There are really only two directions in Zermatt – up and down. This is great during ski season but a bit of a problem in the summer when most of the snow has receded to highest elevations. Gondolas, alpine trains, and cable cars will still whisk you up to the top, but descending 5,000 feet on foot gets old fast, even if you’re facing some of the most spectacular scenery anywhere. Walking up is an option if you have the time or inclination, which I didn’t.
I needed an alternative, particularly as work had followed me to this tiny Swiss enclave and I had deadlines, including a 4 pm conference call every day. Speed mattered.
I found it at the bike store around the corner from my hotel. I don’t know how long visitors have been careening down Zermatt’s glades on two wheels but the sport clearly has established itself. All the major lifts allow you to bring your bike aboard, local guide maps will tell where you can ride, and there are no shortage of places to rent. The rest is up to you – grab a helmet, get your bearings, and hold on for dear life.
There are a number of choice rides down Zermatt slopes, a few of which – Gonergrat, Rothorn for example – follow some legendary ski runs. Equally choice are the mountain restaurants scattered along Zermatt slopes that stay open all year round. You can’t much beat enjoying a warm summer afternoon taking in some fine Swiss lager in the shadow of the Matterhorn.
I maybe had a bit too much fun, regularly quenching my thirst on a few Feldschlösschenthen then trying to figure out how I was going to descend 5,000 feet over a landscape I barely knew and not end up in Italy. Somehow I figured it out, made all my 4 o’clocks, and had a blast doing so.