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Few countries in the world have a mountain that's so linked to its identity as The Matterhorn is with Switzerland. It’s an easily recognizable shape, a steep and somewhat wonky pyramid, with the four faces aligning with the four compass points, while its summit, at 4478 m is one of the highest Alpine peaks. The mountain straddles the border between Switzerland and Italy where the peak is known as Monte Cervino. On the Swiss side is the canton of Valais, with the famous climbing and ski town of Zermatt sitting below.
In what was a very isolated region, the mountain wasn’t conquered by climbers until 1865, in what was a very tragic ascent, in which four out of the seven alpinists were lost. Widely publicised, it put the Matterhorn on the map, and an ascent of the mountain is still a challenge for climbers today – with 3000 alpinists climbing the Matterhorn annually. These days, however, it's a lot easier to get a classic view from this commanding and mesmerising mountain – albeit not from 4478 meters. An efficient lift system takes visitors up to the Matterhorn Glacier Paradise at an altitude of 3883 metres and from there the vistas are magnificent. If you suffer from vertigo, you might not want to know that this is the highest cable car station of the Alps. At this level you can visit the glacier palace, with ice sculptures and information about the world's highest glacier palace. Below you, you can see Europe's largest summer ski area and a snow park for snowboarders and free skiers.
Despite the amount of snow the area receives, it has 300 sunny days a year and to ski or snowboard here on a bluebird day is something to cherish. There are three ski areas here, Rothorn, Gornergrat and the Matterhorn/Schwarzsee area. You can also ski over to Italy, to the Breuil-Cervinia ski area, which makes for a great ski day. Another a great adventure is heli-skiing and with the classic Swiss concerns for safety, you can rest assured that you’ll be in safe hands with mountain guides from the Alpin Centre. Down from the slopes, the resort of Zermatt is something special. With no cars allowed in the town, the well-heeled are whisked from the Bahnhofplatz (railway station) to their hotel in nifty golf carts. The town is a classic ski village and manages to offer a fun après-ski scene, excellent fine dining, and more refined nightlife than most winter resorts.