The legendary Matterhorn, the slope of all slopes, sits snugly on the border between northern Italy and southern Switzerland. On the Italian side there is the ski town of Cervinia and on the Swiss side there is the ever picturesque Zermatt. Zermatt is a town 100% free of auto pollution: the city won't allow cars into the village. You can only get there by train and locally get around by horsesled or carriage. However, you can also get there by skiing across the border from Cervinia. That's what I did. To go to one you must include both. Each is unique and beautiful in its own way.
I guess I like the Matterhorn because it caters to all levels of skiers from rank beginners like myself at the time, to the most experienced. But also there's plenty of nightlife and partying that goes on. During the Christmas weekend skiers come from all corners and perhaps the strongest contingent were the Brits. This was their territory as far as they were concerned and they had a wild time while here. Made some memorable Brit friends and had quite a blast (blew the bugle across the mountain range at a night ski party). Sounded very much like a Viking horn and even scared a few unawares.
Other great places I've skiied on the continent include most challenging Aiquille du Midi peak of Mont Blanc in Chamonix, France; the ever treacherous Sasso Pordoi of the Dolomiti in northern Italy; the glacier at Val Senales, Italy, where the "Ice Man Cometh" mummy was discovered; and other areas in southern Europe.
In my hometown of Aransas Pass, Texas, we never knew such snow conditions or such mountain ranges. The Alps are literally breathtaking to view from any perspective. This view is taken from the Zermatt side of the mountains bordering Italy and Switzerland.
Only experts dare climb it and skiing it is certainly highly dangerous. But I guess some people do it anyway. In the summer when there's no snow it is a popular climb.
Cervinia is set among glaciers with its highest elevations of 11,472 feet. Slopes have vertical drops of 4,730 feet.
Needless to say I neither skiied nor climbed the Matterhorn. There were many excellent ski slopes surrounding it to make the ski venture worthwhile. I would rise early in the morning, get on the first lift from Cervinia to the top. I was usually alone because most of the other skiiers were still passed out in their lodges.
Out of the cablecar I'd find myself looking out over a vast range of snow covered mountain peaks rising between puffs of white clouds, stretching as far as the eye can see. The air was pure and absolutely quiet. As I began the descent only the soft swooshing sounds of the skis on the snow reached my senses. What a marvelous experience. Each time was like the first time.
Slopeside Rest Stop
One of the most remarkable features I found to be the slopeside snack bars. There was a rather austere menu but each item was tasty and warmed the body and heart after a few downhill swooshes. There were grilled ham and cheese sandwiches, French onion soup, and most notably "Gluehwein", a hot German brew made with spiced red wine. These were nothing less than marvelous appetizers and certainly worth stopping for.
My friend Bob Ciraulo, in forefront, was still getting over a party from the night before. We stopped at this snack bar for the customary hot Gluehwein and grilled subs. The steamy onion soup with its thick creamy melted provoloni cheese was always superb also.
Bob was also president of Ski Marco Club of NATO. He organized many of these great trips to some of the world's most renowned ski resorts.
This overlook provided a truly spectacular view of the Alps from the Cervinia side. The temperatures were extremely low (don't remember the numbers but still remember the effects on the body).
It was so cold, in fact, that people could only be on the outside for a few minutes. I stand here with Bob Ciraulo's daughter as her mom takes the picture.
How many times I'd like to go back just one more time. But, with time, some things become more remote for me.
This is an experience to die for!