Zermatt, Switzerland

Living in Zermatt

Iyna Bort Caruso

Of the many charms of Zermatt, Switzerland, one dominates above the rest: the Matterhorn.

Zermatt sits at the foot of the iconic mountain, one of the most photographed in the world. There’s even an entire museum—the Matterhorn Museum—dedicated to it.

The alpine village is located in the German-speaking section of Valais, 5,315 feet above sea level. High latitude means long winters. Zermatt is the highest ski area on the continent and features one of the longest ski runs. Skiing conditions are consistent throughout the season—and throughout the year. Although the motto of Zermatt is “Home of Winter,” its slopes are snow-covered even in summer, drawing national skiing and snowboarding teams for training.

Summer draws hikers and mountain bikers to the area’s marked trails. The famous Haute Route, which extends more than 100 miles from Chamonix, France, to Zermatt, provides a stunning panorama of the high Alpine peaks. Mountaineers from around the world descend—or rather ascend--the area’s “Alpine four-thousanders” in and around Zermatt, the name given to mountains more than 4,000 meters tall.

Until the mid-19th century, the area was largely an agricultural community. That changed when British explorer Edward Whymper summited the Matterhorn in 1865. It was a period considered the Golden Age of Mountaineering when various climbers made the first ascents of Alpine peaks.

Tourism drives the economy, on and off the mountains. Zermatt is a car-free village with upscale shops and gourmet restaurants on the main street, Bahnhofstrasse. The après-ski scene is a vibrant one.

The property market, in the village and in the outlying suburbs, offers historic timber homes, classic chalets and premium apartments. Some properties have been converted from hotels and even vintage barns. Demand is strong for the rare ski-in, ski-out unit and any home with views of the Matterhorn. Because of restrictions on international buyers, the rental market is an active one, making Zermatt especially attractive to investors.