Zermatt, Switzerland in winter is an outdoor enthusiast’s paradise. Skiing, snow boarding, and snow shoeing activities can be found at the tops of the many cable car ropeways. Winter hiking options, my personal favorite, abound and range from short hikes to full day outings. On our second day in Zermatt we planned to go up to Blauherd for a trek into the Alps and then to spend the afternoon exploring the village.
Day 2 – Winter Hiking and Around Town
Day 2 – Winter Hiking and the Village
SunnEgga and the Cable Car to Blauherd
We started our day taking the incredibly steep funicular from Zermatt to Sunnegga. The Sunnegga Funicular is entirely underground and takes about three minutes to travel up to an elevation of 1,620 meters (5,315 feet). The steps when you exit the train can be quite foreboding for anyone with a fear of heights as there are no handrails. We took the train a few times during our stay and I discovered that there is a lift at the Sunnegga Station, so it is possible to avoid the steep stairs altogether by riding in one of the first two cars and then using the lift.
For the next stage of our journey we boarded a cable car headed toward Blauherd at an elevation of 2,571 meters (8,435 feet). For those who are more adventurous or planning on skiing it is also possible to take a six-seat chairlift up the mountain.
The views from the cable car were absolutely amazing! I found it fascinating that the cable cars and the chair lifts shared the same ropeway.
Winter Hiking – Surviving in Winter Trail
Having finally arrived at Blauherd, we put on our mini-crampons and headed out on the Surviving in Winter trail toward Fluhalp. The trail is 2.2 kilometers (1.4 miles) round trip. You can read an official description of the trail here.
Hiking in winter is not the same as hiking in other seasons. Walking on snow is much slower than walking on dirt or grass. That is one of the reasons I love hiking during this time of year. There is something wonderful about having an excuse to slow down and really enjoy the scenery. Nature is also more quiet in winter. Trekking along a snow-covered path, the stillness of the surrounding mountains and valleys can be shocking.
One of the nice things about the Blauherd to Fluhalp hike is that the path is well-groomed. I think it’s amazing that we were able to have such stunning views on such an easily accessible and well-maintained trail. Just before Fluhalp the trail crossed a snow piste. I have to admit this was a bit harrowing as there was a turn not to far above our crossing point. This meant that we could only see the on-coming skiers for a very short period of time before they reached out section. We watched the pattern of the descending skiers for a while in order to get our timing right and then hurried across the piste to continue on the trail.
The mountain hut at Fluhalp looks more like a hotel then a hut. It is possible to have a drink and snack on the terrace before making the return journey. We decided to skip the break and head straight back.
The views along the trail on the way back to Blauherd were even more impressive than those on the way to Fluhalp. The whole of the Alps spread out before us with peak after peak lining up along the horizon. Italy lies on the other side of those mountains in the distance.
Of course, the Matterhorn’s distinctive visage, shocking and dominate, was always present. I could spend hours watching the ever-changing face of this peak. I simply cannot express just how stunning the views were from the Surviving in Winter trail.
Lunch at SunnegGa
We took just under two hours to complete the trail and arrive back at Sunnegga. This hike was a perfect way to spend the morning and I am so happy that we decided to do it! When we arrived in Sunnegga it was just after twelve so we decided to stop and have lunch. It was fun to watch the skiers going past from the safety of our seat on the terrace. I would be taking a skiing lesson the next day at the introductory ski area nearby, so it was nice to be able to catch an early glance of the training area.
Lunch and a delicious hot chocolate consumed, we headed back down to Zermatt, remembering to avoid the steep stairs and use the lift.
We spent the afternoon looking through the shops along the main street in Zermatt. There are lots of quaint little shops selling handmade crafts and souvenirs. Larger stores specializing in alpine attire, including everything you could ever need for a day out in the snow, could be found on every corner. Near the train station there is a very small, hard to notice camera shop that carries beautiful photo-quality posters of the Matterhorn and the rest of the region. I visit this shop every time I go to Zermatt to see what new photographs are on offer. Another favorite shop is a chocolatier located about halfway down the main street. They sell Matterhorn shaped chocolates and other decadent sweets. I never skip it.
As the day drew to a close, the clouds came in and brought a light dusting of snow with them. We decided to take an electric taxi back to our hotel to avoid the now slippery streets.
Looking up at the Matterhorn, it was possible to see the change in weather – tendrils of snow blowing off the top of the mountain. As I said, I never tire of watching this famous peak.
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