In 1997 I spent the fall semester of my sophomore year of high school attending an American school in Zermatt, Switzerland. Zermatt is the home of the Matterhorn, 29+ 4000 meter+ peaks and beautiful scenery. No cars or trucks are allowed within the town limits and we needed to take a 15 minute train ride from adjacent Täsch to visit, parking our car there for the entirity of our four day visit. With four distinct, active seasons, Zermatt is what I claim to be the prototypical Swiss mountain paradise
At the time my semester spent in the Swiss alps was the coolest thing I had done.* Transitioning back to my home in Kansas City afterwards was heart-breaking. I missed waking up beneath the Matterhorn and taking four hour ski breaks in between classes. No sooner had I started up my old life than my old nemesis, Routine, came back with a vengeance. I was being driven to and from school, doing my homework, playing sports, sleeping and repeating. As a teenager it felt like I had few resources with which to direct my own life. I was waiting, forbearing frustration as much as I could, for the tomorrow to arrive when I would have the abilities to do with my life what I wanted. Twenty years later and I’m there; I returned to Zermatt for the first time for reminiscence and deja vu.
In the autumn when I was last here, much of the ski terrain was closed – this time around I was able to ski all of it. The Italian-side of Cervino, the glaciers of Zermatt surrounding Klein Matterhorn (the little Matterhorn), abutting the (big) Matterhorn, Gornergrat and Rothorn and Sunnega. The town has changed for the better in the past twenty years by my judgement. There has been more development of housing and hotels, but it all blends well with the historic styles and feel of the old town. The ski infrastructure seems to have quadrupled with the addition of new gondolas and lifts and getting from town to anywhere in the surrounding mountains is simple. There seemed to be more apres ski bars and restaurants.
My friend Pete with whom I climbed Kilimanjaro last fall was along for the ride along with my current Swiss chalet-housemate, Trevor. On a clear, warm Sunday night we skied under the full moon’s towards a picturesque view of the Matterhorn. Monday night we drank wine while eating dinner at a local cinema, watching the award-winning performance of Casey Affleck in the film Manchester by the Sea. On Tuesday we skied to lunch and ate our favorite meal of our stay at the Findlerhof, perched mountainside — we sat outside and enjoyed a perfect view of the Matterhorn. That night we followed up with dinner at the Stockhorn — the best veal liver (only?) I remember eating. The rest of the time we were either skiing or working. So much for my old nemesis Routine.
Life in Zermatt is an ideal mix of outdoor activities, urban comforts and romantic scenery. To revisit a formative location of my childhood twenty years later was a blessing; I doubt it will be twenty years before I return.
*Being a zombie extra in the film Zombie Bloodbath 2 was a distant second to living in Zermatt