While many newlyweds venture off to secluded beaches or romantic cities steeped in history, Hugh Perry puts a good case forward for a skiing weekend in Zermatt.
A Weekend in Zermatt
The excitement built as the train travelled through the winter landscape. Ski poles and tinted goggles and fancy suitcases piled up in the luggage racks, and the buzz grew among the skiing enthusiasts as Zermatt pulled into view.
It’s no secret that this Swiss town, nestled in the canton of Valais, is one of Europe’s most sought-after resorts. Famed for its slopes since the latter half of the nineteenth century, Zermatt is a classy haven for discerning tourists. Beyond the excellent skiing, it is assuredly also a special place for a romantic stay.
Our home for a long weekend was the Schweizerhof, a luxurious yet friendly hotel from entrepreneur Michel Reybier. Beyond the obvious comfort and class of the hotel, was a warm and friendly heart, with staff who made us welcome and well cared for.
That welcome got off to a flying start as we tucked into a dreamy truffle pizza. Rich, laden with cheese – cooked to perfection in a pizza oven – and chased with a glass of the famous aromatic Swiss wine Fendant, I would have happily eaten it for breakfast, lunch and dinner.
Having retired to prepare for dinner, I looked through my bedroom window at the romantically lit town below and strained for a glimpse of the Matterhorn, the iconic and deadly mountain first conquered by a party led by a British climber, Edward Whymper.
There was nothing to be seen in the gathering gloom, so instead I readied myself in the elegant bedroom, enjoying the modern features – a Dyson hairdryer and an iPad to control the lighting and heating – that set off the elegant alpine style.
Most of the 55 rooms at the Schweizerhof are doubles, and I would be delighted to return to my double standard, but there are also plenty of suites for honeymooning couples with an eye on something even more special.
The hotel had been refurbished just before our stay, and the ambience was both relaxing and energetic. Each night, the restaurant and bar area buzzed with happy conversation, as a DJ spun tunes.
Cheese Factory at the Schweizerhof, Zermatt
There was convivial chat over dinner the first night in the aptly named Cheese Factory at the Schweizerhof. The highlight was a cheese fondue, gently bubbling like a prehistoric tar pit. We applied ourselves to it with impressive commitment. Then when it felt as if we’d been defeated by the cheese, we were greeted with a spectacular chocolate mousse – as dark as night, as fluffy as a cloud and about the size of a bathtub.
Next day, despite the impressive spread on offer, we didn’t dwell on breakfast, as we were desperate to get up the mountainside. The ski enthusiasts detoured via the terrific ski locker room at the Schweizerhof. Heated lockers for your ski boots? You’ll never look back.
Taking on the Gornergrat
The target was the Gornergrat, a peak reached by mountain railway, which pulled us to a height of over 3,000m past frozen waterfalls and snow-laden pines.
On a clear day, the panoramic views are something to dream about when you return to your day job, and we were gifted with extraordinary blue skies. Above it all rose the Matterhorn – the mountain off the famous triangular chocolate – caught the light like a pyramid covered in gold leaf.
But naturally it’s not all about the views. The slopes drew skiers like moths to a flame, and off they swooped down a range of pistes, ranging from the family-friendly to those perfect for experts.
A hearty lunch at the Al Bosco restaurant at the small resort of Riffelalp, halfway up (or down) the Gornergrat, punctuated the day’s skiing. One of us calculated they had burned 1,000 calories due to the morning’s exertions, so the indulgent food – I enjoyed buckwheat noodles with potatoes, chard and sage – was well justified for an afternoon’s skiing.
Then later, to ease sore muscles from a day of Alpine exercise, we relaxed our weary muscles at the hotel spa, where we received massage treatments, gently paddled lengths in the indoor swimming pool and made a vow to make more time for the sauna next time.
Dinner was at the La Muña restaurant in the Schweizerhof, where we were served a exuberant procession of Peruvian and Asian fusion. The highlights were many, with perhaps the peak for me the vegetarian ceviche that brought together vibrant flavours and colours in a grand show. We closed out the meal with an array of desserts, including a mille-feuille, crisp and delicately flavoured.
Naturally in the morning there was time for one more session on the slopes, the mountain air a tonic for heads sore from too much heavy living the night before.
And so we left Zermatt, the way we came on the railway, with the weekend skiers around us glowing with happiness and health, each of us vowing to return.
Swiss Travel System
The Swiss Travel Pass offers unlimited travel on consecutive days throughout the rail, bus and boat Swiss Travel System network. This pass also covers scenic routes and local trams and buses in around 90 towns and cities. The Swiss Travel Pass also includes the Swiss Museum Pass, allowing you free entrance to 500 museums and exhibitions. Prices from £171 in second class.
For more information on Switzerland as a wedding destination, visit www.MySwitzerland.com/weddings.
Words by Hugh Perry