RIFFELALP RESORT 2222M
It was the last week of January and Clive and I had both blocked time off for a much-awaited trip to the Riffelalp Resort 2222m in Zermatt. We were supposed to travel up on the Tuesday morning but at the beginning of the week, for the second time this year, Zermatt’s road and rail traffic were stopped due the crazy levels of snowfall. Some parts of the region were said to have had 3m of fresh snowfall in one week! That’s the most they’ve had in almost 20 years. The last time we had this much snow was in 1999, the year I arrived in Switzerland. I remember it like it was yesterday.
I was on the phone to Petra, who works at the hotel, who was providing frequent updates on the status of the trains. She told us that everything should be back up and running on Wednesday evening, and right she was. On Wednesday evening we arrived in Zermatt to get the 21h50 train half-way up the Gornergrat to Riffelalp. We were welcomed by Stefan on his snowmobile and we whizzed on up to the hotel entrance with our bags being pulled behind us.
During the day on Wednesday we had skied in Crans Montana so after a full day on the slopes and the three hour trip from Montana Gare to Riffelalp, we were absolutely exhausted. It was almost 22h30 but the hotel staff were kind enough to book us a table at the Walliserkeller so we didn’t go to bed hungry. The Walliserkeller serves traditional Swiss food like raclette, fondue and saucisse de veau in a cosy underground chalet-style restaurant in the hotel.
And now the real fun begins! Before I show you just how incredible a day at the Riffelalp Resort is, let me start by telling you a little bit about the hotel because we all know how much I love hotel history.
The plot of land on which the hotel lies was first bought in 1856 by Alexandre Seiler, brother to Joseph Seiler, chaplain of Zermatt at the time. Alexandre is said to be a pioneer in Switzerland’s hotel industry and one of the people responsible for positioning Zermatt as one of the most popular tourist locations in the world.
The Riffelalp Hotel was built in 1884 before the Gornergrat Bahn (the train that takes you up the mountain from Zermatt) was built and even before the train line from Visp to Zermatt existed! Everything had to be carried up the mountain to the hotel from Visp (or Viège in French) to 2222m of altitude by mule. They say each journey took over 10 hours. The train up with all of our ski stuff felt like quite the mission, never mind having to bring everything a whole hotel requires up on muleback! Can you imagine?
Alexandre passed away in 1891, shortly after the hotel’s capacity was increased to 200 beds. In 1961, the main building of the hotel (empty at the time) was completely destroyed by a fire. In 1988, the hotel was open to visitors again and in 2000, the hotel opened its doors under the name of Riffelalp Resort 2222m. Just over a decade later, the whole hotel was renovated making it the magnificent and super cosy place that it is today.
Now let me show you around! This is what a perfect day at the Riffelalp looks like…
Every good day, especially a day on the slopes, starts with a hearty breakfast. Breakfast at the hotel is held in the main dining room, named after Alexandre Seiler. Every morning I had a scrambled eggs with fresh tomatoes on toast, a bowl of fruit, a cheeky pastry or croissant, tea and fresh orange juice. Pure heaven.
The best thing to do is to order your ski passes at reception upon arrival (or perhaps even before) so you get them in time for your day on the slopes. The ski passes are delivered to reception for you to pick up on the way down from your room to the ski room.
Each room is provided with a locker to to leave skis, snowboards, boots, gloves and helmets in to dry overnight which is such a treat! Clive is
a little ridiculously protective of his skis so it was nice to have them locked away safe.
After breakfast, it’s time to head out onto the slopes where you are welcomed by the most magnificent view of the Matterhorn. This exact photo was take just a couple hundred metres from the hotel entrance. It almost feels like the slopes have been made so they all point towards this spectacular view. It was utterly breathtaking.
I had the best guide in town (OK, I may be a little biased) who knew the area quite well. Clive took me around all of the different little domaines within Zermatt. Over the three days, we skied around the Sunnegga area, down the Gornergrat and around the Furi-Schwarsee area which is at the foot of the Matterhorn. You can see the full map of the pistes here.
The day that we skied up close to the Matterhorn was probably one of my favourite ski days ever. We had this AMAZING polenta at the Rifugio Guide del Cervino (almost 3500m altitude) which looked like gruel but tasted like heaven.
