Zermatt: Always Worth the Journey

Aug 17, 2017
by teeneegee  
It's been almost two years since our last visit to Zermatt. Then and now, Zermatt seemed to be an insider tip in the mountain biking world. No way, right?! But considering how few bikers you meet on the gondolas and trails it sure looks like it. Some reasons might be the mostly challenging hiking trails and the rather expensive lodging. Also, Zermatt does not (yet) promote itself as a bike destination.

Zermatt

Zermatt
Zermatt

Zermatt preparing itself for the growing MTB tourism

Daniel Luggen, director of Zermatt tourism explains that Zermatt sees itself surely as a MTB destination, but they decided to grow MTB tourism slow but steady. One of the outcomes of this strategy is that the hotels were ready for mountain bikers before they actually started promoting it - by now over 30 Hotels are certified swiss bike hotels. That's a lot more than currently needed, but they are for sure ready for an increasing number of bike tourists.

Additionally, hiking trails get optimized for bikers and Zermatt is currently creating flow trails to suit the needs of beginners or people without the urge to throw themselves into rock gardens and high alpine hiking trails. On the evening of our arrival in Zermatt we enjoy an aperitif on one of the many patios facing the Matterhorn. To our delight we notice many locals coming down from the mountain with their bikes. They took the last train up to Gornergrat for their daily after work ride. Not too bad I would say.

Zermatt

Zermatt

Tour de Zermatt

Next morning we meet Beat from Swiss Skischool Zermatt, our guide for the next two days. He’s got big plans for today. He wants to show us as much as possible all around Zermatt. We start with a train ride up to Gornergrat, first time today that we end up above 3000m. The views are breathtaking and before we start our first ride, Beat tells us a bit about some of the many peaks around us. Most of them are higher than 4000m.

Zermatt

Zermatt

The trail starts technical and very rocky. Some parts were for most of the group not rideable. Ben did ride everything, but he did also manage to dent his rim. The terrain is definitely unforgiving.

Soon, the trail gets easier to ride and our group advances faster. When we finally reached the pine forest we rode for the first time an "optimized" hiking trail. And I can tell you, smiles all around did speak for itself. Still a hiking trail but true flow top to bottom.

Zermatt

Zermatt
Zermatt

A flow trail in Zermatt, wait, what?

Around Sunegga we stop again. This time not because of a mechanical but because Beat wants to show us a flow trail which is still work in progress. We feel honored, the lower part of this first flow trail in Zermatt is nearly finished and we can test it. It starts off like many flow trails, some bumps and many berms while being on a skiing slope. As soon as it turns off the slope and into the forest the trail gets funny. Full of little tabletop jumps and some bumps that were built to double it. It was actually that good that we had to push up our bikes and ride that part all over again. If the whole trail will be like that I have a good feeling about it. For once a flow trail that is aimed to be fun for advanced bikers as well.

Zermatt

Zermatt

But since Zermatt is Zermatt they don’t just create one flow trail. Planned are a total of 5 flow trails all around the valley.

And up we go again

Back in Zermatt we transfer to the next gondola that will lead us up to Schwarzsee. From here we ride another nice trail just under the Matterhorn towards z’Mutt. Feeling our hands and our bellies we stop for a proper lunch (Rösti - a dish with much cheese and potatoes) before we take on the fast Yo-Yo trail back to Zermatt.

Zermatt
Zermatt

Zermatt

Fluhalp - views for days and sweet mountainhut

For our last uplift of the day, we take first a cablecar and then a gondola up to Unterrothorn and are again over 3000m. However, this time we don’t ride back down to Zermatt. Fluhalp, a mountain hut just about halfway down will be our host for the next - short - night.

Zermatt

Zermatt
Zermatt

The Fluhalp might be the most luxurious mountain hut we ever stayed in, it even offers Wifi and there is a hot shower. But our guide didn't bring us here because of the luxurious hut, but because of its location. Fluhalp is located only a few minutes away from Stellisee. Famous for its reflection of the Matterhorn and stunning sunsets and sunrises.

Zermatt

Zermatt

After a few hours sleep we got up at 5am and rode our bikes down to Stellisee to enjoy what became a truly marvellous sunrise. Clouds were hanging around the Matterhorn but this made the experience even better.

