Zermatt is a town in the canton of Valais, Switzerland. It covers an area of ninety-three square miles and has a population of almost six thousand residents, though the population tends to fluctuate wildly as tourists come and go. Zermatt is located at the edge of the Matter Valley and has an altitude of over sixteen hundred feet. The town is dense, but is relatively small geographically. It has three major streets, which are intersected by a number of cross streets. This makes every destination in town no more than a thirty minute walk. Around the town are several smaller suburban settlements which include Winkelmatten and Steinmatten. In the valleys above the town are several hamlets. These include Zum See, Zmutt, Findeln and Riffelalp. Few of these hamlets are inhabited year round, however. The name of the town is derived from the German word for valley, matten. Originally, Zermatt’s name was Zur Matte and later evolved to its current form. The major language spoken in this Swiss town is German, though English is also spoken prominently.
During the nineteenth century, Zermatt was primarily an agricultural settlement. It was also during this time that an intense competition began among climbers looking to conquer the Matterhorn. British climber Edward Whymper made several unsuccessful attempts at traversing the mountain from the Italian side, but in 1865 he learned that Charles Hudson was going to attempt to climb it from the Swiss side. He quickly assembled his team which included George Hadow, Peter Taugwalder, Michel Croz and Lord Francis Douglas, and quickly crossed the Theodulpass to join Hudson. On the fourteen of July, Edward Whymper and his team realized their dream of ascending the mountain. But, this dream soon turned into a nightmare as George Hadow lost his foot and slipped. He tumbled onto Michel Croz and as a result, Lord Francis Douglas and Charles Hudson were pulled from the face of the cliff. In a matter of seconds, the four climbers plummeted fourteen thousand feet down the north wall to their deaths. News of the event traveled around the world, and the town of Zermatt and the Matterhorn soon became objects of fascination.
Today, the town is a popular tourists attraction. It is dominated by the Matterhorn Peak, which rises over fourteen thousand feet. It is also surrounded by other mountains which include Dent Blanche, Weisshorn, Gabelhorn, Zinal-Rothorn, Dom and Monte Rosa. And thats only a small list. Zermatt has over twenty-nine mountains in all. The area also contains nine out of ten of the tallest mountains in Europe. All year long the Matterhorn and the other mountains in the area attract thousands of climbers from all over the world. When visitors reach Zermatt they are often left speechless at its unspoiled beauty. One of the first things that visitors will notice upon their entry into the town is that there isn’t any cars in the area. This is by design, so that the view of the mountain peaks aren’t obscurred by car exhaust. The entire town is a combustion engine free zone. Only electric vehicles are allowed to be operated in the town. The only gas powered vehicles that are allowed in the town are fire trucks, police cars, garbage trucks and ambulances. The town is serviced by electric taxi’s and buses and the hotels operate electric shuttles to run guests from the train station to the hotels. Horse drawn carriages can also be found in Zermatt. Currently, the town is looking into other options to boost the passenger capacity of it’s transportation networks. Options that are being considered include moving sidewalks, gondolas, a funicular, metro station and the addition of more electric buses.
It can be easily seen why the town is a popular tourist destination, just by looking at a few statistics of the town. Zermatt has the largest summer skiing area (nine lifts run all year long), the longest winter skiing season (November to May) and the highest ski lift in Europe, the Klein Matterhorn, which rises over twelve thousand feet. This makes the town one of the premier skiing destinations in Europe. Here are some other fun facts about the town. Zermatt contains four pharmacies, five doctors and one dentist. There are four helicopters which service the town from Heliport Zermatt. There are many boutiques, clothing outlets, sport stores and dry cleaners. Zermatt has two photo shops and a post office that has amemnities such as telephones, public fax machines and Telex. The hotels in the town offer over thirteen thousand beds and there are also three supermarkets in the town.
Linking the town of Zermatt to Gornergrat is the Gornergratbahn. The Gornergrat is a popular beginning point for many hikers because the trails are surrounded by twenty-nine mountain peaks and a couple of glaciers such as the second biggest glacier in the Alps, Gorner Glacier. Construction on the Gornergratbahn began in 1896 and it was finished two years later. It was originally started to only be used during the summer, but in 1942, it started year round operation. In 2004, it was rennovated. The line of the Gornergratbahn is over thirty thousand feet in length and features twelve thousand feet of double track. This mountain railway can service over twenty-four hundred people an hour. The Matterhorn is at the railway’s termination and stops along the way include Findelbach, Riffelboden, Riffelalp, Rotenboden, Riffelberg and Gornergrat. There are three star hotels located at Riffelalp, Riffelberg and Gornergrat. Gornergrat also contains an observatory called the Kolner Observatorium fur SubMillimeter Astronomie. This observatory has a nine foot radio telescope and is operated by the Physikalisches Institut and the University of Bonn.
Other attractions in the town of Zermatt include Zermatt Fun Park, Bernina Pass, Pollux Peak and Dent Blanche. The town also has numerous restaurants and hotels. Restaurants in the town include The Omnia, Restaurant Walliserkanne, The Cervo, Le Mazot Muther Roger, Klein Matterhorn and the Findlerhof. Prominent hotels in the town of Zermatt include Mont Cervin Palace, Matterhorn Hostel, Grand Hotel Zermatterhof, Le Petit Hotel Zermatt, Seiler Hotel Schweizerhof, Walliserhof R. Inderbinen-Welschen and the BW Hotel Butterfly.