiss Alps even more in your high-tech winter clothing. In addition to the awe of the Matterhorn is also the  thrilling  fact that you would also be under Monte Rosa (15’203 ft) also called Dufourspitze which is the highest mountain in Switzerland.

24 miles of Winter Wandering Trails: image courtesy of Gornergratbahn.ch

The snow is usually at its best with the average snow depth at mid-December on the upper slopes of 4.5 feet. Furthermore, there is an abundance of winter ctivities for all ages as well the excellent nightlife (and baby-sitting!). Meeting and gathering in a Swiss Chalet in Zermatt would be the most memorable moments of your family history (including when Uncle Ned took you and all the family on that Caribbean cruise and you all ate 10 meals a day). Have a look at Zermatt Village on the webcam but consider the time GMT + 1.

Cogwheel Gornergrat train: image courtesy of Zermatt.ch

Even if you don’t ski, you can take the cogwheel Gornergart train for lunch and a magnificient view of some the highest alps in Switzerland.

Swiss Alpine view from the Gornergrat. Image courtesy of Dominique Schreckling

 There are many styles and choices of Swiss Chalets to let for the Holidays. Some are more contemporary than others and there is a large selection of  different number of rooms. You could organize a large family Holiday reunion or just a small immediate family gathering. Consider for example the Haus Gmatchi, newly converted in the heart of Zermatt from a house built in 1753 to a luxury holiday chalet sleeping 6 persons which has a lovely balcony as well as a Jacuzzi bath and a steam and massage shower. The living room is modern with views of the Matterhorn.

Authentic Swiss Chalets Haus Gmatchi for the Family Holidays: image courtesy of zermattchalets.co.uk

Another example is the Haus Vallverde, a brand new chalet which sleeps 6-7 persons near the old chapel Winkelmatten which is quiet but with supermarkets, restaurants and public transportation as well as ski trails at your doorstep. You will also have a spectacular view of the Matterhorn from the terrace but without the party sounds of the village center. However, even during its busiest time during the winter, Zermatt never seems busy or overcrowded;  possibly because there are no cars!

Haus Vallverde: image courtesy of zermattchalets.co.uk

For a larger family a new luxurious chalet in Zermatt is Les Anges located in Zermatt village and which sleeps 14 persons. The views are unsurpassed from this 3 floor chalet designed by the renowned Interior Architect Magali de Tscharner who used reclaimed wood throughout. It is open and full of light but still warm and cozy to snuggle up during the Holidays after a fabulous day of skiing or snowboarding or snow shoeing or just being. But if that is not enough, there is also a sauna, hamman, a relaxation area and a massage room as well as a all year heated pool with massing jets.

Chalet Les Anges: image courtesy of zermattchalets.co.uk

Are you packing yet? Called the kids? The cousins? The Grandfolks?  They said yes! Then perhaps you would be interested in the recently refurbished Chalet Kamanga which sleeps 20-23 persons which can ski back to the chalet (conditions being normal which means the snow and your family’s skiing skills!). There are amazing views of the Matterhorn from a separate lounge and living room as well as other parts of the chalet. Also located in exclusive and tranquil Winkelmatten, this chalet is just a 6 minutes walk downhill to the Klein Matterhorn high-speed gondola as well as a short walk to restaurants, bars, and shops.

Chalet Kamanga for New Year’s Eve: image courtesy of zermattchalets.co.uk

But if you prefer to dine out there are many varieties and choices of restaurants in Zermatt.  Franz and Heidi Findelhof will welcome you in their Swiss style restaurant up the hill from the village center, with 70 seats plus the terrace and who offer standard priced cuisine. Or for more elegant dining (even with kids’ menus) you may prefer Schoenegg with excellent dishes that give it a rank of 15 out of 19  Gault Milau toques.

Restaurant Findelhof: image courtesy of Zermatt.ch

For snacks and beer and a bit of partying for the much older “kids”, there’s Sparky’s. Or the Broken Bar Disco located in the oldest wine cellar in Zermatt where you can dance on the legendary wine barrel. But don’t be out too late because the little ones will be up and ready for sports action on the many different slopes.

Even if you are traveling with the elderly and the infirm, just sitting on a terrace in Zermatt staring at these mountains is a major family holiday activity. Younger ones can play ice hockey or other games in the natural and artificial ice rinks. There are also other activities are organized for children by the Zermatt Tourist Bureau.

But of course, some of you will ski.

Interactive ski trail map courtesy of mappery.com

In some of your families there will be those who don’t often ski, and you may find that your 3-year old does the best in ski school! But Zermatt ski instructors are some of the best in the world so everyone will at least greatly improve. See what I mean in this 1963 Zermatt Ski Instructor film and they’re even better today. For those more advanced skiers Zermatt is a paradise and the trail from the top down to the village is 9 miles long. Give this trail a virtual try here along with family holiday vacationer “Dad” Chris Weiner. You can also ski to Italy and back for the day at Cervinia.

Pingu Snow Club: image courtesy of Ski-Zermatt.com

Zermatt is surrounded by 3 major ski areas, with the world`s second biggest lift-served vertical drop (don’t let that worry you, there are easier slopes).  Furthermore, if you miss the winter season,  you can ski 364 days a year (1 day holiday for the crew?) which means that you can try it out in the summer on the glacier and then plan your family gathering for the year-end Holidays. There are also special trails for winter wandering 24 miles (snow shoeing) as well as for snowboarding.

Wolli, Zermatt’s Mascot: image courtesy of Zermatt.ch

Incredible Zermatt is about a 3-hour trip by SwissRail from either Geneva (151 miles) or Zurich (154 miles). You can take a train right from the airports and connect in Visp to a smaller train and then to  a cogwheel train at Taesch which climbs to Zermatt and shows you some of the most beautiful scenery on earth.

I have more travel ideas for you in Switzerland, just follow me on Twitter.

Tags: Cervin, Family, Geneva, Holidays, Matterhorn, ski, ski trails, SwissRail, Switzerland, Zermatt, Zurich, “Edward Whymper”, “Swiss Chalet”, “Zermatt Tourist Bureau”

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