Zermatt is a top destination for gnarly alpine types, especially at this time of year, when the ski touring season is well under way and men in lycra are to be seen, striding down the cobbled streets, skis strapped on backpacks, festooned with ropes and tinkling karabiners (to counterpoint the goat bells), sun tanned, smiling, and wielding ice axes.
As summer gets under way, and the ice bridges melt on the glaciers, the hairy, muscled eye candy disappear to be replaced by a more genteel and leisurely tourist, clad in Jet Set rather than Arcteryx, but none the less intrepid.
There are 38 peaks over 4000m high around Zermatt, and the Matterhorn is not even the tallest. To climb any of them requires a level of fitness higher than the usual entry level to a gym in South Kensington, yet Zermatt’s summer tourists are ready for anything.
What attracts them is the luxury. Who says staying in a sleeping bag in a bunk with 20 other sweaty people in a mountain hut is a prerequisite for a good climb? Why not stay in a fabulous chalet, with breathtaking views of the very mountain you will conquer the next day? Why not get up early, have your breakfast served by your attentive butler, have your mountain guide meet you whilst you are still wiping homemade marmalade off your chin?…and once you have conquered the Breithorn (4,164m tough snow tour on skis), Castor (4,223m very tough snow tour with crampons and axes) or Pollux (4,092m super challenging mixed rock and ice climb), relax in your Jacuzzi with a glass of champagne, then have a massage in the chalet spa.
Next day, to stop those muscles from seizing up totally, take a gentle stroll up to Findeln and lunch at Chez Vrony, relaxing on the sun terrace with a good bottle of Swiss wine. You deserve it.
So, 5 reasons why we love luxury Zermatt in the summer:
1. Slow pace of life.
Walk, stop, look. You may have an itinerary today, but Zermatt is so laid out (a mixture of nature and nurture to be sure) that wherever you are, you can change your mind. Walk further, take the lifts up or back down, linger over lunch, stop to look at the rare mountain flowers, watch the baby marmottes playing, picnic in the sun by a fresh water lake. The Zermatt Gemeinde (town council) has succeeded amazingly well in achieving a perfect balance of wild nature and organized access to that nature. I don’t know of anywhere else that manages to balance that feeling when you are on your own half way up a steep mountain, with the reassurance of wooden, hand painted signposts, information boards that blend into the background whilst being genuinely informative, and thorough, helpful printed information. Relax; you are in good hands.
2. No cars.
It is incredible. The quiet, the clean air, less bustle all contribute to a genuinely relaxing stay. After only a few days, if you so much as spot a vehicle with an internal combustion engine (the doctor has a little Fiat; there is an ambulance) you will be clutching at your throat, panting for breath, trying to avoid inhaling the incredible pollutants belching out from that invasive exhaust system. You can hear the birds and the church bells. What’s a traffic jam? There are electric taxis if you need to get from one end of town to the other in a hurry, but why not walk? You have the time.
Swiss people smile at you. Whether it is because of the outrageous price of the souvenir you have just bought, or more likely because the high cost of goods supports a generous minimum wage which enables every Swiss worker to live to a decent standard of living. Swiss are level headed, practical and honest, which seems to give them a serene appearance and a secret inner wisdom, effortlessly achieving that all important peace of mind we are all striving for. Smile: the scenery is beautiful, the weather is nearly always good, and we have our own currency.
4. Great, gourmet, relaxed, fun restaurants serving local produce:
Chez Heini, Blatten, Zum See, Les Marmottes, Findlerhof, Le Mazot, Fluhalp, di Guiseppe…some are on the mountain, some are in the town; all are superb! Lunch or dinner, you will always find good food in great settings.
5. Sheep and goats and cows.
Perhaps this last reason falls into all of the above categories. Livestock roams free on the mountains, creating meandering paths, and sustaining a way of country life lost to a lot of the rest of the world. Goats are led through the town each day from the fields to be milked, without having to avoid a lot of traffic. Lambs of the black faced and crimped white hair variety are so cute as to put a smile on your face. And the main reason for all these animals is that they produce great food: milk, cheese and meat, and they couldn’t be more local.
So forget watches, cuckoo clocks and chocolate (well, maybe chocolate is number 6!). Zermatt is a place to relax, indulge, de-stress and be yourself.