Skiing: 24 Hours in Zermatt
I get gooey about Zermatt - the most chocolate-box pretty village of them all - because it's where I met my husband. This is Toblerone country: nestled high up in the German-speaking area of the Swiss Alps, Zermatt is cocooned by the highest concentration of mountains and glacial ice in the Alpine region. The skiing is spectacular, the summers are pure Heidi, and it's all just ludicrously romantic. A red train swoops you on a scenic journey from Visp right up to the resort, and when you get there a dinky electric luggage car whisks away your bags, leaving you to pad to your hotel through the snow or snuggle up in a horse-drawn carriage.
A cluster of grand, 19th-century hotels line the main village street, many with spas, pools and outdoor hot tubs, or you can squirrel yourself away in one of the catered chalets. The village restaurants run the gamut from Swiss raclette and rösti to Japanese sushi, and the rustic farmhouse restaurants slope side are so good - think truffle-infused cep fondue - it’s a struggle to clip up those ski boots again. Add to that a clutch of bustling aprés-ski bars and glitzy clothes stores, and it’s unsurprising that Zermatt is consistently hyped as one of Europe’s most elegant (and expensive) resorts.
8am – Wake up at the Omnia Hotel, a contemporary mountain retreat that's very James Bond, or try 22 Summits a new 4-star boutique hotel that opens on December 22nd and promises you the vibe of a private Alpine retreat.
9.30am - So, you're armed with your skis, but which peak to conquer? There are three to choose from: Rothorn (via Sunnegga funicular), Gornergrat (that you'll climb using the Gornergrat Railway, the highest of its kind in the world) and Matterhorn glacier paradise. The last one is the highest cable car station in Europe (3883m) and I've got firsthand experience of its dizzying altitude because I once fainted in the cable car on the way up (though because we were packed in like sardines with skis, I was actually held upright when unconscious). Now there's a new cable car system to the top of the Matterhorn glacier paradise that has 4 gondolas embellished with Swarovski crystals and an opaque glass floor that turns transparent during the ride. There's also a snowpark that's open virtually all year round with jibs, rails, boxes, boxes, tables and kickers to get excited about (ask a snowboarder).
11.30am - By now you should be hankering for hot chocolate and Fluhalp - in the middle of the skiing and hiking area of Sunnegga-Blauherd-Rothorn, at 2606 metres – has a big deck for basking in the sunshine to the tunes of a live band and with a gobsmacking view of the Matterhorn. Or try the Igloo Bar in the Gornergrat area - you can even stay the night in the Igloo Village.
12pm - Now that you've had some proper thigh burn on the slopes it's time to gorge at Chez Vrony in the Findeln ski area – a cosy farmhouse serving an insanely good gourmet burger with crispy rösti potatoes.
5pm - Burn off those burger calories in the afternoon, and then stop by the rather raucous Hennu stall for some après-ski shots and sundown dancing in ski boots. Cervo, Harry’s, and Papperla Pub are the other faves. If that’s a preposterous idea, then you might be the type for a unique spa circuit back in the village: Backstage Hotel has seven treatment cubes representing the days of Creation (think themed hammam, flotation pool, aromatherapy room and waterbed chamber.) For retail therapy, the cutting edge skiwear shop Bogner proves that fashion and subzero clothing aren’t mutually exclusive. A history nut? The Matterhorn Museum is a sunken, faux ‘archaeological site’ that pays homage to the mountain and those who have climbed her.
8pm - Whymper Stube rolls out the meat and cheese varieties of the typically Swiss dish, fondue. There's also Schäferstube (if you like lamb), Pöstli Stübli (rösti, fondue, hot stone), Le Gitan Zermatterstübli (meat, fondue), and Theodors Stuba (raclette, fondue, hot stone)
10pm - Vernissage is the chicest cocktail bar in town (part cinema, part gallery), Hotel Post shows off with 5 bars and a nightclub, and then there's The Cavern at the Omnia Hotel: it’s like Bruce Wayne’s Batcave with live music (and your bed is just upstairs!)