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 Zermatt spring. Ghost town or boom town?

By Bill Fogarty

Easter Monday. Basically the ski season was over (although it again goes for 365 days per year in Zermatt) and I was approaching this deservedly popular resort on a combination business and pleasure trip.  Then again for me they are always a combination of business and pleasure. As I was driving the road to Tasch where it is compulsory to leave one’s car, I was thinking how great the warm spring sunshine would be and how fantastic to have the village almost to myself. After all this was the lowest of low seasons wasn’t it?

Then, shortly after rounding the last curve of the new road that was built because a massive landslide covered the old one (No lives were lost) some years ago, the parking lot at Tasch came into view.  It was almost full! Millions of Euro worth of motorized metal of all sorts, shapes, sizes and ages were sitting there costing their owners tens of thousands of Euro per day just sitting and waiting. Their owners of course were in Zermatt.

Just for the record, or in case you come from Jupiter, there are no cars allowed in Zermatt. All visitor’s motorized transport must be left in Tasch, the village immediately below. This explains the enormous sums being spent by visitors for the privilege of letting their expensive motors relax and soak up the sun and the money in this wonderful (for the owners) parking lot. Being car-free is one of Zermatt’s major attractions; transport is by shanks mare, rare mare, electric wagon, the fast becoming ubiquitous bicycle, as well as train and cable car to reach various mountain views and activities.

Low season? I parked my car in the garage parking lot across from the official one, also almost full and saved myself about a Euro per day. How’s that for social rebellion? I jumped on the shuttle train between Tasch and Zermatt and made my way to the extremely popular Matterhorn village about 15 minutes away.

If I was expecting a ghost town, the parking lot was my first clue that it was not to be the case. If  more evidence were needed, it was walking up and down the main street of the village in the form of hundreds of people. Day trippers, skiers, walkers, shoppers and of course locals. The joint was jumping.

There’s no point in asking what the attractions is. Heck just a quick look around you or a browse through this website would point out that Zermatt has more items to attract visitors than almost any other alpine resort you can think of. There’s the Matterhorn, year round skiing, world-class shopping, outstanding hotels in just about any price range, great eateries, the lot. But the ski season was over wasn’t it? And the summer season was still a month away if the weather cooperated, so what were folks doing there on Easter Monday?

Probably the same thing I was about to do, excluding the business bit. The skiing was perfect, the après skiing plentiful and varied and it was springtime, at least that’s what the calendar said. Eat drink, be merry and soak up the spring sun whilst skiing in some magnificent, late April powder. Heck hotels will be starting to close around the end of April/early May, surely then Zermatt will be a ghost town, won’t it?

Er, no, it probably won’t. Spring is a great time to visit Zermatt. Prices are lower, people are fewer, slopes are emptier and there is a great selection of action. There are enough hotels open for you to be sure you have the category and price you need and there are enough open, good, restaurants to make sure you won’t go hungry or broke.

To get some idea of what kind of activities there are besides skiing, once again we suggest that you browse this site. There is, literally, everything except a beach. Gentle walking, strenuous climbs, beautiful sites, great mountain transportation, museums, galleries, tennis courts, swimming pools (in hotels), a fantastic SPA line up (in hotels again) you get the message, the lot.

And there’s the new golf course in Randa, just a short train ride away. This is a nine- hole entry designed by fast-rising design star, John Chilver Stainer. Randa is a train ride away from Zermatt, just a short bit away from your at rest, money-eating car in Tasch. The golf requires a train ride or some other mode of transport from Zermatt but as an idea to combine the great game with great mountain surroundings the new golf course will make the Matterhorn vilage an even more complete resort. In fact many hotels are already starting to promote golf packages and some will even have transportation thrown in.

The golf course is complete now, but not quite ready for play. It will be, hopefully, in late June. The range has been seeded and needs time for the grass to grow properly and healthily, so just hang on to your clubs a bit.

The birth and health of so many low cost airlines make getting to Switzerland relatively easy and cost effective from almost anywhere in Central Europe. Getting to Zermatt is worth the extra effort and can be achieved by train or of course car rental from both Zurich and Geneva. The latter is probably a half an hour closer by either form of transport.

Bill Fogarty is the CEO of The Activelifestyle Travel Network, (www.activelifestyle.com) producers of www.alpinegolf.com, www.luxuryalpinedestinations.com, www.thailandgolfmaps.com, and 100 other travel orientated www.domains. He can be reached for comment on this article at bf@activelifestyle.com.