In late January 2022, 31 intrepid travelers set off for the quaint mountain town of Zermatt, Switzerland, half of them from Washington DC and the other half coming from various places around the globe. The entire group met up at the Geneva airport, and boarded a bus for a scenic two-hour ride around Lake Geneva to the town of Tasch. Since Zermatt is a car-free village, we boarded a train in Tasch for a short ride to our final destination. The only vehicles allowed in Zermatt are elecktromobiles, which come in small six-seater models or bus size. Our lodgings were at Hotel Perren, and their driver was ready and waiting for us at the train station. He carried the luggage, while we set of on foot for a brisk 10 minute walk to the hotel.
After check in, we gathered for a quick wine and cheese reception, followed by a walking tour of the village, led by local guide and life-long resident of Zermatt, Franz Imboden. Our tour was both practical and educational. Franz showed us how to get to the gondolas and where to catch the bus, in addition to sharing the unique history of the village. The tour ended with samples of cheese and bread from the famous Fuch’s Bakery.
Breakfast and lunch were included as part of the lodging, and we had a dedicated area of the hotel restaurant for our group. Although the menu was pre fixe, the restaurant staff was fairly accommodating to substitutions when requested.
The ski area straddles the border between Switzerland and Italy. There were different covid protocols in Italy, and special FFP2 masks were required. The club provided these to all participants on the first day, although we wouldn’t make it to Italy until later in the week.
Our first day on the mountain was spectacular, with blue skies and amazing views of the Matterhorn from every angle. Many of us enjoyed a traditional Swiss fondue lunch on the mountain, with the majestic Matterhorn in the background.
Our next few days of skiing saw colder weather and overcast skies. High winds prevented the lifts to the Italian side (known as Cervinia) from opening. Two members took lessons, at Summit and Alpine Ski Schools. Both gave rave reviews about the experience! Our trip coincided with Chinese New Year, and we celebrated at dinner with sparklers and songs from our Asian participants. On the fourth day of the trip, one of our skiers tested positive for covid and immediately self-isolated in his room. The hotel made arrangements to deliver his meals and anything else he might need. This was of course upsetting to the rest of the trip participants, and we all continued to take precautions against further transmission. Unfortunately, it wasn’t enough, as two more members tested positive the over the following days. Thankfully, we were able to get them refunds on their rental equipment.
Thursday, day five, was by far the best day of skiing, with several inches of fresh snow and hardly anyone on the slopes! On Friday, our last ski day, the wind had finally died down enough to allow the lifts to Italy to reopen. It was quite a nice experience to be greeted at the lifts with Buon Giorno! We enjoyed a nice lunch in Italy, and then skied back to Switzerland.
The rest of our trip members all completed and passed their required covid tests on Friday and were cleared for travel. Arrangements were made to let our three infected participants stay in the hotel until they tested negative. None of them were severely affected and they displayed only mild symptoms. All three of them were able to rebook flights and return home a few days later.
Despite a few disruptions, the trip was great fun and a once-in-a-lifetime experience!