The last stop on our Ski Europe adventure was Zermatt, Switzerland. Zermatt has been one of our all-time favorite places in both summer and fall; our first winter visit only deepened our love of this place. Dominated by the gracefully curved pyramid of the Matterhorn rising in its background, Zermatt has unsurpassed natural beauty combined with a charming, welcoming, and very special village.

What makes it so special? First, you can’t actually drive to Zermatt (though we did once try to, in confusion, several years ago…). Zermatt is car-free (except for local electric taxis), lending to a quaint and romantic village, where walking around is very pleasant. Think cobbled alleyways, horse-drawn sleighs, ancient weathered barns and traditional chalets. It is very much like stepping back in time. Except for all the shops lining main street, of course, many of which are cute and local, some of which are luxury goods and some of which are touristy. After all, 3,000,000 tourists visit each year. Without a single gargantuan tour bus.

As quaint as it though, Zermatt is truly cosmopolitan. Apres-ski joints range from spare to glamorous. You can dance the night away in the many bars and night-spots. The restaurants are widely varied, and the ones we tried were superb.

The majesty of the setting doesn’t end with the Matterhorn, which looms at 4,478 meters (14,692 ft) at the head of the valley.  Zermatt is encircled by a famous ring of mountains over 4,000 meters (13,000 feet) high. Dent Blanche (4,356m), Weisshorn (4,505m), Dom (4,545m), Gabelhorn (4,062m), Zinal-Rothorn (4,221m), and Monte Rosa (4,634m) continue to attract mountain lovers to Europe’s highest altitude ski area.

The skiing in Zermatt invites a lot of superlatives: highest ski resort in Europe, most skiable days (365 due to the glaciers), surest snow, and best dual-country skiing (take the lifts all the way to the top from town and pop over to Cervinia, Italy), longest unofficial ski run (unofficial because it is interrupted by a very short lift). So we have now skied the highest ski resort in Europe, skied Switzerland and Italy in the same day, and skied a 20km (13 mile!!) run. But the BEST thing about skiing the Italian side of the Matterhorn? Real, authentic, absolutely scrumptious tiramisu at a little Italian mountain hut. We. Will. Be. Back.

Engelberg to Zermatt

Engelberg to Zermatt

Zermatt ski area spans into Italy on the south side of the Matterhorn.

Zermatt ski area spans into Italy on the south side of the Matterhorn.

Zermatt at dusk (looking southward) with the Matterhorn in the background.

Zermatt at dusk (looking southward) with the Matterhorn in the background.

Typical Zermatt street in the summertime.

Typical Zermatt street in the summertime.

Happiness is shoe shoeing in a beautiful area with fresh snow and sunshine.

Happiness is shoe shoeing in a beautiful area with fresh snow and sunshine. And the Matterhorn in the distance.

As we hiked out of the snow covered town of Zermatt.

As we hiked out of the snow covered town of Zermatt.

Little houses dotted the town of Zermatt.

Chalets dot the town of Zermatt. And a river runs through it.

A number of streams fed the little river that runs through Zermatt.

A number of streams fed the little river that runs through Zermatt.

Many older buildings sit side-by-side newly built newly built buildings.

Not all of the old buildings have been removed to make way for new.

The little cog train in the background, making its way up to the high observation deck on the glacier.

The little cog train in the distance, making its way up to the high observation deck on the glacier.

Switzerland is famous for its well-marked hiking trails.

Switzerland is famous for its well-marked hiking trails.

Well maintained as well.

Well maintained as well.

Mark taking a picture of Shauna.....

Mark taking a picture of Shauna…..

.....taking a picture of Mark.

…..taking a picture of Mark.

Our destination is up this valley.

Our destination is up this valley.

With the Matterhorn in front of us....

With the Matterhorn in front of us….

....and Zermatt behind us.

….and Zermatt behind us.

With big billowy snowfields all around.

With big billowy snowfields all around.

Wide groomed runs were the norm.

The skiing didn’t suck. Incredible vistas. Wide groomed runs were the norm.

All the way down to the main lifts.

All the way down to the main lifts from high above Zermatt.

The Matterhorn -- one of our favorite mountains.

The Matterhorn — one of our favorite mountains.