Off-piste Skiing in Zermatt

By very special guest Angelo Rossi

If you’re the type of skier or snowboarder who enjoys seeking out the untouched gems on the mountain and find trail skiing to be, well, boring, then Zermatt is a good place for you. A majority of the piste is above the tree line which creates loads of off-piste opportunities. In fact, off-piste skiing is a way of life for many of the locals. Lifts only get you so far. Your feet take you to all the good stuff.

I discovered this while exploring with my new friend Tim, who I met on the heli-skiing trip. He and I managed to sniff out a few off-piste spots on our own, but we had a sneaking suspicious that there was more we didn’t know about. A lot more. Given the size of Zermatt, it was impossible for us to find all the treasures in only a week. Plus, without first-hand knowledge of the mountain, we risked encountering trouble. For example, crevasses and avalanches are a real danger; on average, ten people are killed each year in Zermatt by these hazards. After exploring on our own, it seemed a day with a guide would be the best decision. We wanted to know Zermatt’s secrets, and I figured Dawn would rather have me than my life insurance benefit. Of course, the last statement was an assumption on my part.

We knew the perfect man who could reveal all Zermatt had to offer: Jan Schnidrig. We were lucky enough to have Jan as our guide two days earlier during our heli-skiing trip. I don’t know anything about the other guides available in Zermatt, but I can’t imagine there are any better ones. Jan is awesome. He is a true mountain man, guiding climbers in the summer (he has over 40 ascents to the top of the Matterhorn) and skiers in the winter. Jan is an expert skier with a great personality. He knows Zermatt like the back of his hand and seemingly knows everyone who works there. Plus, he knows the best après ski spots which are part of the Zermatt legend. Trust me – if you need a guide in Zermatt, you want Jan.

We spent the first half of the day doing some medium- length runs. Each one presented a new challenge and untouched powder. The highlight of the day was a 40-minute hike across a ridge to the back side of one of the peaks. At one point the ridge was no wider than six feet with a sheer drop-off on both sides. Waiting for us was a 45-minute run covered with fluffy, untouched powder. We got to the bottom and couldn’t wipe the smiles from our faces. It was just what Tim and I had hoped for. Danke, Jan.

Jan’s website (the website is in German, but Jan is fluent in English)

Tim and I squeezing onto a chain bridge over a gorge at the end of one of the runs.

A portion of the ridge

The view from the ridge of the Monte Rosa mountain I skied two days prior.

Starting from the building on the left, we hiked across the length of the ridge.

The hike lead us to this

and this

After tackling the mountain, Jan and I are ready to tackle some beers.

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