In addition to exceptionally long runs and a picturesque mountain setting, Zermatt boasts amazing dining options. The food is better here, I believe, than in any ski resort in North America.
Our group decided to alternate with either a special place for lunch or for dinner on a given day (but not both in one day).
For places to eat on the mountain, you must go to Findlerhof (pictured above, www.findlerhof.ch) by Heidi and Franz for lunch. It's very, very hard to find! But go. The food is outstanding. Try the local steak tartare and fish soup.
Also for lunch, go to Zum See (www.zumsee.ch). This old wooden house is marked on the map but, like Findlerhof, it's easy to miss. The food is incredible. I tried rosti – a local fried potato specialty – with smoked salmon. And be sure to try Swiss wine – the reds are smooth and light. Leave room for an apple strudel.
Be sure to reserve these two mountain restaurants in advance (even before arriving in Zermatt). They aren't big. Reserve for 2pm, and then ski down at day's end. I'm glad we ate at 2 as I don't think I could ski for long after a few glasses of wine. If you can handle it, some also opt for a shot of schnapps.
The mountain has lots of cute restaurants and coffee stops. Just keep an eye out. Many aren't obvious on the maps and the slopes aren't particularly well-marked, but these cozy, fine restaurants and bars make for a really special ski experience.
Another favorite of mine was the Italian restaurant, Rifugio Guide de Cervino (www.rifugioguidedelcervino.com), at Plateau Rosa on the Italian side (right near the border). Stop here for amazing northern Italian fare. Share the mixed antipasti (the fresh cheeses are to die for), and leave room for tiramisu; it is the best I've ever had. If you stop here late for lunch, you will be on the border and so can easily return to Zermatt.
At the end of the ski day, of course many end up going to après-ski. The best options near the base include the Cervo Hotel (www.cervo.ch) and the Hennu Stall (www.hennustall.ch). Try some gluwein (hot red sweet wine) to warm up. At the Hennu Stall, we managed to drink a few beers and B52 shots (as the locals do). But beware – you still have to ski down a few hundred yards in near darkness to get to town! Just follow the other après-skiers.
For general trip-planning information, see our Switzerland Travel Guide.