Just Back: Zermatt, Switzerland

When you’re celebrating your tenth wedding anniversary, not every destination will do.

Nat Geo’s director of digital marketing, Jennifer Wallace, and her husband were looking for “a truly amazing spring skiing destination.” They found it in Zermatt, Switzerland—coincidentally, one of National Geographic Traveler’s picks for Best Trips of 2015!

Here are a few highlights from her trip, in her own words:

Biggest selling point: A 3.5-hour train ride whisked us from the airport in Zurich to Zermatt. Of all the countries we’ve visited, Switzerland may be the most accessible—even with ski bags in tow.

Swiss trains are clean, relatively spacious, and punctual (to the minute!)—but it’s what’s on the other side of the window that stands out as their biggest asset. The Glacier Express, which we boarded for the final leg into Zermatt, seemed to climb ever higher as it glided through the majestic Alps.

The scenic beauty didn’t end there. Once we got strapped into our ski boots, we hopped on the highest open-air railway in Europe and were treated to unbelievable views of the Matterhorn on the 25-minute ride to Gornergrat summit.

Standout culinary experience: Follow our lead and take advantage of the special gondola that departs Zermatt on Tuesday and Thursday evenings for a handful of mid-mountain eateries near the Furi station. We dined at Bergrestaurant Simi, diving into cheese fondue and lamb chops.

After dinner, many restaurants are happy to lend patrons a toboggan for the return trip to the village. You can also opt to work off your meal on the hour-long walk back down the mountain, which is exhilarating on a cold starry night. Regardless, bring a headlamp; it’s incredibly dark out there, even with the stars.

Favorite local quirk: There are no cars in Zermatt, which keeps its charming central village clean and quiet. Most people walk everywhere and many of the locals ride bicycles to get to and from work, school, and, of course, the slopes (bikes equipped with ski racks are a common sight).

Best place ever: If you happen to be on the Sunnegga slopes and ready to indulge in a little après-ski relaxation, look for a tiny yet upscale tent called the Champagne Bar. Kicking off your skis and enjoying some bubbly while basking in the sun and taking in unparalleled views of the Matterhorn is hard to beat.

Off-the-beaten-path adventure: Zermatt may be a skier’s dream, but there are plenty of outdoor activities that can be enjoyed most any time of year in the Alps. Try your hand at trail hiking, paragliding, or mountain climbing—or get a bird’s-eye view of the Matterhorn on a helicopter tour.

Doable day trip: If the weather allows for it, cross-border ski over to Italy. (When purchasing your lift ticket for the day, simply pony up for international access.)

Start by traveling to the Matterhorn Glacier Paradise, the highest cable-car station in Europe. After you’ve had your fill of the panoramic view, follow the Italian flag on the piste signs to ski down into Cervinia. My advice: Plan to grab lunch there; prices are usually less expensive on the Italian side.

Must-do event: In addition to boasting a five-star restaurant, an art gallery, and a modern spa to soothe those après-ski muscles, the Backstage Hotel hosts live shows and films in its stunning open-to-the-public cinema. Stop by for dinner and a movie for a fun evening out on the town.

Practical tip: Make reservations! Most restaurants fill up quickly, especially in the high season.

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