Swiss Cities in Depth: Zermatt


Welcome to a new installation in this series! My Spring 2021 Academia Travel gave me the opportunity of a lifetime to get to know this sustainable yet tourist town, Zermatt, inside and out. This is definitely my favorite article to write so far, as now Zermatt has a special spot in my heart. 

While spending a week there with my classmates I was able to experience snowshoeing, sledding (though I.. lasted a minute), hiking to village towns such as Zmutt, and even more hiking after that. We got to visit the Julen farm and a local dairy factory as well that contributes largely to the hotel and food industry in Zermatt! I’ll have to tell you more, as a summary does not do the city justice!


A Brief History of Zermatt


I was able to visit the Matterhorn Museum, which contained the entire historical development of Zermatt, including a real-size house that was made back in the 1800s, antique hiking equipment from past climbers, and the rope that broke in the tragedy of the First Ascent of Matterhorn, the 1865 climb. This particular tragic story gave media attention to the previously agrarian-centered town and brought industrial development and led to the development of a tourist-centered economy, home of multiple 5-star resorts. This is the context for the next picture.



Pretty cool right? This complete 180-degree change (a shift) in a town’s economy due to media influences... really showcases how news travels fast. Additionally, with the booming tourism, there was still a strong emphasis on locally-owned businesses and locally sourced food. Tourism in Zermatt is run by the locals, keeping the city sustainable and preserving its environment, such as the glaciers, for as long as possible.


The Nature of Zermatt as a Sustainable Town


  1. Electrical Cars Only


You cannot simply drive into Zermatt. There’s a train that takes you inside the town after you leave your car in a nearby town called Tasch. This is because only electric cars are allowed inside of Zermatt. 


  1. The Julen Farm


The Julen Farm is owned by one of the most successful families in Zermatt, if not the most successful and richest in the entire town. This is due to them owning a gigantic farm that houses at least two dozens of cows and hundreds of sheep. During their lives, these animals are taken care of in a humane manner in which they stay with their mothers and are not cruelly separated. They also get fed hay that is not filled with preservatives. Their meat is what feeds the citizens of Zermatt and the tourists, meaning it is locally sourced and doesn’t contribute to pollution due to transportation.


Some pics of the animals!


These are Valais Black Nose Sheep. Zermatt now has the greatest amount of them in the world!

Baby cows can suck on someone’s fingers and it’s perfectly fine! A little slobbery though.

  1. Biodegradable Food System 


The biodegradable food system takes care of getting rid of up to (if my memory isn’t failing me) about 300lb of food waste that would otherwise be thrown into landfills. I didn’t take pictures for obvious reasons, but for context, there is a factory size space solely for holding the dozens of massive cans of food waste that come in daily, the machinery that powers the system 24/7, and even more food scraps on a pile to be mixed with animal manure in order to make natural and GMO-free fertilizer for agriculture.


  1. Locally-owned Hotels


Hotels in Zermatt are not owned by mass corporations, but instead, regular citizens that have passed down their business through generations, such as the Julen’s various hotels!


  1. Local Dairy Farm


I was able to meet a lovely lady who runs the local dairy farm. She and her husband are in charge of making all the cheese, yogurt, and fondue that is consumed in Zermatt. They do not utilize milk from neighboring cities so their project is solely sourced by the animals in Zermatt, cutting out the regular excess pollution due to transporting goods.


The lady on the left owns the dairy farm!
  1. Zmutt Dam


After hiking up to Hamlet of Zmutt, we were able to oversee the hydroelectric arch in the Zmutt Valley. This hydroelectric dam retains the water from both the Zmutt Glacier and the Zmuttbach river in order to power electricity in not only Zermatt but also neighboring cities.


Outside Adventures you can Indulge in!


  1. Skiing


I personally have never gone skiing but there were skiers everywhere here! Children from ages 5 to adults were all on different slopes going down in touristy areas and more secluded slopes. There were also tons of skiing rental places to get equipment from, so I’m sure it’s one of the main attractors here.


  1. Snowshoeing (+ a personal story)


This was my first experience snowshoeing and I made my group take an hour longer than we should’ve. Thankfully the restaurant’s reservation still held on. So, let me give you a small rundown. You put rental snowshoe equipment on the bottom of your shoes and you can walk up and down steep inclines on snowy mountains. But do not make the mistake I did and lean back when going down. Do not. Instead, bending forwards a little gives you more balance. I only learned that halfway through because I was behind.. So that was my biggest mistake. Nonetheless, getting to be at the base of the Matterhorn and going inside a glacier cave was absolutely amazing. It was surreal and stunning to be so close to such beautiful parts of nature that you only really see in photographs or from far away. 


Here are some pictures!





  1. Hiking


Now for a highlight on the most accessible of the four activities! You can go hike up to the Hamlet of Zmutt for a secluded village setting with gorgeous views of the Matterhorn on the hike up and/or go to Findlerhof and even get a drink and food! Both mountain villages are preserved in the rustic nature they were built in the 1800s and 1900s.


Some pictures:







    A far away shot of Zmutt!



    A close-up of a Findlerhof Restaurant's menu!


    1. Sledding (+ a personal story)

    I’ll admit, I never went sledding before my first time at Zermatt and it was quite pathetic (see, this is a trend). I let go of my sled and it fell into my friend so I ended up walking all the way down until I reached a train stop. Nevertheless, if you’re not a beginner or have only a little anxiety I’d recommend it tenfold. The views are absolutely gorgeous, the sleds are quite affordable after you buy the train ticket to Gornergrat (about $55 altogether, but sleds are $12). My friends were able to go down the slope 5 times and to them, it was completely worth the money for the once-in-a-lifetime experience. For me not so much, but I’m glad I tried it out because I would've never known otherwise. Although... the bruise I got is horrendously every single color of the rainbow.


    A friend sledding down!

    Extra PSA


    Not trying to scare you away from doing any of these activities, the thrilling nature of being up in the mountains is definitely worth a fall or two! In regards to the snowshoeing, hire a tour guide so that they can lead you and help you if anyone gets scared. Also, in regards to the sledding, there are safety nets and lots of snow around on the edges. As long as you don’t let go of the sled( like I did) I believe you’ll be perfectly fine.


    Summary


    Overall, there are a lot of things you can do in Zermatt, and I didn’t even get to touch on all of them. There are also opportunities to go ziplining, paragliding, and husky sleigh rides/hiking! So when you make it to the beautiful, yet sustainable tourist town of Zermatt, know that there are a plethora of things to do and explore while there, even if it’s just for one day! Take advantage of the close proximity, go during lovely weather, and support local businesses whenever you can!


    To our next meet-up via the web!


    Ci vediamo presto!

    (We will see each other soon),


    Lara


    Comments