Experience Report: Ski Testing at Zermatt

The air is crisp. Exhaled breath creates wispy clouds. Still, nothing points towards a ski day and lots of snow, because the mountain village of Zermatt is still clothed in its golden autumn attire.

We take the first morning gondola of the Zermatt Bergbahnen from Zermatt up to Trockener Steg at nearly 3,000 m. The view over the surrounding highest Swiss summits is already impressive during the journey up and helps time fly until we can exit the gondola at the top.
Pristine mountain air, an amazing view of the high Alps, snow-covered glaciers, and the fantastic landscape makes our hearts beat faster.
Just out of the gondola, we are almost already standing in the Ski Test Center. Even though we knew that there are lockers at Trockener Steg and we had thought about whether it would be more comfortable to wait for the first test skis before putting our ski boots on, we now know that we made the right decision to already be wearing them. We saved some time and are the first ones ready to go.
Gianni welcomes us in a great mood. Any doubts evaporate about whether we already needed to know anything about what ski equipment we needed to take along. He just asks some questions: How much we have already skied: Days? Weeks? Years even? Then Gianni goes into more detail and soon has the first suggestion for the “perfect ski for you.”
Gianni does not leave us to our own fate but rather asks us whether we would like to take along a “ski insider” for our test. We are a bit bashful: “A ski insider just for us? And what is he going to do with us?”
An energetic Oli jauntily approaches and greets us in his Zermatt dialect: “Good day! I’ll come along and see which ski would be the right one for you.” And just like that, we are in the middle of the ski test. We start to feel like professionals. The ski bindings are quickly adjusted for weight and boot size by the ski technicians, and off we go.
The first, short downhill run takes us to the six-seat Furggsattel chairlift. We climb aboard and note that there are hoods for cold weather. However, today we want to take in that which has already cast a spell on us: the up-close view of this mountain world. During the ride, our Zermatt ski teacher, Oli, tells us where and what we can experience throughout the ski area. Once we arrive at the top, we already know that a single day of skiing in Zermatt is not enough. Our heads are abuzz with Oli’s information: skiing to Valtounenche, never-ending kilometers in a dreamlike downhill run, lunch there in the Foyer de Guide served by Walter, who makes his own dried meat. Then we may not miss a cappuccino in the Testa Grigia, the Gornergrat area, Rothorn, Schwarzsee and the insider’s tip…
But now we have to concentrate. Oli skis ahead of us with graceful curves. Our first thought is: “Thank goodness he is not challenging us.” Then he stops and asks us to ski ahead. “This helps me have a picture about your abilities,” he says. “And then I can better recommend the perfect ski for you.” Enlightening!
So we ski ahead and naturally do our best to make a good impression. Oli is enthusiastic at the next stop. “Güat,” he says, which is how one says “great” in Zermatt. He explains the detailed features of the skis we are using and gives us some tips to improve our technique. On the last section back to Trockener Steg, we have the feeling that our skiing is much more “polished” already.
We test another model even though we felt very taken by the first pair of skis. The “ski insiders” had just the right sense when selecting the first skis for us from among the 800 pairs awaiting us. But we are happy to test another model. Even more tips about Zermatt, the pistes, the best restaurants . . . and by the end of a fantastic ski day it is clear: We will be skiing in Zermatt for at least the next ten years.