Switzerland Family Trip (Part I: Skiing in Zermatt)

I thought we were done traveling for the year after Beijing, but when an incredible flight deal to Switzerland popped up on my FB feed one day, I just couldn’t resist…

Skiing in the Swiss Alps? Perusing through Christmas Markets? Feasting on cheese fondue? Yes please!

Our tickets were from SFO –> Zurich, and my original thought was to just spend most of our time in Zurich scoping out the world famous Christmas Markets. But, after some brief research, I quickly realized that it would be a shame to not explore the other parts of Switzerland while we were there, and it would be completely crazy to not ski in the Swiss Alps!

After consulting with a friend that lives in Zurich with his family, I narrowed down our itinerary to 5 places: Zurich, Zermatt, Lucerne, Interlaken, and Bern. It felt a little ambitious for 2 weeks, but as always, we were up for an adventure!

Logistically, it would’ve made more sense to start in Zurich and then make our way down South to Zermatt, with stops at Lucerne, Interlaken, and Bern in between. But, because of Alan’s work, we had to go against logistics (gasp!) since he would only join half of the trip and his priority was to ski in the Swiss Alps. So, our journey became very long, where we flew from SFO to Reykjavik to Zurich, and then upon arrival to Zurich, we took the train for another 3.5 hours down to Zermatt. By the time we arrived to Zermatt, we had been traveling for something like 23 hours…

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There are lots of places to ski in Switzerland, but we decided on Zermatt because 1.) being Toblerone fans, we thought it’d be cool to see the Matterhorn in real life, 2.) Zermatt promises skiing 365 days a year, and 3.) the idea of Zermatt being a gas-free town was appealing. When we arrived in Zermatt, our hotel had sent a cute little electrical car to pick us up. It was just a short 3 minute ride to the hotel (we could’ve totally walked, haha!) but the last part was pretty cool because we had to go through this cave tunnel that led us into the property.

I’m just going to go off on a tangent here and rave about the Chalet Hotel Schonegg. We used our Chase points to redeem for 4 nights there, and at around 15,000 points a night, we didn’t have very high expectations. But, this hotel turned out to be da bomb, and it is now remembered as one of our very favorite hotels ever! The hotel is a boutique hotel, with only 39 rooms. We got a Junior Style Suite which felt very spacious for our family of 3, and included an open floor plan with a double bed, a single bed, a living area, fireplace, bathroom, and best of all….a balcony with an amazing view of the town of Zermatt and the majestic Matterhorn! Even though the hotel is small, they have all the amenities you would need, including a spa, restaurant, a terrace that overlooks the town, and a bar.

On our first night there, we were too tired to venture out for dinner, so we ate at the hotel’s restaurant, which offers a daily 5 course meal.

After dinner and a nice hot shower, we passed out. The next morning, we allowed ourselves to sleep in a bit, and then enjoyed an amazing breakfast spread at the hotel. From the freshest croissants to cheese and charcuterie to fresh juice and mimosa, it was definitely the best “complimentary hotel breakfast” we’ve had….not to mention the stunning view that surrounded us.

Following breakfast, we walked across the street to the ski equipment rental place and got our gears for the next 3 days. Finally, we were ready to hit the slopes!!!

Chalet Hotel Schonegg is conveniently located within walking distance to the Sunnegga ski lift, but because the beginning of December was still considered off-peak season, this lift only operated on the weekends. Our first ski day fell on a Friday, so we needed to take a shuttle to the nearby Matterhorn Glacier Paradise lift.

As we made our way up to the mountains, I couldn’t stop taking pictures because the view of the Matterhorn and its surrounding was so incredible. And the minute we began skiing down the slopes, it felt completely surreal to think we were actually in the Swiss Alps! Even though the conditions were not great on that first day, we still had a blast.

That night, we got to enjoy our first cheese fondue in Switzerland at Hotel Pollux, and it did not disappoint. Piping hot cheese fondue after a freezing day on the slopes was simply divine!

