A holiday in the Swiss Alps doesn't need to be all about extreme sports and reconnecting with nature. While a mountaintop might be the perfect spot for activities like skiing, snowboarding, mountain biking and climbing, it's also a wonderful place to relax and unwind - and in Zermatt, you'll find plenty of places to go for some of that all-important me time.
Whether you want to get a massage, spend some time in a sauna, do some yoga or indulge in a beauty treatment, Zermatt offers a wide range of options to suit your requirements. Here are some options to consider:
● Alpenhof Spa - Part of the Hotel Alpenhof, this beautiful facility is one of the many hotel-spas in Zermatt, and it has been carefully designed for the ultimate in luxury. Large windows flood the rooms with natural sunlight and treatments are available for face, body, feet and hands. There's also a gorgeous indoor swimming pool, an outdoor whirlpool, a log cabin sauna, steam baths and relaxation rooms. The spa is always available to hotel guests and is also open to external guests in the summer.
● Body & Mind Zermatt - This Pilates and yoga studio in the middle of the village offers a variety of regular courses, which visitors are welcome to join. The studio also offers beginners' workshops, which provide a thorough introduction to Pilates, including breathing exercises, stretching advice and careful demonstration of the different postures.
● Mountain Massage - This is a mobile service, meaning you can enjoy all the relaxing benefits of a massage, all from the comfort of your own accommodation. Massage is also a great way to soothe tired muscles after a day of vigorous outdoor activities.
● Lake of the Leisee - It may not be a wellness facility, but this high-altitude lake is a popular destination for relaxation in the summer. Find a grassy spot where you can soak up the sun and enjoy the view, unwind with a picnic or go for a paddle in the crystal-clear waters. Mind, body and spirit will all be rejuvenated in no time.
The winter months and cold weather mean that snow across the Alps is prevalent, but as the temperatures start to rise and the year progresses into the summer, many of the resorts have to close to skiers and snowboarders. But the good news for those who love winter sports is that there is actually quite a lot of glacier skiing available throughout the summer in the Alps. You just need to know where to look.
So, if you'd like to strap on a pair of skis in June or July, here are three of the top European spots to consider:
1.Tignes - This French resort offers access to the Grand Motte Glacier from mid-June to early September, but you have to get up early, as the pistes are shut at 1 pm every day. It has varied terrain, with a good mix of blue, red and black runs and access is via a combination of chairlifts and drags. An underground funicular will take you to the base of the glacier in just seven minutes from the resort. The glacier also features a snowpark, which is popular among freestylers, pros and amateurs, and features a half-pipe, rails, moguls, quarter-ramps and a rainbow rail. Summer ski school is also available, for those who prefer learning a winter sport in a warmer climate.
2.Zermatt - Located in Switzerland, this resort boasts 25km of summer skiing on the Theodul Glacier, comprising 13 runs divided into blues and reds, and there's also a Gravity Park with a half-pipe, kickers, rails and a spectacular view. Glacier skiing is open every day from May until mid-November and is accessed via the Klein Matterhorn cable car. The glacier is actually shared with Cervinia in Italy, so if you'd prefer a trip to Italy, you might want to consider accommodation there instead.
3.Les Deux Alpes - Another French resort, this one has one of Europe's largest summer ski areas. The Mont-de-Lans Glacier is open from mid-June to early September, and various transport methods are available, including a funicular railway, chairlifts and drags. There are eight runs (two green, four blue and two red) and a snowpark offering big air, tables, a half-pipe, kickers and rails.
It wasn't long ago that the only way to plan out a ski route was to sit down with a big paper map and trace your finger along the trails, finding an option that seemed good.
But now, thanks to modern technology, there are several useful tools to help you plan out a great day of skiing or snowboarding - and for anyone heading to Zermatt this winter, one bit of tech you should definitely add to your digital toolkit is the Skiguide Zermatt app.
The famous Swiss resort's lift company, Zermatt Bergbahnen, recently announced that it had updated the year-old app, adding new features and improvements that should really help snow sports enthusiasts.
One new feature is the "User Perspective". It's still in beta development, but is available to use and shows users what the actual terrain looks like on their selected route.
