How do you choose between Zermatt and Chamonix? We like both resorts and in an ideal world we would visit both, but faced with a choice of one or the other, we would always choose Zermatt.
Chamonix is a great ski resort, but there are our top nine reasons why Zermatt is better:
- Ski Area
- Lift System
- Snow Record
- Car-Free Village
- Family Ski Holidays
- Non-Ski Activities
- Mountain Restaurants
- The Matterhorn
- The Village
The Ski Area
Zermatt has over 360 km of pistes in comparison to Chamonix’s 150 km. It also has more runs and more lifts.
Not only are there more pistes, but the resort in Zermatt is at a higher altitude (1608m) than Chamonix (1035m), meaning that you are more likely to enjoy seeing snow in resort.
Zermatt offers a broader choice of runs than in Chamonix. Both are superb resorts for advanced and expert skiers, but Zermatt offers more for intermediates and beginners, particularly the excellent Wolli Park in Sunegga.
The Lift System
One of the frustrations of Chamonix is that the different ski areas of Les Houches, Brevent/Flegere, Le Tour and Argentiere do not link up. The only way to connect between them is to drive or to take a bus.
In fact, it’s rare that you can walk to the lifts in Chamonix, so buses or cars are required to start your day’s skiing. Depending where you are located in Zermatt, you may need to take a bus, but you can walk to the lift from most properties.
In Zermatt, the lift system has improved hugely in recent years, with a huge investment into the infrastructure of over CHF1.1 billion in progress.
In the last few seasons, new lifts opening have included the 3S Matterhorn Glacier Ride, the Kumme gondola and the upgraded Hublot Gant chairlift. Queues in Zermatt are very rare with any crowds spread across the area.
The Snow Record
Thanks to the Matterhorn Glacier Paradise, Zermatt can offer year-round skiing – something that very few other resort can offer, let alone Chamonix.
Whether you visit in January or June, you can rely on the snow in Zermatt. In fact the snow record is significantly better than in Chamonix. According to SnowForecast.com, Zermatt has more powder days and fewer ‘very windy days’ than Chamonix.
Their data also shows that Zermatt has more snowfall and more days with significant snowfall than Chamonix.
The Car-free Village
Another advantage of Zermatt over Chamonix is the car-free town. You will only find electric taxis or horse-drawn carriages in the village of Zermatt, which guarantees that there is no pollution – something Chamonix can struggle with.
Chamonix can be over-run with cars in winter – because of the need to drive to the lifts (see above) – and finding a parking space is a common problem. The amount of traffic passing by the resort en route to the Mont Blanc Tunnel can also contribute to congestion and pollution.
Family Ski Holidays
Zermatt is a great resort for family ski holidays. Not only are there reduced lift pass prices for children under 16, but children younger than 9 can use the lifts for free.
On the other hand, Chamonix is not the best place to take a young family. Firstly, we’ve already noted that every lift requires either a bus or a car to reach – something that can be an extra hurdle when you have young children and all their equipment to gather up.
In addition, there’s just not so many areas for them to learn. Perhaps the best areas for beginners are in Le Tour which is a 20 minute drive from Chamonix itself.
The Non-Ski Activities
To be fair to Chamonix, it is probably the only resort that can compare to Zermatt for non-ski options.
Both resorts offer a rack and pinion railway that non-skiers can use to access the mountain: Gornergrat in Zermatt and Montenvers in Chamonix.
They also both offer the chance to reach high altitude, thanks to the 3S Matterhorn Glacier Ride cable car in Zermatt and the Aiguille du Midi in Chamonix. There’s also an ice-rink and cinema in both resorts.
Where Zermatt has the edge is with the superb Matterhorn Museum and also with the choice of mountain walks and hikes, many of which lead to Zermatt’s famous mountain restaurants (see below).
The Mountain Restaurants
Zermatt is one of the few resorts that attracts visitors who simply want to come and enjoy the fabulous mountain restaurants that the Swiss resort has to offer.
We have our own favourites, but you can take your choice from over 30 high quality establishments – and that doesn’t even include the many options for great cuisine on the Italian side of the mountain in Cervinia.
Mont Blanc above Chamonix might be the highest mountain in the Alps, but the Matterhorn is an iconic peak that is world famous.
There’s a reason Toblerone incorporated the Matterhorn into its design – the dynamic, jagged peak has grasped the imagination for centuries, from even earlier than the first successful ascent in 1866.
The Prettier Village
Did we mention that Zermatt is still just a mountain village? Many of the ancient farm sheds still remain in the resort, separated by narrow, cobbled streets.
In Zermatt, you feel so much more in contact with the original roots of the resort. In fact, you can even regularly see goats herded through the streets.
Chamonix is very much a town, spread over a much larger area than Zermatt and with a larger permanent population.
Advice on Accommodation in Zermatt
If you’d like to visit Zermatt, and would like advice on finding the right accommodation for your group, then please contact Ed and Suzanne at Matterhorn Chalets.
We can book you serviced chalets or self-catered apartments, as well as hotels. And through our concierge service, we can arrange your ski lessons, ski hire and book restaurants for you during your stay.
Simply contact us via our website or on +41 79 247 15 88