Some ski areas have already announced that they will not be open this winter, or only in a limited way. The Zermatt – Matterhorn destination is deliberately choosing a different strategy – provided no other instructions are issued by the Swiss government or the canton, all of the pistes, cable cars and other facilities will be available.
Fully open from 28 November 2020
“Even in these challenging times, we are sticking to our strategy. Top quality and a fantastic product combined with substantial investments will give the guest security,” says Franz Julen, Chairman of the Board of Directors at Zermatt Bergbahnen AG (ZBAG). Winter sports fans can already access 21 kilometres of pistes across to Trockener Steg. No expense has been spared to ensure that all facilities and pistes will be ready by 28 November 2020 so that the winter season in Zermatt can be opened in full. The highlight of the winter will be the new Kumme gondola. ZBAG made it clear in April 2020 that the CHF 30 million investment was going ahead despite the coronavirus crisis. The gondola will begin operating on 19 December 2020, creating significant added value for the ski area. It is the first gondola in Switzerland that can operate without service personnel.
Safety is the highest priority
There is still some uncertainty around what après ski will look like this winter. A decision about that, and communicating it, lies with the Swiss government and the canton. “Obviously, après ski is very much part of the skiing experience, but it’s secondary for our destination. Our guests particularly value the skiing, the fantastic gastronomy and the opportunity to enjoy the natural world,” says Director of Tourism, Daniel Luggen. The safety of guests and employees is the top priority.
This also applies to the skiing facilities. Experience over the summer showed that it is possible to ensure guests’ safety and that guests are very good at complying with official restrictions. Whatever federal and cantonal measures are decided on for the coming winter, ZBAG will implement them consistently. To make it easier for people to book, ZBAG introduced fair cancellation conditions. In the event of testing positive for COVID or having to quarantine, tickets can be converted into a credit note.
Despite being careful, the destination is well aware that a coronavirus outbreak can happen, even in the village at the foot of the Matterhorn. A local task force has been set up to prepare for this eventuality.
Zermatt Unplugged in a new form
Part of winter in Zermatt is one of the highlights at the end – the Zermatt Unplugged music festival. Thanks to the support from the festival partners, visitors and the destination, the economic damage of cancelling the 2020 festival was manageable. The current situation is extremely challenging for the Zermatt Unplugged organisers and makes it very difficult to plan for 2021. Following discussions with the destination, the festival team has decided that Zermatt Unplugged 2021 cannot take place in its usual form. “There will still be concerts in Zermatt in 2021, with spectacular backdrops, under the Matterhorn sun, on the mountains and in the valley,” says Managing Director Rolf Furrer.
On two weekends in spring (8-10 April and 15-17 April 2021), the Unplugged festival will put on intimate concerts in spectacular locations. The series of concerts will continue on several weekends in late summer 2021, with the aim of establishing another fantastic event in Zermatt. The hope is that Zermatt Unplugged will take place in its usual form in 2022, from 5-10 April.
Zermatt is looking further into the future. The BVZ Group, to which the Gornergrat Bahn belongs, is investing CHF 45 million in five new multiple-unit trains, which should start running in 2022. From summer 2021, guests will also be able to enjoy a new multimedia world of experiences all about the Matterhorn. The exhibition will be located in the station of the former “Hohtälli” cable car. ZBAG is also continuing its strategic focus on Italy. The Testa Grigia-Klein Matterhorn 3S cable car is currently under construction; once complete, the highest Alpine crossing by cable car will be a reality, boosting summer business. The project to link Zermatt-Valtournenche/Cervinia-Monte Rosa will also continue, creating one of the largest ski areas in the world. Zermatt and Cervinia are also keen to realise the idea of the World Cup race from Gobba di Rollin to Laghi Cime Bianche. Work is currently under way designing the route and obtaining FIS approval. If the event is confirmed in the race calendar, athletes will be able to show off their skills on the longest, highest ski run. Starting in Switzerland, finishing in Italy, as part of an international World Cup race – that really would be a first.