The developer calls it a mixed-reality feature that "fuses reality and virtuality, allowing users to immerse themselves completely in the 3D map and experience the surroundings as a low-poly world', generated specially for the app." This approach, combined with pinpoint accuracy using GPS navigation should make it easy for users to find their way around the ski area and provide a convenient way to get information about their immediate surroundings.
One of the app's most useful features is the intuitive route finder, which should help users figure out how to reach certain points on the mountain - such as a favourite mountain restaurant or a lift. It also provides up-to-date information about how long it should take them to get there using the lifts and pistes that are currently open - and it calculates this information based on the level of ability entered in the personal settings.
The entire map feature is interactive, providing details about lifts, pistes, restaurants and other points of interest, and other features include online ticketing, personalised graphs showing elevation changes, webcam views, weather updates, avalanche hazard levels and safety alerts.
The app is available free of charge and is available for both Android and iOS07/02/2017
If you're planning a trip to the Alps with your kids, there's a lot to think about - from what they're going to wear on the slopes, through to the various activities they'll take part in.
And if you're headed to Zermatt, there's one more thing you should probably add to your list: meeting Wolli, the black nose sheep. Black nose sheep are a mountain breed that originated in Valais. They have soft, white coats and black faces, and they also have black spots on their knees, elbows and tails. These sheep are known for being strong, tough in the winter and agile on the mountains.
Wolli is the Zermatt mascot, and you'll likely see his images around the resort. He has been described as "young and adventurous", and he's available for photos and to meet youngsters visiting the village every Wednesday afternoon along the Bahnhofstrasse.
In addition to his weekly strolls, Wolli also often shows up to other family-friendly activities. For example, why not head to the Biner Bakery? Also sometimes referred to as Wolli's Bakery, this shop offers a variety of pastries and coffees. You can even enrol the kids in a cooking class, where they can learn about making delicious foods and even make their own Wolli-shaped biscuit. Hard-working bakers will also receive a souvenir diploma at the end of the class.
If the kids would like to meet some of Wolli's relatives, you can take them to the Julen family's sheepfold. Every Wednesday, visitors can get a chance to see the family's flock, which includes around 300 of these unusual sheep. Learn more about these woolly animals, and find out what life is like on an alpine sheep farm from the people who actually run the facility. After the tour, adult guests are invited to enjoy a glass of wine and some farm-fresh cheese.
And if you haven't had enough of Wolli by the time it's time to go home, then head to the local gift shop, where you can find a variety of Wolli-themed products, including books, CDs and soft toys.31/01/2017
Swiss ski resort Zermatt has been voted the best winter sports resort in the Alps by travellers in a new survey.
Mountain Management Consulting has awarded the coveted Best Ski Resort accolade to the picturesque Swiss Alpine resort following a poll carried out in conjunction with the University of Innsbruck in Austria. This marks the second consecutive time that Zermatt has won the award, having also picked up the trophy in 2014.
The Italian resort of Livigno took second place, with Serfaus-Fiss-Ladis in Austria winning third place in this year's survey, after being pipped to the post by Zermatt, which topped several categories, including piste quality, resort atmosphere, comfort and exclusivity. Zermatt also performed highly when its piste safety ratings and the quality of its accommodation were taken into account.
Completing the top five best European ski resorts as voted for by travellers were Kronplatz in Italy and Saas Fee in Switzerland, which took home the fourth and fifth place accolades respectively.
Zermatt shares 360 km of pistes with neighbouring resort Cervinia, which also sits under the shadow of the Matterhorn, just across the border in Italy. The Best Ski Resort winner's pistes reach up to 3,880 m, with stunning views across the Alps, making it a truly beautiful resort for skiers and snowboarders of all abilities.
The Swiss resort also falls into the luxury resort category - it was named the most expensive resort in Europe in a recent Post Office report, but this means it attracts a certain calibre of winter holidaymakers, providing visitors with a more exclusive skiing experience.
What's more, Zermatt doesn't just offer travellers the chance to ski or snowboard amid some of Europe's most majestic scenery, as there are also opportunities to mountain bike, hike and rock climb during a stay in the resort, before indulging in some much-deserved relaxation in its wellness and bathing facilities.