September 19, 2021

What To Expect When You Visit Switzerland For Your Summer Ski Holiday

summer landscape

What is it like when you visit Switzerland for your summer ski holiday? Here is an insight into one skiers account for their travel to Switzerland in August 2021.
Begin with the westbound train ride from Zurich amid a torrential downpour. Following that, a golden swoosh down the tracks around Lake Thun to Valais and Visp, Switzerland’s solarium, with 300 days of sunshine every year. The click-clack of a rack rail ascent through a narrow ravine followed, with black skies looming at the end of each tunnel. Extreme weather has wreaked havoc this summer, and now it’s the turn of some surprise snow showers in Zermatt.

Visiting the Matterhorn
This is terrible news for the trainloads of tourists who have come to view the much-photographed Matterhorn — finding a sight of it in the coming days will be more difficult than finding a St Bernard with a keg of cognac around its neck. However, because I’ve come to Switzerland on a whirlwind summer ski holiday, the prediction provides a weird thrill for me. And, with temperatures in the mountains hovering around minus 3 degrees Celsius and 4cm of new snow on the way, I’m in for my first Alpine turns since 2019. Where are the best summer ski resorts?

Zermatt Ski Resort
Zermatt is now one of the few European mountain destinations that offer year-round snow activities. Thanks to Covid – and two winters of hard work – this speciality is more enticing than ever. For starters, there are no powder turns. There are no off-piste areas. There will be no gluhwein. There was no real afterparty. But consider the tan.

Zermatt is a town in the Swiss canton of Zermatt
The Theodul Glacier is currently used by up to 1,300 skiers every day. It helps that the only need for Britons entering amber-list Switzerland is to be double-jabbed. You could argue that there are other equally worthy destinations – Les Deux Alpes and Tignes in France, for example, or Hintertux in Austria. But with a slew of restrictions in place for France and entry to Austria from the UK currently prohibited by Austrian law, there’s only one way to get your skiing or snowboarding fix.

What can Switzerland offer?
Despite the pandemic, Switzerland was one of the few places to keep its mountain lifts open all winter, and Zermatt remained optimistic. The Theodul Glacier is being used by up to 1,300 skiers every day. From August to September, professional ski teams are fully booked. And, at roughly 85% occupancy, the resort is almost back to pre-Covid levels. It has to be happy because tourism is so important.

Go on the Matterhorn Glacier Express
I put on my mask before boarding the Matterhorn Glacier Express at the base of Trockener Steg in pursuit of Europe’s highest mountain station, 23 kilometres (14 miles) of pisted slopes and a ghostly white view of 38, 4000-metre peaks. There are other phantoms here as well: a tower crane dangles like a frozen leviathan from the top of the Klein Matterhorn, its steel-trussed arm mist-veiled and menacing. Alpine X, a continuous cableway connection between Zermatt and Cervinia, Italy, will open next year, inviting both skiers and pedestrians to create new travel itineraries throughout the Alps. Geneva to Zermatt to Milan no longer seems so ridiculous.

Skiers and snowboarders
When I change my sight from the cable car to the slopes, I notice that they are entirely unrestricted. Approximately 500 skiers and boarders are making up for lost time by stampeding down the pistes and through the board park, then breathing heavy lungfuls on the T-bars to go back up. Of course, I’m biased, but skiing is the best social distancing activity. You want to be as isolated as possible and this PPE-free mountain bubble gives a second chance at a lost season. My reward is hurtling across eternal snow beneath the watchful eye of the ice-strewn Klein Matterhorn, mask in hand. The Matterhorn’s skewed peak never appears, but that’s irrelevant because I’m in my element, eyes glittering and far removed from the world below.

Zermatt is a town in the Swiss canton of Zermatt
Any idea of a long winter ahead is out of the question in Zermatt. This summer will be unusual for most of us, but the resort anticipates more immunized tourists, more snowfall, and sunnier days ahead. Is it, therefore, worthwhile? Yes, if you spend your summer daydreaming about Alpine skiing as I do.