CH-96990 332 - ая открытка

Country: Switzerland

Distance:  1,309 km

Travel time:  7 days

On postcard: Zermatt

Zermatt is a municipality in the district of Visp in the German-speaking section of the canton of Valais in Switzerland. It has a population of about 5,800 inhabitants.

The village is situated at the end of Mattertal at an altitude of 1,620 m (5,310 ft), at the feet of Switzerland's highest peaks. It lies about 10 km (6.2 mi) from the over 10,800 ft (3,291.84 m) high Theodul Pass bordering Italy.

Zermatt is famed as a mountaineering and ski resort of the Swiss Alps. Until the mid-19th century, it was predominantly an agricultural community; the first and tragic ascent of the Matterhorn in 1865 was followed by a rush on the mountains surrounding the village, leading to the construction of many tourist facilities. The year round population (as of December 2010) is 5,720, though there may be several times as many tourists in town at any one time. Much of the local economy is based on tourism, with about half of the jobs in town in hotels or restaurants and just under half of all apartments are vacation apartments. Just over one-third of the permanent population was born in the village, while another third moved to Zermatt from outside Switzerland.


The name of Zermatt, as well as that of the Matterhorn itself, derives from the alpine meadows, or matten (in German), in the valley. The name appeared first as Zur Matte ("in the meadow") and became later Zermatt. It does not appear until 1495 on a map or 1545 in a text, but may have been employed long before.

Praborno or Prato Borno are the older names of Zermatt; they appear in the ancient maps as early as the thirteenth century.  The French-speaking people from the Aosta Valley used this name until about 1860 in the form of Praborne, or Praborgne. The reason of this change from Praborno to Zermatt is attributed to the gradual replacement of the Romance-speaking people by German-speaking colony.


The village of Zermatt lies at the southern end of the Matter Valley (German: Mattertal), which is one of the lateral branches of the great Valley of the Rhone. The village is almost completely surrounded by the high mountains of the Pennine Alps among which Monte Rosa (or Dufourspitze), Switzerland's highest peak at 4,634 metres (15,203 ft) above sea level. It is followed by the Dom (4,545 m [14,911 ft]), Lyskamm (4,527 m [14,852 ft]), Weisshorn (4,505 m [14,780 ft]) and the Matterhorn (4,478 m [14,692 ft]). Most of the Alpine four-thousanders are located around Zermatt or in the neighbouring valleys.

Zermatt is traversed by the main river of the valley: the Matter Vispa, which takes its sources from the glaciers located at the feet of the highest peaks; the Gorner Glacier on the east side near Monte Rosa and the Zmutt Glacier on the west side between Dent d'Hérens and Dent Blanche.

The village of Zermatt, while dense, is geographically small. There are three main streets which run along the banks of the river Matter Vispa, and numerous cross-streets, especially around the station and the church which forms the centre of the village. In general anything is at most a thirty minute walk away. There are several "suburbs" within Zermatt. Winkelmatten, which was once a separate small hamlet, lies on a hill (1,670 m [5,480 ft]) on the southern side. Steinmatten is located on the eastern bank of the main river.

A many hamlets are located in the valleys above Zermatt, however they are not usually inhabited all year round. Zum See (1,766 m [5,794 ft]) lies south of Zermatt on the west bank of the Gorner gorge, near Furi where a cable car station is located (1,867 m [6,125 ft]). On the side of Zmutt valley (west of Zermatt), lies the hamlet of Zmutt (1,936 m [6,352 ft]) north of the Zmuttbach river. Findeln (2,051 m [6,729 ft]) is located in the eastern valley above the Findelbach river. It lies below the Sunnegga station (2,278 m [7,474 ft]). Located near a train station of the Gornergrat railway, Riffelalp (2,222 m [7,290 ft]) is one of the highest hamlets with a chapel.

Zermatt has an area, as of 2011, of 242.7 km2 (93.7 sq mi). Of this area, 9.5% is used for agricultural purposes, while 4.2% is forested. Of the rest of the land, 0.7% is settled (buildings or roads) and 85.6% is unproductive land.


The town was "discovered" by mid-nineteenth century British mountaineers, most notably Edward Whymper, whose conquest of the Matterhorn made the village famous. The Matterhorn was one of the last alpine mountains to be conquered (in 1865), and the first expedition that reached the top ended dramatically with only 3 of the 7 climbers surviving the descent. The story is related in the Matterhorn Museum.

Zermatt is a starting point for hikes into the mountains, including the Haute Route that leads to Chamonix in France and the Patrouille des Glaciers. Cable cars and chair lifts carry skiers in the winter and hikers in the summer; the highest of them leads to the Klein Matterhorn at 3,883 m (12,740 ft), a peak on the ridge between Breithornand Matterhorn that offers spectacular views in all directions. It is possible to cross into Italy via the Cervinia cable car station. A spectacular rack railway line (the Gornergratbahn, the highest open-air railway in Europe) runs up to the summit of the Gornergrat at 3,089m (10,134 ft). Zermatt is also the western terminus for the Glacier Express rail service connecting to St. Moritz and the MGB (Matterhorn-Gotthard-Bahn).


To prevent air pollution which could obscure the town's view of the Matterhorn, the entire town is a combustion-engine car-free zone. Almost all vehicles in Zermatt are battery driven and almost completely silent. Electric vehicles are allowed for local commerces. The Cantonal police can issue a permit which allows residents to drive and park at the northern outskirts. Some emergency (fire trucks, ambulances, etc.) and municipal (buses, garbage trucks, etc.) vehicles are also allowed to use combustion engines.

Passenger vehicles operating within Zermatt include tiny electric shuttles provided by hotels to carry visitors from the main train station (or the taxi transfer point just outside town) to the hotel properties, "electro" taxis operated by four major Zermatt families, and "electro" buses, which serve two routes: one between the major hotel areas and the stations of the various ski-lifts, and the other following a similar route but also serving the more rural "suburb" of  Winkelmatten. Horse-drawn carriages can also be found; some are operated by hotels and others are available for hire.

Most visitors reach Zermatt by cog railway  train from the nearby town of Täsch (Zermatt shuttle). Trains also depart for Zermatt from farther down the valley at Visp and Brig, which are on the main Swiss rail network. The town also has a heliport (ICAO: LSEZ) and a local helicopter operator, Air Zermatt, which also provides alpine rescue services.

In 2007, a project group was formed to evaluate options for development of the local transportation network (as the "electro" buses do not have enough capacity). The results of this study are published in the December 2007 edition of Zermatt Inside. The six options explored are a coaster, a funicular, a metro, moving sidewalks, a gondola or more "electro" buses.

Skiing in Zermatt

Zermatt is known throughout the world for its skiing, especially Triftji for its moguls. The high altitude results in consistent skiing continuously throughout the summer.

Skiing in Zermatt is split up into four areas; Sunnegga, Gornergrat, Klein Matterhorn and Schwarzsee. There is also a connection to Cerviniaand Valtournenche in Italy.

In 2008, Zermatt hosted an 'Infinity Downhill Race'. The race took place on the 13 and 14 December and comprised a course descending from the Matterhorn Glacier Paradise (3,800 m (12,500 ft)) and finished in Zermatt itself (1,600 m (5,200 ft)). The course was 20 km long and featured a 2,200 m descent.

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