Winter in Zinal
Skiing and snowboarding
Zinal is a fantastic place for a skiing or snowboarding holiday. The pistes are quiet, there are no lift queues and the snow is excellent. This is how skiing was meant to be.
While world-renowned Verbier and Zermatt in the adjacent valleys are expensive and increasingly crowded, in spite of their size, the hidden gems of Zinal and nearby Grimentz remain largely unknown outside of Switzerland.
The scenery here is spectacular. Zinal is surrounded by four 4000m peaks and behind them lies the Matterhorn. Ninety percent of the piste skiing lies between 2000m and 3000m and is mostly north-east facing, so good snow is guaranteed. There are 120 kms of pistes including those at nearby Grimentz, which is connected by a black run or by a 10 minute free bus ride. There are excellent beginner slopes, an extensive free ride area and huge amounts of off-piste for the experts. Have a look at the piste map.
The cable car takes you up 800 metres to 2440 metres in under 10 minutes, so you can be skiing in around 20 minutes after leaving the chalet.
There are three other resorts in the valley covered by the same lift pass and accessible by bus from Zinal - St Luc, Chandolin and Vercorin - offering a variety of skiing and snowboarding conditions and doubling the pisted runs to 225 kms. St Luc and Chandolin are more south-west facing so are a sunnier alternative in December and January.
It is possible to ski back on a red run to within 100m of the chalet if the snow and weather conditions are good.
Beginners - This is an excellent place to learn to ski or snowboard, with gentle, quiet slopes adjacent to the top of the cable car and the restaurant. There are easy drag lifts, a ski school (Ecole Suisse de Ski) and being at 2400m, the snow is always good. There is a ski school and kindergarten for young children too.
Intermediates - There are plenty of pistes for a wide range of intermediate skiers and boarders. Swoopy, quiet blues and reds and some not too challenging blacks. The quiet pistes and reliable snow make this the perfect place to refine that technique and it's a good place to start exploring off piste skiing.
Experts - Zinal and Grimentz have large amounts of off-piste skiing adjacent to the pistes, including a designated free ride area. Because the place is so quiet, it doesn't get tracked out within a couple of hours as it does in other resorts. Further from the pistes there is limitless off-piste and ski touring potential, for those prepared to venture there. For example you can ski from Zinal to Vercorin and back in an all day guided 30k off-piste adventure. There is also an avalanche training centre for those wanting to increase their knowledge.
Zinal offers something for paragliding pilots of all abilities, whether it be a gentle extended top to bottom flight or an epic cross country, paragliding here is spectacular. The cable car in the village takes you up 800m in under 10 minutes directly to take-off. This, combined with the reliable alpine weather and a sheltered valley, makes Zinal the perfect location for a spectacular, hassle-free paragliding holiday.
The main summer take-off site is at 2440m and only a 100m downhill walk from the top of the cable car and the restaurant. It is a large, relatively flat area with plenty of room for 15-20 gliders to be laid out, with a steep but landable grassy slope out front; top landings are straight forward on the gently sloping ski pistes behind the take-off.
For low airtime pilots, this is the perfect place to gain alpine paragliding experience. No waiting around for a lift back up the mountain if you fail to stay in that thermal - just get the next cable car back up to take off. It runs at least every hour, allowing enough time to get up the mountain, set up, take off, fly down and pack up in time for the next one. No need for a retrieve driver or a 4x4. It is quite possible to complete 8 twenty-minute top to bottom flights in one day.
Excursion to the Zinal Glacier – Val d'Anniviers
An accompanied walk that leads you to the glacier cave inside the Zinal glacier onTuesdays and Thursdays between November and March, this day trip is led by a guide. The trip can be taken on any day providing you give plenty of notice. The group meets at 9.30 in front of Zinal tourist office and returns to the station at 16.00. Make sure you pack a picnic for lunch! Snowshoes are available from the two sports shops in Zinal.