You can feel the altitude at 3,883 metres. The air is dry. Temperatures in the early morning hours hover around -10c. Visibility on good days is unlimited. It’s hard, mid-winter snow, often a dusting of powder over groomed corduroy.
Iconic mountains loom nearby. The famous dagger of the Matterhorn to the south. Mt. Blanc Massif is on the distant horizon. Alpinists slowly ascend the Breithorn to the north. The air is clean and clear. Colours vivid against a backdrop of white.
These are early starts, to take advantage of the hard snow which typically softens by 11:00. So we step out of the tunnel carved through the Klein Matterhorn close to 7:00am. On a good day, with cooler temperatures, the hard snow will last until noon, enough time for a solid session of slalom, GS or super G.
On the Matterhorngletscher, uphill transport is by t-bar to allow for the moving ice. This environment is always changing, so you always respect the mountain and glacier.
We’re joined by hundreds of ski racers and coaches. National Teams from Germany, Croatia and of course Switzerland. Private teams, regional teams and hundreds of kids from both sides of the mountain – some coming up from Zermatt, others from Cervinia.
The advantage of Zermatt is the altitude. As the highest training location in Europe, the snow conditions are reliable – the closest one can find to mid-winter in the summer months. In the early summer, the race lanes rented to the teams are dominated by technical skiers focused to slalom and giant slalom, with limited super G. While the teams train, mountain operations work on closing the crevasses to build a speed track which opens in August to permit full downhill and super G training as well as a full length giant slalom.
It’s a rare privilege to return once again to Zermatt and this very special glacier. To take in the spectacular beauty of the mountain environment at 3,883 metres. To share a ride on the lift with World Cup winners. To watch the best in the world, hard at work with drills and courses, honing their craft as they begin their journey towards Soelden, a mere four months away.