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48-HOURS IN HEAVEN - James Cove, Zermatt
Friday January 19, 2018 - Email this article to a friend

Technically it was 48-hours in Zermatt but for our editor, James Cove, it is one and the same thing.

Most people have a favourite ski resort and for as long as I can remember it has always been Zermatt for me.  

Back in 1968 I remember a tall man with a slight crooked, red woollen bobble hat leaning down to me. 

On his back he had a framed leather rucksack with drawstrings at the top pulling it together. 

Inside was my lunch.

"Zermatt is the best ski resort in the world with the best skiing, but the tea dances are bettter in Austria," he said to me.

I was a 10-year old boy skiing for his second time and the man in question was my father.

Like my father I have always been more interested in skiing than tea dances.

And now, all these years on, I've lost count of the times I have visited Zermatt.   

Each time is different and this current trip was no exception.  

Last week the resort was cut off for 48-hours as avalanches threatened and then blocked the rail and road links in and out.  

As I rolled into the resort there was evidence of the slides. 

Zermatt, SwitzerlandZermatt, Switzerland

Zermatt, SwitzerlandZermatt, Switzerland

Zermatt, SwitzerlandZermatt, Switzerland

Zermatt, SwitzerlandZermatt, Switzerland


Little did I know that my journey out 2-days later was to be disrupted as another huge storm hit and part of the railway closed, but more of that later. 

First up it was a blue sky day after all the snow.  

Heaven awaited.  
Zermatt, SwitzerlandZermatt, Switzerland

Now Zermatt has, without question, the best mountain restaurants in the world but sometimes a picnic is in order.  

Today was one of those times.
Lunch with a viewLunch with a view

After my feast I hammered round the whole area - Sunnegga, Gornegratt and the Klein Matterhorn.   

The Matterhorn looked fabulous from all points.
Zermatt, SwitzerlandZermatt, Switzerland

Zermatt, SwitzerlandZermatt, Switzerland

Zermatt, SwitzerlandZermatt, Switzerland

I dropped into Cervinia in Italy where it simply doesn't quite look the same.

Still pretty impressive though by any standards.  

Zermatt, SwitzerlandZermatt, Switzerland

Then at the end of the afternoon it was a cheeky one at the Hennu Stall on the way down to the village.  

There have been times when I have been unable to find my skis after over-indulging in the après ski.  

Fortunately (or unfortunately) not this time. 
Zermatt, SwitzerlandZermatt, Switzerland

For me no visit to Zermatt is complete with dropping in to The North Wall bar. 

Back in its day with Brian, Chris and Sparky behind the bar it was quite simply my best bar in the Alps and it has never been bettered.   

When Brian achieved his mountain guide qualifications and moved on then 'Pocket' took over and it remained just as good.  

But times change and once the boys left the bar went rapidly downhill.  

A shadow of its former self.

I drop in to have a reflective beer and then move on as I don't know anyone who frequents it anymore. 

But this time I recognised a friend propping up the bar, Jeff from OTP Swiss Holidays.  

And behind the bar was, Lee, an instructor mate from Verbier who I'd known for years. 

"What the hell are you doing here?" I said to Lee.  

"Waiting to get you a drink. What do you want, large beer?" he replied.

Suffice to say the evening ended up being a bit like the old days.   

Lee, Yours Truly & JeffLee, Yours Truly & Jeff

Most in the resort were laughing at the media coverage of the week before as headlines  shouted about 1,000s of people beng stranded in Zermatt and cut off from the outside world. 

If there is any place in the world to be 'stranded' in then it is Zermatt. 
After a few days it might run short of caviar and possibly a few fres vegetables, but that is about it.

However I coud tell the snow had been heavy - a champagne bar up the mountain was unable to open.
Snowed underSnowed under

Road and rail access to the Zermatt were cut off on Monday 8th January.

The train line between Zermatt and Täsch was eventually re-opened on Wednesday 10th with the line being restored between Täsch and Visp by the evening of Friday 12th.  

Yes there were huge snowfalls and yes road/rail links were cut, but for most it made little difference whatsoever.  

Zermatt being Zermatt helicopters were soon able to ferry people in and out if they had to travel.    

And then, this week, for the umpteenth time this winter another storm rolled in.  

And I had to start doing my news reports for PlanetSKI.

The following day the lift system came to a virtual standstill, but with a bit of local knowledge about where to go on a total whiteout day it didn't stop me making a few turns. 
The wind though was ferocious at the top and led to the threat of avalanche at the resort, and, once again, the rail line in and out.  

As I arrived at the station to leave the trains could only get as far as the first station down the valley, Tasch. 

My heart missed a beat.

Zermatt, SwitzerlandZermatt, Switzerland

Surely my week long Swiss road and rail trip that had seen no problems so far would not end with a disrupted journey and a missed flight? 
Thankfully not.   

Busses had been laid on and I got out of Zermatt without a hitch and made my connecting train to Geneva airport.    

So, why do I love Zermatt so much?  

The skiing, the alpine history, the restaurants, the bars, the friends, the memories, the mountains, the North Wall....  

I could go on and on, there are far too many reasons to list here.  

But in a nutshell it has an infinite number of layers and each time I visit a new side reveals itself to me.

I always have a different experience.  

I suspect I will never tire of Zermatt.

See here for the main PlanetSKI news page with all the latest stories from the mountains.

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