Zermatt can be a little frustrating if you want to get from one area to another but Clive had it all planned out. Make sure you’re taking note of when specific lifts close so you don’t get stuck anywhere and ask locals or people who know the pistes for any tips to save having to take your skis off and walk too much.
And there’s nothing quite like a spa with a wood burning fire to welcome you home.
The spa has both an indoor and outdoor pool (seen in the photo at the top). It’s said to be the world’s highest outdoor pool in Europe which is pretty cool. At the back of the main spa room there’s a little corner where you can help yourself to tea and water.
I had this ginger and alpine herb tea whilst sitting by the fire watching out over the Matterhorn and that tiny little moment was one of the highlights of the whole trip.
Clive and I had both booked in a massage. I had the Back in Balance massage (145 CHF for 45 minutes). It was an intense neck, shoulder and back massage and I really cannot think of anything better during a ski trip.
Whenever I have a massage, the therapists always tell me how tight my back and shoulder muscles are (probably from all the kitchen work at Le Pointu) so it was really nice to have them concentrate on that.
Below this area of the spa, there’s a huge selection of saunas, steam rooms, relaxation rooms and a jacuzzi. I think it’s important to note that they are mixed-sex areas and most people in these areas were naked… or at least they were when we were there but maybe we just got lucky. Just joking… I’m a bit of prude in public so I was very happy sticking to the upstairs area.
After a back massage and a freshen up in our room, we were ready for a little potter around the hotel and a drink at the bar. I’m such a old fogey – I had a glass of red Port. It was divine.
Potter a little further and you can have a marvel at the stunning smoking room. Even though I’m not a smoker, I think this was my favourite room in the hotel. I almost wished it weren’t just a smoking room.
And then finally, it’s time for dinner.
My favourite dinner we had throughout our three-night stay was in the Alexandre Restaurant, mainly because the staff were so friendly. Plus, you’re sitting in this stunning dining room and you can look out of the windows onto the view (provided the snow hasn’t come up too high overnight). It’s amazing to see the dark, dark outline of the Matterhorn against the midnight blue sky.
I felt like most people stayed up in the hotel (rather than going down to Zermatt) for dinner so it was quite nice to see friendly faces every evening, and the service staff were really lovely, too. If you take the half board option for 80 CHF per person per day you get breakfast and dinner included. You can have almost anything from the menu in any of the hotel restaurants.
I loved that the pastry chefs were standing at the dessert buffet explaining all of the many million desserts they had made to us. One of the girls told us about how during the summer they go out and pick leaves from this plant that they then freeze and make a flavoured mousse from for one of their winter desserts. Can’t for the life of me remember the name though (I blame the wine) but I love those kind of stories.
After dinner, if you’re not too tired, you can even head to the games room where they have a chess board and a pool table. Clive and I played pool. He thrashed me. It was embarrassing. My 18 year-old self who used to play pool every morning at 5 a.m. after I finished my shift at the night club where I worked at the time was embarrassed too.
And then after a day of eating, skiing, snowboarding, breathing that fresh mountain air, spa-ing, more eating, drinking, chatting, playing, and lots and lots of laughing, it’s about time to head back to the room.
And then before you know it, it’s time to wake up and start the whole day again. Does it get more dreamy than that?
P.S This isn’t the exact room we stayed in (we had a slightly smaller bathroom) but we arrived so late that I totally forgot to take any photos before all of our luggage and equipment took up most of the floor space. Instead, I took this photo as Charlotte from reception was showing me around the hotel because felt like I couldn’t do a “Home away from home” post without showing inside one of the rooms. You can see our exact room, more of the hotel and our full three day experience in the vlog below. Probably my favourite vlog yet.
I love it when I can afford to take a few days off in January. I can’t tell you how nice it is to have something to look forward to in what feels like the darkest month of the year. There’s nothing quite like fresh mountain air, blazing sun, empty pistes with perfect snow and a lovely five star hotel 2222m up the mountain to energise you for the year ahead.
Thank you to the Riffelalp Resort 2222m for having us to stay. We had the loveliest time and we hear it’s pretty spectacular during the summer months, too! We hope to be back very soon. xS