Zermatt

Europaweg from Zermatt to Täsch

After nature's morning show-off at sunrise, we went back to Fluhalp for a proper breakfast before we moved on to ride a part of the infamous 'Europaweg' from Zermatt to Täsch. This hiking trail is very popular amongst hikers and it helps a lot to start early in the morning or late in the afternoon. The big chunk of the trail winds down along the mountains without losing too much altitude. Just the last part form Europaweg down to Täsch is steeper and full of fun switchbacks in a pine forest. The views towards Zermatt, the Matterhorn and the surrounding peaks are stunning all along the Europaweg. But have a look yourself.

Zermatt
Zermatt

Zermatt

Zermatt

Zermatt

Zermatt you surprised us once more - we will be back!

Unfortunately, we have to leave the group early and can’t spend another night in Zermatt. But that gives us one more reason to come back. There are so many trails we heard of but didn’t ride yet. See you soon Zermatt!

Zermatt

Zermatt

For more stories from us, head over to our blog: Outsideisfree


MENTIONS: @teeneegee




25 Comments

  • + 16
 STOP BUILDING FLOW TRAILS! That seems to be all the rage in Switzerland. The worst thing is even hiking trails are being renovated this way, being litterally dumbed down. I hope I can keep riding trails where I still need to look where to put my front wheel in the future, not those stupid motorways that only test your fork's brake bump compliance. The worst is when those stupid trails become compulsory to mountain bikers and other trails get banned. Either I'll ride illegal, or I'll stop riding.
  • + 6
 As far as we have been told, in contrary to other regions, the flow trails are not here to ban the mountainbikers from the hiking trails but merely to have an option ready for people less experienced. They open Zermatt for more abilities while you still will be able to (legally) ride the ordinary hiking trails, win/win right?
  • + 2
 But I do have to agree that there are many regions that think if they build a flow trail they have done enough for bikers and start to ban mountainbikers from hiking trails - which is like the worst that could happen.
  • + 2
 Yes! Thank you!
Please Davos, Zug, Zürich, etc. listen to EnduroManiac!
  • + 2
 Flow trails seem to be a bit of a Swiss German problem, in the French part most of the trail building is done much better. The UK is pretty good at making beginner/intermediate tracks at the trail centers, the Swiss flow trail builders could learn a lot from riding there.
  • + 0
 Um... where are these 'problematic' flow trails in Switzerland you speak of? I ask 'cause I haven't seen a single one. Not saying I don't believe they exist, but since they do, I want to ride them. Given the expansive network of trails in Switzerland, I don't think a flow trail for those who don't want to continually "look where to put my front wheel" is going to kill VTT for you. Like @teeneegee said, it's an option... not compulsory or a broader conspiracy to remove mountain bikers from the thousands of km of natural trails that are open for everyone (hikers, bikers, and goats).
  • + 1
 @LanceBlowpipe: Serious question: where are the good trails in the French speaking part of Switzerland? Champery?
  • + 1
 Even my 6 year old son was getting bored of these sloped pump trails and asked for something more fun with more bumps. It's becoming a cancer.
  • + 1
 @Boardlife69: Good for your son... he sounds like a great rider.
  • + 1
 @teeneegee: I read that Zermatt wants to focus on the more affluent clientele which are people above 40. And cater less for more experienced mountainbikers looking for something more challenging. Basically that means they will be targeting weekend warriors on ebikes. That's a shame as singletrails around Zermatt are just great to ride. They just need to come out with a day pass for bikers for all uplifts and stop changing existing wanderwegs into boring flowtrails. It's already enough with St Moritz and Flumserberg.
  • + 1
 @powpowpow: Davos has only one flowtrail. The rest are natural trails. But Zug did exactly that - collected some money through crowdfunding, built one trail, let people destroy it in the first day (it was raining for past 2 weeks prior to opening) and then banned riders from all wanderwegs. Just 'great'!
  • + 1
 @Chadimac22: Here in Basel on the Gempen mountain, a trail crew managed to get the right to build something. 2 sections of trails. They are quite fun to be honest. In Sissach they've been allowed to build something like this to. Not seen it, but from pics and description, it's very bikepark style. Nothing against that really except that all other trails are officially still forbidden so no, there is in theory no choice (except the one of respecting the rules or not).
