Zermatt
 
 
Zermatt is one of the classic Alp resorts. It has a few thousand permanent inhabitants, and some 25 000 tourist beds. It is a major ski resort. In summer Zermatt offers splendid big wall climbing, on mountains as Matterhorn, Weisshorn, Zinal Rothorn and Monte Rosa. Summertime thousands of people rush through coming up to see the Matterhorn for the day from Täsch, where they leave their cars as petrol cars are banned from Zermatt.  

The meeting point for English speaking ski bums and mountain bikers is the North Wall Bar in Hotel Rhodania. A friendly place where it is cheap to drink.  

The camping place is full of climbers in small tents and is rather sociable.  

Local bike shops are used to mountain bikers and can fix  (almost) anything.

  

A lot of the locals are into mountain biking. The tourist authorities have designated a number of dirt roads up in the surrounding hills as mountain bike courses. Basically, these are the roads that are used by jeeps, and various vehicles that move on snow, to bring supplies up to the numerous mountain resturants and to groom the ski slopes. These roads are Swiss counterparts to the American fire roads. Views are spectacular, Zermatt is no doubt one of the most beautiful places in the Alps. Though they involve little technical riding. Essentially one ascends hundreds of meters on dirt road, and the only difficulty is keeping the traction on some sections with lose gravel. In descent one breakes till the hands ache. With a full suspension bike, down hill armory, and a pass for the lifts it may be a completely different thing and great fun. There is also some single track, but one has to be extremely cautious, as there are a lot of hikers and the paths are narrow, steep, exposed and not constructed with mountain biking in mind. The best single track is not — as one may think — above Zermatt, it is below in the long valley down to Visp.

 

 Schwarz-See
 
To go up to the Schwarz-See at the foot of Matterhorn is almost compulsory. So we did it. Technically, it is uninteresting, only a few steep sections are a little bit demanding, though the length of the ascent is strenuous, and that goes for the descent too as one is consistently breaking. However, the views are very rewarding. One heads out of Zermatt via Vinkelmatten, to Furi and then on through the Schmutt Valley to Staffel Alp where one begins the last section of the ascent on the northern slopes of the Hörnli Ridge. The route is clearly marked. One can not miss it. Disappointingly, it is road all the way, some parts are paved, some consist of lose gravel. 
    

 
 
  

We spent the better part of a day to go up to Schwarz-See having a nice outing, but it can surely be done much faster. Local well acclimatised riders  spend only a few hours going up and down. 

 
 Täsch Alp

The by far finest tour we did above Zermatt was the single track to Täsch Alp, a pastoral side valley above Täsch. 



One heads out of Zermatt on the east side of town following sign posts for Tuftern and Sonnegga. Soon one is on a road that goes in large switch backs up to Tuftern. At a small mountain resturant one takes left, following signs for Täsch Alp. Now, one follows a lovely single track that goes on a high traverse way above the valley all the way on the slopes of Rothorn to Täsch Alp. It is at some points moderately technical, and at one short section one has to carry the bikes 20 metres. There are two forks on the path. One path goes off up across a pass on the ridge of Rothorn. It is not bikeable, further on a second path goes down to Täsch. Apparently, there is also some nice single track there, reportedly one heads back towards Zermatt on lower pathes at least part of the way.



The trail to Täsch Alp is great fun, and views are outstanding. However, a note of caution. It is also a very popular hiking trail and should be completely avoided when it is crowded with hikers, e.g., afternoons in July and August. 
 

 Zermatt — Brigg via Gspon and Gebidumpass

The by far best ride we had in Zeramatt was with our friends Chris and Anna, who rode the legendary route down to Brigg with us, crossing the Gebidumpass. Chris who is local mountain biker showed the way. Most of it is real singletrack and there are various interesting technical bits. Not least long stretches of tight switch backs. Without guide maps would be necessary: Landeskarte 1:50 000 Visp, and 1:100 000 Oberwallis. There is also a simple sketch map at the Brigg page that shows the lower part of the route.

One begins in Zermatt following the paved road down to Täsch, just before the village one head over to the left (W) bank of the river and rides on walking paths. Some sections are quite technical, drops and roots. 

The track stays on the left bank till Randa, where one crosses a bridge and follows the old disused motor road, then returns to the left side of the river down to St Nikolaus. 

Beyond St Nikolaus one is again on the right side of river, following the main road for approximately 2 kilometres. Here it is important to find a path that takes of left down the slope from the main road. It loses altitude rapidly in a fine set of switch backs. Lower down it is all fine single track to Kalpetran. One crosses the bridge to Kalpetran, and then ascends a slope on a steep ascent above the village. Beyond the path levels out and goes on a ledge like traverse, winding in and out of the valley on an even altitude to Stalden.

 

In Stalden one takes the cable car, in two steps, to Gspon. Having come down from Zermatt att 1600 metres, one has lost 800 altitude metres. The ride with the cable car brings one up to 1893 metres. The ride is smooth and beautiful, as Stalden is on the west side of the valley and Gspon on the east it sails right across.

  
In Gspon one begins a new ascent, for Gebidumpass. The path climbs up through a high alpine forest traversing the slope in a north eastern direction. Sign posts show the way. There are a couple of minor saddles before on reaches Gebidumpass. The highest point of the ride at 2201 metres. From here on it is  pure descent dropping 1500 metres down to Brigg.

The first bit is fire road, down to the floor of the valley Nanxtal. Then, one follows an ancient road down the valley. Although it in some distant historic past was a major road it is now over grown and at points slightly technical, with some really good switch backs. 

At a point marked as Eschl on the map one comes on a fire road. The rest is straight forward down to Brigg. The return trip to Zermatt is some 40 km or one can take the train. The ride from Zermatt to Brigg is a full day´s trip.