What’s even better than cheese fondue after a day on the slopes? Getting to soak your achy body in a jacuzzi while staring at a fairytale scenery in front of you!

We were blessed with fantastic weather for our second day of skiing. Bridge did so well on her first day that we decided to sign her up for a half day lesson with a private instructor on the second day. Not only do kids ski free on Saturdays in Zermatt, but private ski lessons cost just a fraction of what we would pay locally in Lake Tahoe! We definitely wanted to take advantage of the cost savings while we were there, and knew she would benefit greatly from a few hours of formal lessons.

We skied together as a family for a few hours in the morning, and we were treated to glorious, unobstructed views of the Matterhorn!

As soon as we dropped Bridge off with her instructor, Alan and I made our way up to take the newly opened (2018) Matterhorn Glacier Paradise cable car (the world’s highest 3S cableway) to the peak, which is Europe’s highest mountain station soaring at 3,883 metres (12739.5 feet) above sea level! We had tried to go the previous day, but once we got that high up, visibility was so low they didn’t recommend that we ski down, so we were very excited to get up there again on a day with much better visibility and conditions.

I knew that we would reach a point where we could ski down Switzerland on one side, and Italy on the other, so we made that our goal. It took us nearly 2 hours of nonstop skiing before we reached that point. As tiring as it was, we loved the adrenaline rush of skiing such long runs!

We ofcourse chose to ski down the Italy side, which brought us to this charming little Italian town call Cervinia.

We walked around the town briefly, and was trying to find a place to have lunch when we realized that we only had about an hour before we were due to pick Bridgette up on the other side of the mountain. When you’re skiing in the Swiss Alps, it can easily take over an hour to get from one side to the other, so we thought we’d play it safe by skipping lunch to get an early start. Lucky we made that call because it actually took us close to 2 hours to get there! The mountains are massive, and for 2 whole hours we kept skiing, taking another lift, and then skiing some more to get back to Bridge. She ended up waiting for us for 45 minutes, worried out of her mind because we had no way of reaching her. #parentfail

Since we didn’t get Italian food in Cervinia, we made it up by finding the best Italian restaurant in Zermatt that evening. 🙂

We got a ton of snowfall overnight, and woke up to this remarkable view from our suite:

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It looked like a storybook land right in front of our eyes! If it wasn’t so cold, I would want to just sit on our patio all day with a book, to admire this view.

The beauty didn’t quite translate to the higher mountains though for our third and final day on the slopes. Once we got up there, visibility was very low, and we had a hard time seeing more than a couple feet in front of us. Bridge’s skills did improve quite a bit after the private lessons, and she had no problem maneuvering through steep runs with low visibility. It was amazing to see her skiing skills soar to new levels!

We survived our third day on the mountains and finished off our final night in Zermatt with another cheese fondue dinner, at the highly recommended Restaurant Schaferstube.

Overall, we loved our time in Zermatt, and we all agreed that it’s definitely a place we’d want to go back to. Because we were there the first week of December, the town did not have the vibrant, festive feel that we had expected. There were hardly any other tourists around, and while it was great to have avoided the crowds, many of the shops and restaurants were closed until mid-December. Skiing in the Swiss Alps exceeded our expectations in so many ways. The lifts were efficient and comfortable, the runs were long and exciting, and the views (at least on Saturday) were extraordinary. Because the mountains were massive and there were so many lifts all around, we often felt like we were the only ones around.

After our time in Zermatt, we were suppose to head to Interlaken for the day as I had booked a hang gliding excursion for Alan and Bridge. Hang Gliding has been on Alan’s bucket list for years, and I thought Interlaken would be an amazing place for him to check this item off, since it is known for it’s spectacular views. Sadly, we got a call the night before that they had to cancel our booking due to inclement weather. It was definitely disappointing, but we didn’t let that dampen our spirits as we made our way back north to Zurich for some Christmas shopping at the Christmas markets!

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See you next time Zermatt!


Our other Switzerland posts include our time in:

Zurich

Lucerne

Bern

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