Some others have been build in Lauterbrunnen (BE), Flumserberg... The Bernina Trail in Graubünden has been partly renovated (lower part was really needed, but build in some hip jumps??) and dumbed down. Around the Diavolezza gondola, there were 3 river crossings. Now there are 3 bridges. There was a little techy climb that I hated. Now I hate it even more: it's a wavy roller coaster that's perfect to highlight how much kick back your bike has. That started 3 years ago or so when they filled up a nicely naturally curved line which turned into a cool little booter if you had enough speed; now they filled it out and it's boring flat. That was just one little stupid unnecessary change. This year it's been a lot more that one change. I could almost have ridden the whole thing with my roadbike. Exciting.
What I'm fearing most is the local/cantonal governments saying "hey guys, we've been financing those trails for you so stay on those trails now". just like when a city builds a skatepark hoping they'll eliminate skateboarders from the streets.
  • + 5
 outside is free..... Im getting tired of this Innerschweizer Selbstdarsteller... Flow.. Go biking, Stop Hipster Posts
  • + 2
 Europaweg is really great and there are few super technical climbs over boulders and rocks + the descent down to Täsch is just what the tech flow doctor called for. For the other trails however bring tubes and puncture repair stuff because there were (maybe removed?, maybe still here) tons of man made drainage groves in the trails formed by sometimes 30 cm high SHARP rocks which kill your flow as well as your wheels and tires.
Otherwise super place, but expensive as all hell
  • + 2
 This is incredible. Great story and photos. I've lived in Geneva for about a year and have spent a lot of time finding my way through the Alps in the PDS region. I always thought Zermatt was mostly hiking trails that bikers occasionally used, so I never ventured out that way (to ride, at least). Thanks to this article, I'm going to get set up with a guide and make Zermatt my next trip this month. Thanks for a great article!
  • + 2
 Dude try Aosta Valley Freeride and La Thuile, It's insane...
  • + 2
 That was for Chadimac22
  • + 1
 It looks like flow trails are spreading all over continental Europe: I have seen myself many of them recently built in north of Italy (Lombardy) and south of Switzerland.
I believe that they are considered the equivalent to the easy/green pistes for skiing and something useful to attract a public of beginners and families of bikers. As for the ski pistes, not many seem to care too much about the environmental impact of this kind of trail, completely imposed over the landscape, for the costs of maintenance, and for the fact that they are completely unattractive to skilled riders, while taking up into the mountains and into remote areas more and more riders that possibly are not expert enough to be there. Meanwhile, countries with a longer tradition of mountain-biking (and, I think, more visionary) are actually moving in the opposite direction, i.e. natural trails, or off-piste, as many call them.
  • + 2
 Go to La Thuile in Aosta, Italy. It's insane.
  • + 1
 The trails are amazing in Zermatt, spent a few days there several years ago riding almost every trail in the valley...it was amazingly epic. Lots of walkers that you need to look out for and show respect to, and some of the trails are delicate and need to be ridden less aggressively to preserve them. But generally the trails, the views and the town is amazing.
  • + 1
 It's all a bit different from when I worked in Zermatt in the 80's and 90's as a bike mechanic (ski man in winter), no uplifts allowed and only one mountain bike trail! It was really wild and natural back then..........
  • - 1
 Have been there every summer since 5 years and to be honest, Zermatt is fooling itself with the bike concept. First of all, the tickets are super expensive, but this year they managed to add a seperate transportation fee for bikes (10CHF/d!), even if you got the lift pass for the whole destination. Some of those 'optimized' trails are very well designed, but there used to be a great trail near Schwarzsee, which they just excavated, making it basically a motorway...
Speaking of the Flowtrail at Sunnegga: On that hillside there used to be a bomb-ass DH track. Not really good maintenance, but one hell of a track and super long, too. So they decided that they'd cancel on the DH track for another flowtrail, are you kidding me?
Zermatt has shitloads of money to spend, yet they try to impress people with just a few 'attractions' that are quite common in many alpine destinations, maybe despite their huge altitude differences...
  • + 3
 Thing is, rarely anyone went to ride this "bomb-ass DH track". It was not properly maintained anymore and there haven't been races on it since like, ages ago. There are better options in Switzerland or close by in France or Italy, if you wanted to ride bomb ass (World Cup) DH tracks. I guess, if you want to bring your DH bike then there are better options, but with the trail bike, Zermatt is (with or without Flow trails..) a great option with suuuuper long runs!
  • + 1
 THey forgot to mention prices though...

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